masapan (glossary)

In the foreground, a plate of pistachio and lemon masapan. Photo © Janet Amateau.

In the foreground, a plate of pistachio and lemon masapan. Photo © Janet Amateau.

MASAPÁN (“mä-sä-PÄN) – To most people outside of Spain this is marzipan, but the similarity ends there.  Traditional Sephardic masapán is made from fresh, ground almonds (or a mixture of almonds plus other Mediterranean nuts), sugar and water, and may be scented with a few drops of rose water.  It is delicate in flavor, texture and color – neither gummy nor icky-sweet, and tinted only with the hues of its natural ingredients: creamy ivory from blanched almonds, delicate brown from hazelnuts, soft green from pistachios, pale yellow from lemons. 

Masapán is a compound word formed from “masa” (dough) and “pan” (bread).  The recipe contains no grain flour, however, for which it is presumed to have originated as a Passover confection.   Whether or not invented for that specific holiday, it is Jewish in origin and identified as such in documents from the Spanish Inquisition.

Masapán is still a prized confection in modern Spain, where it is a specialty of Toledo (a city of major importance in Sephardic history) and of various orders of nuns.

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Filed under Glossary, History, Holidays (fiestas judias)

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