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San Pablo's Christmas Marzipan - Mazapán de San Pablo

Grinding the almonds and decorating this cake take time--the nuns grind the almonds up to four times to get the right fineness--but Sister María de las Nieves says the tricky part is the oven temperature. Ideally, it should be very hot at the top to toast the marzipan and cool enough lower down that the base stays semi-cooked and soft.

Makes Makes one 10 inch cake servings.

Prep Time: 45 min.

Cook Time: 10 min.

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2 1/4 lb very fine, home-ground almonds
2 lb powdered sugar, sieved
8-9 egg yolks, beaten
1 egg white, lightly whisked
1-2 tbsp sugar, to finish
sheet of rice paper, 12 inch square

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Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F, and turn on the oven broiler or grill. If you can remove the oven floor, so much the better. Mix the almonds with the sugar in a large bowl of a food processor then work in the egg yolks and white to give a workable paste. Cut off and reserve just under a half of the paste for decoration. Lay the sheet of rice paper on two 12 inch square baking sheets, one on top of the other. Flatten and spread the larger piece of marzipan into a flat round cake with a 10 inch diameter. Fill and smooth over any cracks with the back of a spoon. Make a fat coil with half the reserved marzipan and place it around the edge of the cake as a border; roll out the other half and cut out stars, leaves and flowers to decorate the center of the cake (they should cover most of it to help to keep the base soft). Sprinkle tiny piles of sugar between the decorations. Bake in the center of the oven for about 5-10 minutes, until just golden brown.

Selected by Vicky Hayward
Recipe courtesy of Spain GourmeTour magazine.

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