The Frutta Martorana

These delicious marzipan sweets that perfectly reproduce vegetables and fruits are an expression of great gastronomic creativity.

They are elegantly placed in wicker baskets and wooden boxes , which feature in nearly every Sicilian pastry shop windows, especially during the Festival of the Dead on November 2, but also throughout the year.

The Frutta Martorana is no doubt a creation of the nuns of The Martorana. This cloister was founded in Palermo in 1899 by Eloisa Martorana. However, there are legends surrounding the history of these tiny Sicilian culinary gems.

According to the legend, the nuns waited for a distinguished visitor in the Middle Ages: the Archbishop from Palermo (or Emperor Carlo V according to another version). To impress their guest, the nuns decided to make marzipan fruits and hang them from trees in the convent’s lush gardens because the trees were unusually empty. It was a huge success, and the Frutta Martorana Cloister has been named after it ever since.

Legends aside, the sweet remains in the Sicilian confectionery tradition. It tickles every tastebud and fantasy, 500 years after its invention.

Frutta martorana – ph. Fabio Cavasenna

Let’s see how we can make it…

Frutta Martorana recipe (high difficulty)

Ingredients

The almond paste is here:

  • 500g chopped and peeled almonds, or almond flour
  • 500g sugar
  • 125ml water
  • vanilla aroma

For decoration:

  • Food coloring
  • gum arabic
  • Plastic leaves and fruit stalks

Preparation Finely chop the peeled almonds, or use the almond flour. Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan until it boils. Turn off the heat and add almond flour and vanilla aroma. Continue to stir until the dough is soft and firm enough that it’s easy to handle. Once the mixture is slightly moistened, spread it onto a work surface. Wait until it reaches lukewarm.

Begin to knead the dough until it becomes smooth and homogenous. Next, model it into fruits and vegetables. After letting the sweets dry for 20 hours, you can paint them with bright food colors and polish them with a lacquer of gum Arabic. To make your fruits look more real, add plastic leaves and stalks.

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