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The Accomplisht Cook’, By Robert May, Published 1664

To Make Marchpane

Take two pounds of almonds blanch’t and beaten in a stone mortar, till they begin to come to a fine paste, then take a pound of sifted sugar, put it in the mortar with the almonds, and make it into a perfect paste, putting to it now and then in the beating of it a spoonful of rose-water, to keep it from oyling; when you have beat 272 268 it to a puff paste, drive it out as big as a charger, and set an edge about it as you do upon a quodling tart, and a bottom of wafers under it, thus bake it in an oven or baking pan; when you see it is white, hard, and dry, take it out, and ice it with rose-water and sugar being made as thick as butter for fritters, to spread it on with a wing feather, and put it into the oven again; when you see it rise high, then take it out and garnish it with some pretty conceits made of the same stuff, slick long comfets upright on it, and so serve it.

I was asked to make a Marchpane for  a local church celebrating the 400th anniversary of the rebuilding, parts of the church actually date back to Saxon times. I tracked down an authentic recipe , and worked out how to create it today.

After several attempts , the recipe I used was 500 gms ground almonds, 250 gms caster sugar, 1 egg and enough rose water to make to make a firm dough.It’s important not to overwork the paste. Using cardboard templates of the elevations of the building, I cut out all the pieces about 5 mm thick, and carefully transferred them to a baking sheet and dried them in a warm oven (about 75-100’C) for about an hour ,then leaving them to cool in the oven.

Each piece was iced with  glace icing made with rose water, and then allowed to dry overnight. The sections were then carefully joined  together with royal icing to make the building.

As this was a church I also made some “stained glass” windows from crushed and  melted boiled sweets. Little bits of pure gold leaf were stuck to roof before display, and as a special,  the church had interior lighting  to illuminate the windows.