7.17.2013

My Version of the ZCMI Marzipan Cookies




If you are from Utah and are as old as I am, you will think fondly of the department store ZCMI.  Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution, known as ZCMI, the "People's Store," is what one historian called America's First Department Store, and was founded in March 1868.

ZCMI had the most wonderful collection of Madame Alexander dolls.  I would dream of owning one someday.  The toy department had the smell of a new doll.  I would stroll through their fine china department dreaming of the day I could select my china and silver, which is where I purchased my silver flatware, best china and crystal.

The highlight of ZCMI was their bakery and candy counter.  ZCMI was famous for their Raisin Filled Cookies, Mint Brownies, HUGE Chocolate Eclairs, and my children's most memorable cookie of all the "Marzipan Cookie".  When my sister came in town she would purchase a dozen of the marzipan cookies to take home to her children.  I would push the kids in a stroller while shopping and promise them a trip to the candy counter and bakery if they were good.

It was a sad day in our lives when ZCMI sold out to Meier & Frank in 1999.  I think everyone is Salt Lake was mostly concerned about what was going to happen to the bakery.  Surely Meier & Frank would keep the bakery?  They didn't!  The bakery was forever gone.  Sadly, the recipes seemed to have vanished.  Local newspapers have printed so called "ZCMI recipes", but they were not the originals and come up short.

There is a Facebook page where people are requesting to know if anyone worked in the bakery or if they knew anyone who has worked in the bakery.  I have given up hope.  As far as I'm concerned the recipes have been vaulted somewhere for an unknown reason.  Why would they just disappear completely?  You would just think that the Lion House would have gathered the recipes and sell them in their restaurant or package them side-by-side with the famous Lion House Rolls?  Until the recipes are discovered once again, I guess I will be left to replicate them to the best of my knowledge.

My children talk about the famous "ZCMI marzipan cookie" often.   Well after years and years of saying that we need to recreate that cookie, I finally gave it my best shot.  After a few pounds of butter and a few pounds of almond flour, I have created a recipe that we like.  It's not exactly like the old ZCMI version, but it makes my Matt smile.  If my memory is correct, the original was rolled and cut.  I would almost stake my life (no, my husbands life) on the fact that it was made with shortening and not butter.  I remember thinking that it would taste better if it had been made with butter.  The original was topped with a slice of marzipan. I'm using almond paste instead.  I didn't really like the results with marzipan.

I could go on and on about my memories of ZCMI.  Let's get baking.




For the cookie dough you will need:

1 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup light flavored olive oil
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups almond flour (preferably blanched almond flour)
3 1/2 cup all purpose flour




I have become very fond of this almond flour by Honeyville Farms and runs about $35 for a 5 lb. bag. and is available through Amazon for the same price.




In a large bowl combine all purpose flour and almond flour.




Add baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.




Stir or sift together.  Set aside.




In a large mixing bowl, add the softened butter.




Add the sugar and cream mixture together.




Slowly add the oil while the mixer is running.




Add the two eggs.




and almond extract.   Mix until light and fluffy.




Stir in the flour/almond flour mixture.




The dough will be slightly sticky.




Scrape down the sides and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours or overnight.  I like the dough to be cold and firm.




Once the dough has chilled, remove from refrigerator.




Drop dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet in rounded tablespoons.  This particular scoop I am using hold about 1 1/4 tablespoons.  This amount creates a 3-inch round cookie.




I like to use the bottom of a glass cup to flatten the cookies.




Dip the bottom of the cup in cold water.




Press to flatten the dough slightly.







Remove that wonderful almond paste that you made yesterday from the refrigerator.




Cut slices about 1/8-inch thick.




Place on top of flattened cookies.




Press down slightly.




Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 12-14 minutes.




Remove from oven when the edges are barely beginning to brown.  Let cool 5-10 minutes on the baking sheet.




Generously sift confectioner's/powdered sugar over the tops.  Allow to cool.




I'm still picking raspberries from my garden so I decided to top of a few with fresh raspberries.  That was a good idea.




Delicious.  Not exactly the ZCMI version, but it's still fabulous.  Remember I'm not claiming to have the exact reproduction...just something similar.

I would love to hear your favorite memories of ZCMI.  How about your favorite bakery goody? Favorite treat from the candy counter?  

Next:  I'm going to be working on ZCMI raisin or date filled cookies.  They had just a bit of spice in the cookie dough and perhaps a bit of coconut.  I used to pick them apart just so I could figure out the ingredients.  


Simply So Good Version of ZCMI Marzipan Cookies

1 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup light flavored olive oil
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups almond flour
3 1/2 cup all purpose flour
12 ounces of almond paste


In a large bowl sift together baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, almond flour and all purpose flour.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter, olive oil, sugar and confectioner's sugar.   Add eggs and beat well.  Add sifted dry ingredients mixing until completely incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. 

After dough has chilled, remove dough from refrigerator and preheat oven to 350F degrees.
Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.  Dip the bottom of a glass into cold water the press dough to flatten slightly.  Top each flattened cookie with a slice of almond paste.  Bake for 12-14 minutes or until just barely starting to turn golden around the edges.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Dust with confectioner's sugar.  Makes about 4 dozen  3-inch size cookies.





24 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh, those look amaaaaaazing! I'm so jealous because I simply don't have your skills and I so wish I did!

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    1. The reason I do step-by-step photo instructions...so you CAN do it. Seriously! YOU CAN DO IT!

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  2. I can't wait to see your recipe for the raisin-filled cookies - they were my mom's and my favorites! We found the Deseret News recipe that claimed to be the actual ZCMI recipe but it was more of a chocolate chip cookie dough without the chocolate chips, and a raisin filling. They are very good, but not the same cookie. We were trying to figure out if it was more of an anise cookie, sugar cookie, or shortbread. Definitely not chocolate chip though, ha ha ha! Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Hi Katrina, These marzipan cookies aren't the real deal either. But they do have the flavors. I'm excited to work on the raisin filled. The cookie always reminded me of my mom's ice box cookie recipe. It has spices, nuts, and coconut. I'm going to try that recipe. I know what you mean by the knock off's not even coming close to the original. Even the Lion House Chef's recipes were more like a sugar cookie or just like you say chocolate chip cookie dough. I'll get on that.

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    2. Katrina, I have the recipe for the raisin filled cookie, it was given to my grandmother many, many, many years ago by someone who ran the ZCMI bakery in downtown SLC. If you would like it I am happy to share.

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    3. I would love that recipe myself, Rob. My father would love me forever if I made him raisin filled cookies for Christmas. Send to simplysogood@hotmail.com. xoxo I'll love you forever. Thank you!

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    4. PLEASE share the raisin filled cookies recipe! (The date filled were definitely our favorite.) I think you are right; they definitely had some coconut in the dough. Thanks for your persistence :)

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    5. PLEASE share the raisin filled cookie recipe when you get it. (The date filled were actually our favorite.) You are right, Janet, they definitely had coconut in the dough. Thanks for your persistence :)

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    6. I'm so glad you agree about the coconut. Let's cross our fingers and hope we can get that recipe from Rob.

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    7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. My Grandma would bring home with her some treats from ZCMI, a 10 hour drive - and share them with us...I was too young to bother asking what they were, but definately old enough to gobble them down! Now I would love to be able to share those flavors with my kids, but I don't even know where to start. All I remember is they were little balls of a nutty - nugat cream and covered in chopped nuts, and of course - how easy they went down!

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    1. Oh I wish I new what that was you were eating. Sounds amazing. such great memories.

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  4. I worked in the candy/bakery section of ZCMI once upon a time and these almond cookies were my favorites. Thank you for sharing the recipe. I'm excited to make them!

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    1. I'm so happy to know someone who worked in the bakery. Wouldn't you just think that the original recipes are out there somewhere? You will notice these are not just like ZCMI's, but the flavor will take you back to those good days of the bakery/candy counter. Thanks for your comment.

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  5. Barbara in California6/26/14, 4:04 PM

    I made these today. They are delicious! The husband and all the kids like them and asked for "fourths." I tried to get your almond paste recipe, but it says the page no longer exists? Thank you for all of your great recipes! My family loves them so much; we all do!

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    1. So great to hear the family approved of the cookies. Thank you so much for sharing with me. The almond paste is most definitely there. Here is the link: http://www.simplysogood.com/2013/07/my-favorite-almond-paste.html

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  6. So, I gather that ZCMI made of all their baked goods in house? I've been looking for a bakery in Salt Lake for years hoping to find a replication of their awesome powdered sugar, vanilla pudding filled bismarks, but haven't found anything remotely as good. They were a Christmas morning tradition in our house. Even if there was a recipe out there for them, I have no confidence I could make them as good as they did. A lost treasure indeed.

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    1. I mourn the loss of ZCMI during the holiday season. Fun family Christmas traditions were lost the day ZMCI closed. The candy counter is a fond memory. My older children remember it, but my younger children and grandchildren will never know the ZMCI bakery and candy counter.

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  7. I know this post was from over a year ago, but I was wondering if these cookies can be store? If so, for how long? Thanks.

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    1. I would freeze them prior to putting on the powdered sugar. They freeze well for about 3 weeks.

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  8. I am thankful to have found this marzipan recipe as my family and I loved the ZCMI bakery as well.
    By chance did Rob ever share that raisin cookie recipe with you and if he did, would you share it with me please?

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    1. Hi Emma. No I never received a response from Rob. I was really looking forward to getting that recipe. I'm so sad he didn't respond and I have no way of contacting him :(

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  9. Rob, do you happen to have the recipe for the peppermint cookies?

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