Czech Christmas Cookie/Confection #9
These cute little hedgehogs are not my mother-in-law’s creation, but I couldn’t resist including them in my Czech Christmas cookie countdown. Actually, they’re not really cookies either, but candy confections. Many Czechs (and other Europeans) love both marzipan confections and hedgehogs – animals that can occasionally be seen in rural areas of Europe. If you like, you can use some of the marzipan to make other shaped things, as I did in the photo above. Marzipan can be colored with gel food coloring, and decorated in many ways. It can also be used in recipes like sweet breads, baked cookies, and more. This recipe makes about 12 oz (350 g) of marzipan. These marzipan hedgehogs are not baked.
- 1 cup (125 g) very finely ground blanched skinless almond flour/meal (I use Bob’s Red Mill finely ground almond meal)
- 1 ¾ to 2 cups (200 g) confectioner’s sugar
- 1 or 2 teaspoons pure almond extract (I prefer 2 tsp)
- Optional: 1 teaspoon food grade rose water
- 1 egg white from a large pasteurized egg (or 2 teaspoons light corn syrup)
- Toppings: Melted bittersweet or semisweet baking chocolate (approx. 4 oz or 110 g), and either finely grated coconut (I use unsweetened) or halved almond slices
Pulse together the almond flour/meal and confectioner’s sugar until full combined. Add the almond extract and optional rose water. Pulse until fully combined. Then add the egg white (or light corn syrup). Pulse until a dough forms and all egg white (or corn syrup) is incorporated well. I then knead the dough a few times.
To create the marzipan hedgehogs, bring marzipan to room temperature (if refrigerated) or until easy to form into small individual serving balls. Press balls so that the bottoms are mostly flat, and a hedgehog face is formed (slightly narrowed and pointed at one end).
Melt dark chocolate according to baking chocolate instructions. Prepare a cooled platter or cookie sheet topped with waxed or parchment paper. Dip individual marzipan hedgehogs so that their “bodies” are covered with chocolate, but the “faces” are not. Let excess chocolate drain off. Put each dipped hedgehog, flat/belly side down, on the platter/sheet. Then dot “faces” with two chocolate eyes and one chocolate nose. [I use a toothpick with the point cut off as a sort of pen.] Then sprinkle finely grated coconut on the “body” portion as the hedgehog “spikes”. Or, instead of coconut, you can break almond slices in half, length-wise, and arrange them on the chocolate as the “spikes”. Once all hedgehogs are assembled, put the platter/cookie sheet in the refrigerator and let the chocolate harden.
Wrap any unused marzipan in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to three weeks, or freeze for much longer. The full marzipan recipe makes approximately 24 marzipan hedgehogs.
How did I make the marzipan Christmas tree? First, I kneaded a couple drops of green gel food coloring into the marzipan. [Wear vinyl gloves or knead with plastic wrap.] Then, I sculpted it into a conical shape and put a wooden skewer through the bottom (as if a popsicle stick) to hold the “tree”. Using a brand new and cleaned manicure scissor, starting at the top of the tree, I snipped the “branches”. I couldn’t manage to make a nice-looking star for the tree top, so I just made a golden ball.