When ousted from Andalusia, the Moors and Jews of Spain brought with them their love for marzipan to Morocco. As a result, many Moroccan pastries are made with ground almonds. Massapan, from the Spanish word mazàpan (marzipan), are Jewish Moroccan tarts filled with ground almonds flavored with orange blossom water.
They are baked in massapan molds, which are similar to brioche molds. If you don’t own such molds, tartlet molds work as well. It’s also possible to make them without molds by cutting circles of dough, filling each one with ground almonds, folding up the sides of the dough, and pinching the ends together with your fingers to form little marzipan baskets.
Essaouira, a seaport city in western Morocco formerly known as Mogador, once had a large Jewish community and still attracts hundreds of Jewish pilgrims who gather every year for hiloula at the tomb of Rabbi Haim Pinto, a saint of the city who died in the mid-nineteenth-century and is remembered for his noble social works.
Essaouira was famous for its massapan as is shown in this recipe. Massapan, however, is sometimes used to designate all kinds of marzipan creations; especially the ones tinted with food coloring and shaped into fun forms such as mini carrots and pears.
Makes 8-12 tarts
For the crust
- 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (or regular APF)*
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons honey (or sugar)
- 1 egg, beaten
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup water
For the filling
- 1 ½ cups almond meal
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water (or 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract)
- 1 egg, beaten
Colorful candy beads or sprinkles, optional
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 8-12 tartlet molds.
To make the crust, mix the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Mix the butter, honey, egg, and vanilla extract. Mix the liquid mixture to the flour. Add the water and combine into a ball of dough. Spread the dough into a disc, 1/16-inch thick, and cut out circles slightly larger than the molds. Place each circle in a mold, pressing it down lightly.
Combine the ingredients for the filling in a medium bowl. Distribute the filling evenly among the tarts (about 2 tablespoons per tart). Top with colored candy beads if you wish.
Bake the masspans for 20 minutes. Serve with mint tea.
*I tried this recipe with both regular and gluten-free all-purpose flour and they both worked equally well.