I wish to make my own marzipan.

A task which is complicated by the fact that almonds don’t taste like almond extract. This seems like an oxymoron, but is true. If you look on the side of your almond extract bottle you will see that it claims to be made from “bitter almonds”. This variety of almond is banned from the US as it contains significant amounts of cyanide (or, to be more precise, cyanogenic molecules which become cyanide when the almond is chewed).

A by-product of cyanide production is the oil, benzaldehyde, which is the distinctive taste in almond extract.

So the first problem is that we can’t get the right kind of almonds in this country. Luckily this is easily worked around. Almonds are a species of prune, just like apricots, peaches and cherries, and all (OK, almost all) the prunes (indeed all the roses) contain this same cyanide pathway. The Germans even make a marchpane out of apricot kernels.

Well, I have no difficulty finding apricot kernels. — or I won’t in a month or two.

But then there remains the difficulty of extracting benzaldehyde from a kernel without extracting cyanide. The internet is not very helpful, nor are my reference books. There are some vague references to heating, but nothing very specific. I am leery of trying something potentially poisonous. Perhaps this is a process which is difficult to get right and no one posts specifics for fear of liability issues. Perhaps I should try (If only I read German).

Or… I should find a chemical test for cyanide and experiment! Make lots of lovely toxic messes in the kitchen.


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