mercoledì 16 aprile 2014

The Pasta Reale (Sicilian marzipan) and the history of the “Picureddi Pasquali ”

Every occasion is good in Sicily to make party and to organize "schiticchi[1]" (literally “eat too much”) and in every schiticchio that respects the rules can not lack for the sweets.
The confectionery tradition in Sicily is as ancient as the history of the island and is, as the whole Sicilian gastronomy, a melting pot of ingredients, techniques and preparations left each other in inheritance from the so many dominations.
The Easter period is perhaps one of the best of the year for all the gluttons. Every province, city and family preserves their own tradition, own recipes and during this festivity it is assisted on our tables to a real triumph of the glucidis. Along the list: pupi cu' l’uovu, cassate, cassatedde, quaresimali, cudduri, dita degli apostoli, cannoli and still so many others. Among all, however, it detaches for its zoomorphic form the Easter Lamb of Pasta of Almonds or Sicilian Marzipan.

Already in epoch etrusco-Roman they were prepared some little sweets of almonds by to offer to the divinities, but the recipe of the marzipan as us we know it, done with flour of sweet almonds, egg white and sugar, it goes up again to the XIII-XIV century.
The name derives from the Arabic Mauthaban or Marzaban, unity of ability in use to Cyprus and in Armenia. As for the amphora, for the jar or for the barrel, it became custom to call with the same name the container set on the measure. It was a box of light wood endowed with a cover and it was used for different scopes. To contain the correspondence or the important documents (from this the way to say "to open the marzipans" in the sense its to disclose secrets), but also to send special sweets produced in Cyprus, manufactured with flour, pasta of almonds and other ingredients. These were to form of breads and since they took the form of the box, the name of the wrap passed to the content.
In the history of the gastronomy the most ancient and famous preparation done with the marzipan is the Fruit of Martorana, that was born officially in Palermo, in the attached homonym convent[2] to the church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio[3]. With the marzipan the nuns manufactured for the party of Ognissanti[4] small sweets, that meticulously imitated fruits of every type from the vivacious colors, gotten thanks to the arabic rubber that allowed to fix the consequential vegetable shades from roses, saffron, pistachio and other vegetables. These delicious little sweets seems they were very appreciated by Ruggero II King of Sicily and, in how much worthy of king, the almonds’ paste started to have called "Pasta Reale[5]".
With the time every religious recurrence was earned a special prepared dessert with the almonds’ paste and so to Easter, the delicious dough it takes the form of lamb as symbol of the risen Christ. "A picuredda[6]" it has a plastic laying, stretched out on a side and it is generally decorated with a little crown, a red tassel and with a red banner, similar to that in the sacred iconography it is in the hands of St. John, pierced on the back.

The tradition narrates that the first ones to prepare this dessert were, to the beginning of the 1800s, the nuns of the College of Mary of the neighborood "Batia[7]" of Favara. The recipe was orally handed down, from the most elderly nuns to those more young of them. One of the first recipes written of the Easter Lamb reveal the 1898 date and belongs to a rich favarese[8] family of the agrarian middle class.
The particularity of the Agnello di Favara[9] is the stuffing with a dough gotten by the union of minced pistachios, possibly of Bronte, and caster sugar that makes it indeed incomparable for taste and intensity of flavors.
I make "I picureddis[10]" to the palermitan way, without stuffing therefore. I also have the wont not to paint and not to decorate them, but this belongs to my gastronomic minimalism.
Then, that is my recipe of the Sicilian marzipan. You use it as more you prefer it.
Ingredients: 1 kg. of flour of almonds; 1 kg. of caster sugar; 200 g. of glucose; 250 ml of water; 1 little envelope of vanillina; ½ salt teaspoon of salt.
Procedure: To put the water, the sugar, the salt and the glucose in a pot. To bring to ebullition and to make to cook until when the mixture doesn't go down to thread from the spoon.
To remove from the fire and to add the flour and the vanilla. To mix well and to pour the mixture on a wet ledge. When it will be cooled, work it as if same making a buttefingers until when it won't result smooth and compact. You can also make this operation in the planetary one with the accessory for the soft dough.
Before using it, you allow to rest for sometime the pasta of almonds, it would be better one whole day, wound in the plastic wrap.
Suggestions: This year the lamb eat does you him of pasta of almonds.
With this marzipan dough you can also realize the milk of almonds. All it takes is beating a piece of it with some water and you will get the delicious and refreshing drink.

[1]Schiticchiu” is the term points out for antonomasia, and according to a consolidated tradition, the typical banquet of the mafioso and the shady people generally. But far-back it has become synonymous of "meal in happy company".
[2] The Benedictine monastery was made to build in 1193 from the noblewoman Eloisa Martorana and so in her honor both the building complex and the sweets prepared by the nuns they assumed the name of the “Martorana”.
[3] It was erect in 1143 from George of Antiochia, high officer of the King Ruggero II of Sicily.
[4] All Saints’ Day.
[5] “Kingly Paste”.
[6] “The little sheep”.
[7] “Abbey”.
[8] Favara citizens
[9] Favara’s Lamb
[10]The little sheeps” in Sicilian language.