Sunday, 3 July 2011

Dates stuffed with pistachio marzipan

Now I know that not everybody in this world loves marzipan. But this is for those of us who do.
We know who we are... we sneak around at Christmas time stealing the thick layer of marzipan and icing off the fruit cake and discarding the cakey bit (because hardly ANYBODY is that keen on fruitcakes).

We pretend we like German Stollen for the sultanas when actually we can't wait to get to the little marzipan sausage in the middle. And the sight of glossy, colourful marzipan fruits makes us very, very excited.

 This is the sort of traditional European confectionary that I love. When I was a poor uni student I had a passion for Godiva chocolates, which were airlifted from Belgium and available at Daimaru (anyone else remember Australia's only Japanese department store?) They cost a fortune, and one of their lines was a marzipan-stuffed date which was coated in crunchy sugar, similar to this. I would have sold my grandmother for them... and nearly had to, because they were priced by weight and were quite a bit heavier than most of the chocolates.

I kind of made this up based on what I remembered and a few recipes that were similar. I was very pleased with the result and showed them to Mr Cupcake, who immediately said, "How cute... they look like little vaginas." I'm not sure if he meant that was a good thing or not. Anyway. Vaginas or not, Mr Cupcake could not be tempted by the stuffed dates because he's not keen on marzipan and also hates dates. So these were pretty much a dead loss in his book. Sorry Mr Cupcake :-(

A note for the dietarily challenged: these are gluten- and dairy-free.

Dates stuffed with pistachio marzipan

16 dates
80g pistachios
95g ground almonds
250g castor sugar
75ml water
1 egg white, lightly beaten
icing sugar
castor sugar for dusting

The dates need to be the best ones you can get, for instance in supermarkets go for the dates sold by weight in the fresh produce section because these are generally bigger, softer and juicier than the packaged dates on the dried fruits shelf.

Split the dates down one side, lengthways, and remove the stone. Then set them aside and make the marzipan.

Boil the castor sugar and the water in a small saucepan over a medium heat, stirring constantly until boiling, then boil the mixture without stirring until it reaches soft ball stage (116C, or you can test it by dropping a teaspoonful of mixture into iced water - if you can form it into a loose ball with your fingers, it's ready). Take off the heat and stir it until it begins to go cloudy - this is the sugar starting to grain. Then turn all the pistachios and almonds into the mixture along with the egg white, and stir well, placing it back onto a low heat and continuing to stir just for a few minutes until the mixture firms up a bit. 
Spread some icing sugar on a clean dry bench and turn the marzipan out onto it. Leave it until it's cool enough to work with your hands, then begin to knead it gently until it is smooth and pliable.

Add as much icing sugar as you need to stop it being sticky. Form it into a ball - this quantity will yield much more than you need for the quantity of dates, so cut off about a quarter of it to use immediately and wrap the rest tightly in cling film and refrigerate - it will keep for months.

 The texture should be fine and slightly speckled like this.

Roll small sausage shaped pieces about the same length as the dates.

Then gently prise the date open and place the marzipan log in the middle, pressing the sides of the date into it so there are no gaps.

Sprinkle or pat some castor sugar over the top to make a little sugary coating, Repeat with the other dates.

If you want a thicker, more opaque coating, brush the date and pistachio with a little egg white and then dredge it in sugar. This will dry to a crunchy pale coating. I have also seen these with one end dipped in white liquid fondant, which dries hard - it looks lovely too.

Keep in an airtight container or in the fridge.They should keep for at least a few weeks if stored well.

Action shot. Dates going everywhere.
There are many folks out there who are not keen on dates... if this is you, you can make these very successfully with walnut halves sandwiched together with the marzipan.


  1. I LOVELOVELOVE marzipan, and dates, too!
    This sounds very tasty and I am going to try it soon. Thank you very much!

  2. Thanks! A small footnote - I forgot to specify that the pistachios in the recipe should be ground as finely as possible.