Thursday, March 17, 2011

Marzipan Brownie Tart

Happy St. Patrick's Day! To celebrate, we had this festive dessert:

Okay, so it doesn't look very festive from the outside. Actually, it looks downright plain. Homely. FRUMPY. There, I said it. But it has a surprise inside...

A bright green layer of homemade pistachio marzipan!

...Wait, come back.

What scared you? Was it the green color, or the word "marzipan"? Because I promise, this has no relation to the poisonously powerful almond flavor and uber-sweetness of some aggressive marzipans. No, this is just a simple nut paste made from ground pistachios, powdered sugar, and a little egg. Really. It's amazingly tasty, like eating fresh pistachios with a spoon. Deep breaths. Okay.

So paired with this marzi pistachio stuff is a chocolate dough that's half brownie, half chocolate tart dough. It's weird, and I was sure I was doing it wrong the whole time I was making it. But it turned out to be perfect--soft enough to meld with the pistachio stuff, but firm enough to hold its shape when removed from the tart pan.

To finish off our green treat, I made my favorite pistachio ice cream and a simple chocolate sauce. Although the tart is moist, it needs something--ice cream, or whipped cream, or maybe creme anglaise--to perk it up. Many, many thanks to Mary Mary Culinary for the tart recipe & inspiration! Find the recipe for the tart, the "pistachio stuff," and the ice cream after the jump.

Marzipan Brownie Tart
Adapted from Mary Mary Culinary

9 oz/1⅓ cups all-purpose flour*
⅓ cup Dutch-process cocoa
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
7 oz/1 cup brown sugar
6 oz/¾ cup unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 egg, well beaten

10½ oz pistachio marzipan (see below)
about ½-¾ of a beaten egg (reserve the rest for glazing)

1. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the beaten egg and run the food processor until the dough comes together. Try not to eat all the dough. Divide the dough into ⅓ and ⅔ portions, shape in discs, wrap separately in plastic and refrigerate. Chill for one hour. It can be made the day before, but will need to warm up before rolling to prevent it from breaking up.
2. Preheat oven to 340℉/170℃ and grease a 9" cake pan, or a 13"x4" tart pan.
3. Mix the pistachio paste with enough beaten egg to make a fairly soft, spreadable filling. Set aside. Roll out the larger portion of dough between 2 pieces of plastic wrap until it is about 1" larger than your pan on all sides. Make sure there are no creases in the plastic wrap. Use this piece of dough to line the pan, pressing it to the sides of the pan so it doesn't fall inward. Spread the pistachio paste evenly over the dough and fold in the dough edges so they rest on it. Reuse the plastic wrap to roll the smaller piece of dough into an 8½" circle. It should be slightly smaller than the cake pan. Trim it so the edges are neat. Moisten the edges of the dough in the pan and lay the smaller circle on top. Press the edges gently together to seal. Brush with the leftover beaten egg and prick with a fork in several places.
4. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Leave to cool in the pan, then transfer carefully to a serving plate. If you can stand it, wrap this and let it sit for a day or two before serving for best flavor.

*a note about the flour: something is off in these measurements. It calls for 1-1/3 cup/ 9 oz, but 9 oz is much closer to 2 cups. I went with the volume measurement and had a dough that was pretty stick and a bit of a beast to roll out. It worked out fine in the end, and tasted great, but I might add more flour next time to make it easier to work with. If you have a scale, I'd just use 9 oz, and if you don't, I'd try 1-3/4 cup flour instead.

Pistachio marzipan
10 ounces/283 grams shelled pistachios
7 ounces/200 grams granulated sugar
2 egg whites

1. If you want naturally bright green marzipan, first blanch the pistachios: bring a large pot of water to a boil, add pistachios and blanch for 30 seconds to one minute. Test one by running it under cold water and seeing if the reddish skin comes off easily. If so, drain and rinse with cold water. Now, one by one, squeeze the pistachios to remove the skin. This is what keeps the marzipan bright green. Once they are all skinned, place on a towel-lined baking tray and allow to dry for at least 3 hours. Do not dry in the oven, as the color may fade.
2. Combine pistachios and sugar in a food processor and grind as finely as desired.
3. Add egg whites and process until well blended. If you didn't blanch the pistachios and the marzipan is a little brown, you can add a drop or two of green food coloring. Scrape into a container and refrigerate or freeze. This keeps well, and is best made in advance.

Pistachio Ice Cream

yield: About 3 cups

1 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups milk (do not use low-fat or nonfat)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 large egg yolks
1 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup unsalted shelled pistachios, toasted, coarsely chopped

Finely grind 1 cup pistachios and 1/4 cup sugar in processor. Bring milk and ground pistachio mixture to boil in heavy large saucepan. Remove from heat. Mix in almond extract.
Whisk egg yolks and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in medium bowl. Gradually whisk in hot milk mixture. Return custard to saucepan. Cook over low heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes (do not boil). Strain into large bowl. Chill until cold, about 2 hours.
Stir 1 cup whipping cream and chopped pistachios into custard. Process mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.


  1. This looks AMAZING. I love LOVE marzipan! And pistacchio!

  2. Anonymous6:14 AM

    I'm thinking "Aggressive Marzipans" is a great potential band name... just a thought. - Hillary

  3. What a fabulous recipe! I must try it- great job!

  4. I've had pistachio marzipan that came in a can, same ingredients (for the most part), and I loved it! I ate it right out of the can after using the little bit I needed for what I was making. This looks great!

  5. Love the colour. I tried to make pistachio marziapn once, tasted awesome but didn't look so great. Going to give this version a try :)

  6. That looks great, I love the color combination if brown and green.
    It's like the Austrian "Mozart Torte"!
    Unfortunately, I don't really like Marzipan :)

  7. I didn't realize you had made this till I saw the link tonight! It looks good, and I'll have to check that weight measurement--I replaced some of the flour with the cocoa, but didn't adjust the weight.
    mmm, pistachio ice cream!