Niederegger: Marzipan with love
Sweet treats aren’t at all exclusive to Valentine’s Day yet with this year’s Big Day now over, I couldn’t be more pleased to have spent it scoffing marzipan in Lübeck, Germany at Café Niederegger after an immersive one-off tour of the Niederegger factory itself.
While marzipan did not originate from Lübeck (historians have traced its existence back to the Orient in the 9th century), the birth of Niederegger confectionary in 1806 has seen its presence within the Hanseatic city become an integral part of local’s lives as well as tourism.
Admittedly, prior to trying the high-quality Niederegger marzipan, my experiences with this sugar and almond meal confectionary were not great. Despite having a sweet tooth, I found the grittiness of the sugar within the marzipan products of impulse buy shelves in supermarkets and even well-known confectioners to be off-putting. Needless to say, the toughness of the sickly sweet marzipan frosting atop many a store-bought cake was not something I enjoyed either.
The reason for my sudden change of heart towards marzipan won’t be surprising to veteran foodies- as with most things, there’s a difference between authentic product made with high-quality ingredients, expert knowledge, and love vs an imitation whereby shortcuts are taken in either production, quality, or both.
The utmost care is taken by staff from start to finish throughout the entirety of the Niederegger production process. Taken from the jute sacks in which they are stored, the almonds are first shelled by machine before they are processed further and subjected to a final once over under the critical gaze of experienced “checkers.” These skilled workers ensure any contaminants and traces of shell are picked out before the almonds are made into a paste, combined with sugar, and placed into copper cauldrons for roasting. This process also sees moisture removed from the paste. Finally, the almond paste is then taken out of the cauldrons and left to cool in “cooling boats.”
Learning that traditional Niederegger marzipan is only ever ⅓ sugar and ⅔ almonds helped explain my appreciation for its refined flavour and texture. The production process at Niederegger hasn’t changed much since its founding and in order to uphold the taste and quality of its product line, will continue to create its marzipan in this way despite the fluctuating and rising cost of almonds.
Of course, no recipe so delicious is without a secret ingredient. Known to only a few, the secret ingredient in Niederegger marzipan is what helps meld its contents so beautifully in structure and flavour. Despite my habit of wanting to discover each and every detail- particularly when presented with elements of secrecy- understandably, the area of the factory housing the secret ingredient and where it’s added to the marzipan, was off-limits.
For visitors to Lübeck, a trip to Café Niederegger is an absolute must. The ground level, as expected, offers bountiful Niederegger confectionary; everything from the signature dark chocolate marzipan loaves to beautifully curated gift baskets. One floor up, the café which has hosted politicians and celebrity guests alike, provides a refined setting in which to relax, celebrate, or simply catch up with friends. Needless to say, the variety of cakes, tarts, and pastries on display make it tempting to want to park at a booth for hours at a time.
When sampling many a marzipan treat at the café, I was especially impressed by the nusstorte. At that particular stage of my journey of discovery it really should have as come as no surprise that in spite of its ability to bind the contents of the cake and create structure, the marzipan frosting was soft and easy to dig into with a fork. Needless to say, the nusstorte’s nutty filling paired with Niederegger marzipan frosting was a match made in heaven.
Last but not least, the uppermost floor of Café Niederegger boasts the Marzipan Salon where visitors can learn about the history of this delectable sweet treat as well as gaze upon life-size marzipan sculptures of Niederegger lovers of decades past- an impressive sight to behold!
British Airways and Germanwings operate daily flights to Hamburg, an hour’s drive from Lübeck.
Café Niederegger is located at Breite Str. 89, 23552 Lübeck.
Learn more about Niederegger at www.niederegger.de/en_GB