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.