05 May 2010

Kaffeetrinken ... Coffee Break With Class

Every afternoon at around 4 PM, our German friends brew a nice pot of coffee and Gundel brings out a plate of little savory cakes or softly sweet breads. The table is laid with nice plates, cups and saucers and we sit down to a session of  'kaffeetrinken' ... the old concept of the kaffeklatsch is firmly established in German society.

Gundel has very interesting names for some of her sweet treats. For instance, the golden coffee cake in the foreground of the picture is called Bee Stinger Cake. The name comes from the blanched and slivered almonds that have sharp little points and the inclusion of a small amount of honey in the crispy crunch topping.  All her treats are lower on sugar and honey because of Wichard's and her preference for more subtle dessert offerings.  They are so tasty and simple.

When I asked Gundel for a recipe for Linzer Torte, she bridled. "It is so sweet! I never make it for us because it lasts too long. We can't tolerate the sugar content.", she replied. However, she found her recipe book and shared the recipe, knowing that Silent Bob loves his sugar!

Today is a rainy day and I'm in the mood to bake, so it's Linzer Torte day! I just bought a new coffeemaker, too. Let's try it out and have our own little kaffeetrinken session...

In converting this recipe from metric to standard measures, I may have shortchanged the flour content a bit, but that can be corrected easily when you take a look at the dough for the torte. It is sticky (but shouldn't be gloppy - come on, you know gloppy from sticky!) and you must refrigerate the dough to facilitate handling it. I used plastic wrap to press the dough into the tart pan and rolled the lattice topper between two sheets. I also tried to keep my warm fingers away from the dough as much as possible ... makes it less sticky that way.

Now, as to the marmalade filling ... I used the traditional Johanissbeer marmalade that I bought at a Lidl in Weineim. I also split the nuts measure and used half almonds and half hazelnuts, as traditional Linzertorte was made with hazelnuts and red currant jam ... or so my research tells me. You can use raspberry jam; many of the other on-line recipes use the raspberry (seeds in, says tradition).

Sprinkling with confectioner's sugar makes a beautiful presentation, but should be done when the torte has cooled completely  ... just before serving is a good idea, unless you're taking your torte to a party. So... here's to good coffee and sweet accompaniments.

Linzer Torte - printer friendly

Linzer Torte
courtesy of Gundel von Alvensleben


¾ c. almonds
¾ c. hazelnuts
1½ c. flour
2/3 c. sugar
Zest of one orange
Zest of one lemon
1 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch cloves
Pinch cardamom
¼ tsp. salt
14 tbsp. cold butter
2 egg yolks – whites reserved
1 tea cup Johannisbeer marmalade or raspberry jam

Making the Torte:

1. Lay the nuts onto a baking sheet and roast in a 350°F oven for about ten minutes, tossing to brown and crack the skins.

2. Remove and cool completely. Place the nuts in a food processor bowl and add ½ c. flour. Pulse to grind the nuts until they are pulverized, but not paste-like.

3. Add the sugar, spices, and zests and pulse to combine.

4. Cut the butter into small chunks and add a few at a time, pulsing to create buttery crumbles.

5. Continue adding the butter and pulsing to crumble the butter.

6. Separate the eggs and reserve the egg whites.

7. Add the egg yolks and process until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl.

8. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and judge … too sticky or needs a bit more flour ? This is a judgment call. Do what you will and then divide the dough into two balls – ¼ ball for the lattice top, ¾ ball for the torte shell. Wrap the balls separately in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.

9. Press the torte shell ball into the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch tart pan, using a piece of plastic wrap between your fingers and the dough.

10. Preheat the oven to 350° F and bake for 15 minutes.

11. Remove and cool slightly.

12. Roll the lattice ball of dough (between two sheets of plastic wrap) into a rectangle that is about 6 inches by whatever the diameter of your tart pan. Use a pizza cutter to cut ½ inch strips. You should get 12 strips … ten good ones.

13. Remove the top sheet of plastic wrap and fold the bottom sheet of plastic wrap up and over a third of the way. Peel back the plastic wrap carefully. Do the same from the other direction.

14. Spread the Johanissbeer marmalade or raspberry jam on the cooled torte crust.

15. Gently lift, strip by strip, the lattice topping and lay on the jam, peeling the strips back out to their length.

16. Lay five in one direction, give the torte a quarter-turn and lay five more in this direction.

17. Use the last two to roll into a long cord and run that around the outer edge of the torte to ‘seal the lattice edges in place and form an outer rim. Press into place using a fork or fingers.

18. Brush the lattice lightly with beaten egg white.

19. Bake in the center of a 350° F oven until the crust is golden brown and the torte has a nice bubbly glazed look - about half an hour.

20. Remove and cool completely before removing the outer tart rim.

21. Sift confectioner’s sugar onto the surface just before serving or warm the torte in the oven and serve with a bit of sweetened whipped cream on each slice.

Things I discovered while making Linzer Torte:

Plastic wrap is your friend. Use it until it starts getting in the way.

Forget trying to get the strips to the torte top intact ... the nuts make for an unstable dough. I used an icing spatula and slid the strips as best I could to the surface of the marmalade filling and then overlapped strips that fell apart and gently pressed them into place... worked just fine! Now I know what that confectioner's sugar is for! Everything looks better under a dusting of snow! We New Englanders know all about it ... and I bet the Austrians and Germans feel the same!

Oh... and while I'm on a rant... increase the dough split to 1/3 lattice topping and 2/3 torte shell when you're getting ready to 'wrap and chill' ... that way, you'll have enough to make the snake of dough to go around the outer edge ( I came up about 4 inches short, but you'll never see it in the photo! ).

Of course, maybe I didn't have enough dough because I 'tried some' ... hmmm.

Is all this clear to you? If not, re-read and figure it out! Or... do it on the fly the way I did! Cooking is, after all, a whole lot about experimentation!

 Let's hope SB has his 'sweet tooth' on! It's time for a sugar high!

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