Most people don't think to include some tweezers and pliers in their kitchen tool drawer, yet these simple household instruments come in quite handy in the proper culinary hands.
For instance, to remove small bones from fish, tweezers are perfect. For larger bones, such as the ones found in salmon or poultry, needlenose pliers swiftly do the trick. Needlenose pliers can also be helpful in removing the beards from mussels. Both tools can be used to help remove the needles from nopalitos, fresh cactus pads used in Mexican cooking, although you may also need a small knife tip or pointed end of a vegetable parer and some gloves for this.
Medical supply houses carry a line of odd and unusual tools designed for surgeons, but which are also ideal for getting small items from the bottom of bottles and the like.
by Rosemary Henry
Marzipan is a traditional confection found everywhere in Europe, especially at Easter and Christmas. It is usually shaped and colored to look like small fruits or flowers and can be found molded into all kinds of Christmas shapes. The molding and coloring is truly an art form, becoming very elaborate sometimes, but even the most inexperienced sculpturers among us can make a very impressive tray of sweets without too much trouble.
According to the British Sugarcraft News in an article by Steve Benison, Marzipan, or 'machipan' as it was first called, originated from the Egyptians where it was originally made from pistachio nuts blended with honey. Rose Levy Beranbaum in her cookbook "Rose's Christmas Cookies" gives a recipe for pistachio marzipan and several ways to use it. She recommends using a tiny amount of glycerine as a way of keeping the marzipan soft and chewy.
The name literally translated means almond bread, and gives an indication of its contents. There are many recipes for marzipan if you want to make your own, or there are a number of brands on the market to purchase. The most popular of these come packaged like sausage in a tube. You can buy either almond paste or marzipan. Almond paste is intended to use for baking. It is a raw paste and has a higher proportion of almonds to sugar than the cooked marzipan. It is used in products like macaroons. Purchased marzipan is ground finer to eat as is, or use to mold or decorate. In Britain there is legislation that regulates the minimum nut content for marzipan as not less than 23.5% of dry almond substance and no other dry ingredient. Not less than 75% of the remainder can be solid carbohydrate sweetener. The cooked variety contains ground almonds, liquid glucose, a cooked 'soft ball' sugar solution and confectioners sugar. The cooked variety has a longer shelf life.
If you want to make your own marzipan it can be as simple as combining equal parts of almond paste and fondant and then using additional confectioners' sugar to stiffen it. There are many variations on this, however, and you may want to try several.
A good basic recipe for marzipan is as follows:
Combine all ingredients except sugar and mix them well. Add the sugar gradually until the dough is stiff and about the consistency of pie crust dough. Then knead it until it is smooth and uniform. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let age for at least 24 hrs. After the dough has aged, divide into sections and color and shape and have fun!
When coloring marzipan use paste colors and a small brush to paint the "blush" on fruits. Let shapes stand for several hours and then glaze with a mixture of 1/4 cup light corn syrup and 1 tablespoon hot water. After glazing, let glaze set for several hours.
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