Sicilian Easter Marzipan Lambs: royal dessert

The Sicilian Easter Marzipan Lambs are important in the Sicilian Easter celebrations. Agneddu Pasquali (Agnellini Pasquali in Italian) is a tradition during the Sicilian Easter ritual. They are coming  from the Jews tradition and the 4 kind we eat today are resembling the Agnus Dei: the bronze Byzantine figure is in Palermo’s National Museum.

Agneddu di Pasta di Zuccaru e Jarofulu is the first tipology we can find and it is a lamb-shaped figure  made from a sugar-and-clove paste.

The paste is the same they use to make for All Saint’s Day the famous “Ossa di Mortu”, the Bones of the Dead. To make it, you should mix equal weights of sugar and unbleached all purpose flour. Then you add a half-ounce of ground cloves every 2 1/4 pounds of the previous mixture.

The ingredients has to be heated with a little water in a pot. As soon as they are all melted into a paste, you can fill the lambs’ molds, pressing it down firmly with your hands.

After a few days, you can moisten the undersides of the well shaped-lambs and bake them for a short while in a medium oven.

Lambs made from a sugar syrup put into special plaster molds, are made in Palermo and Caltanisetta.

Agneddu di Pasta Riali, meaning marzipan lambs, are  a specialty of the towns of Erice and Acireale, where they are made to life size.

To make pasta reale, use:

  1. 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) blanched almonds
  2. 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) sugar
  3. 1 1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar
  4. 1/2 cup cinnamon water (see above)

Mince the almonds, melt the sugar with the cinnamon water over a low flame, and as soon as the syrup starts to create threads, stir in the almonds and tartar. Cook over a low flame, and stir constantly, until it shape in a ball that comes off the sides of the pot. You can shape it now.

To paint the lambs: melt sugar in a pot with a little water, create a syrup, flavouring it with a little jasmine or vanilla extract. Pour the thickened syrup into containers and color them with food colorings.

You can fill the lambs or other marzipan sculpture shapes with candied dates, chopped nuts, diced candied fruit, citron jam, fig jam, quince jam, or rosolio, a sweet, mild liqueur.

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