It’s all Nana’s fault. Who knew?
Every year I start planning my Christmas baking in early December. It includes these finicky little marzipan tarts that are really really good. Each one requires its own carefully made pastry shell. They are filled with raspberry jam and a mix of two different colours of a cake-like batter. After they’re baked, each one is iced with either pink or green almond icing. Finicky. Time-consuming. Much loved. Frequently swiped by grandkids when they think no one’s looking.
I suggested that I might not bother with them this year. You’d think I was suggesting we scrap Christmas dinner, the turkey, the tree and the presents.
I got the recipe for these tarts from my mother. For years I’ve blamed her. Once you produce them, you’re stuck. They instantly become tradition. (read: trap) In my household you mess with Christmas traditions at your peril. So every year I have made the marzipan tarts, muttering and cursing them when I’m still icing them at midnight on baking day.
I was talking with my mother today about the holidays. Mentioned the tarts. Blamed her.
“Oh no!” she said. “It’s all Nana’s fault. The recipe was hers.”
And not only did the recipe come from my grandmother, it’s not the original recipe. The original version was a square. One pan. Just cut it into bite-size pieces when you’re done. But Nana told Mom how nice she thought it would be if the recipe was used for little tarts instead. How cruel. So Mom dutifully started producing the tarts. Muttering and cursing them.
“They’re nothing but a big fat nuisance,” she said today. “I stopped making them years ago.”
What??!!! And she’s been getting away with it because she comes to my house for Christmas.
Pretty sure now that my grandmother had a sadistic streak. I can picture her with this little evil smile, watching first my mother, then me making these stupid little tarts.
So this year I break the bonds of baking! I declare my freedom from marzipan!
Instead I will march off to M&M’s and buy some little frozen fruit tarts. I will put them on the Christmas baking tray with the shortbread, the brownies, the fruitcake and the butter tart square… all of which will come from the grocery store. It will be a new tradition.
And just for the record, the tarts aren’t even real marzipan. They just have almond favouring in the batter and the icing. Real marzipan has standards. Real marzipan has a long and well-documented history. (If you want to know how to make the real thing, there are lots of videos on YouTube.) So it was all a lie to begin with.
Take that, Nana! Take that, family! Take that, Christmas!
P.S. If you’re a masochist and would like the tart recipe, here’s the version I got from my mother 20 years or so ago:
The batter needs to be split in half once it’s mixed, then half is coloured green and half is coloured red. A dollop of each colour batter goes into each tart. As for the icing, mix half of it red, half green and alternate colours when you ice the tarts. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.