5 January 2012


I like it when things go well, and I like to be proud of what I do. It's not really in my nature to present my failings when the results don't meet my standards. However, we can learn from mistakes, and move on and grow.

A Spanish colleague of mine returned from a trip home to Barcelona and brought with him a box of Panellets. These are a Catalonian "Almond Cake" that are traditionally eaten during their festival Castanyada, celebrated on All Saints' Day, which is 1 November. I really enjoyed these sweets that were completely new to me and decided to try and make them. My colleague's English is good but not yet fluent. Using a few searches on Google Images I finally found the name 'Panellets' and then went hunting for recipes.

I settled on this recipe I found, that also introduced me to this great site If you are looking for a gift for a foodie friend, check out the shop for the book or maybe a print. Unfortunately for me picking this recipe for Panellets was where it all went wrong.

So I'd mixed 500g of caster sugar with 500g of ground almonds and two eggs. I split the combined "paste" into three equal parts, wrapped it in clingfilm and chilled it in the fridge overnight.

Briefly discussing my efforts on Twitter, it was pointed out that I'd inadvertently made a kilo of marzipan! This didn't sound quite right.

On the next day I decided to deviate slightly from the recipe and make the classic presentation - balls rolled in pine nuts.

Try as I might, the pine nuts would not stick to the paste balls. Erm........

Improvising, I decided to try to use runny honey as a glue. It worked to a degree, but certainly looked nothing like it should.

I was making such a mess I stopped after 10 sweets and put the rest of the marzipan back in the fridge.

My fan oven never achieved the 240°C asked for by the recipe. When it was near enough I put in the sweets for 7 minutes.

You can see here that the honey and indeed the nuts and marzipan all burned.

Returning to work on Monday, my colleague asked how I had got on. He couldn't help but chuckle. On Tuesday he brought in his Catalan recipe book.

Imagine my surprise on learning that an essential ingredient to Panellets is potato. I needed to boil, mash and cool 150g of potatoes and add that to the mix before refrigeration. To successfully coat the balls, I should have rolled them first in cornflour, then egg white, then pine nuts. Finally brush with egg yolk. 220°C for 10-12 minutes seems more reasonable.

I've learned that the best illustrated recipes are not the most complete. If you are going to experiment, the results won't always be good, but that's OK. Tightly wrapped, 800g of marzipan keeps in a fridge for month.

If you've not yet done so, click here to see some pretty examples of these on Google Images. I won't be attempting these again any time soon, but as an alternative to straight marzipan I'll encourage you to have a go.

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