I should be making all sorts of Christmasy treats now but with tonsillitis and a bad cold, my head is not up to it. As soon as I start moving about in different directions, like you do when you have to take out a pan from a low shelf or stoop to put in something in the oven, I get dizzy and wobbly. So today I shall be a good (read “patient”) patient. I shall have to content myself with keeping my head on one plane and looking through past efforts at creating Christmas goodies.
I tried to recreate a Linzer Torte one Christmas according to the recipe handed down from a dear friend’s southern German grandmother. The recipe was written down in a lovely album by her grandmother herself. I’m afraid I don’t have my friend’s permission to share the recipe with you. But I thought of sharing what distinguishes the family’s Linzer Torte from all others. It is the decorative use of cut-out leaves and balls instead of the usual woven lattice or stars. I had wanted to shape the leaves like holly, but found it too fiddly doing it free-hand without a mould. My friend’s family uses a large round tart tin with a removable bottom. I only have a small round one so used a rectangular one instead.
I couldn’t decide whether to use traditional raspberry or apricot or cherry (not so common) filling – so I used apricot in the centre and cherry along the sides. I decided not to use raspberry as I don’t fancy the pips in between my teeth. Though I could’ve used a sieve of course to exclude them.
There are two versions of the origin of the name of this tart that is frequently made for Christmas in Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, and Germany. One is that it is named after the city of Linz in Austria. The other is that it is named after a baker surnamed Linzer. It was once considered the oldest recorded confectionery, with a recipe for it dated 1696 in the Austrian National Library, until a researcher found an older similar recipe recorded in Verona, Italy. Whether it is originally Austrian or Italian, the basic ingredients are a rich pastry crust of ground nuts and a filling of good quality preserves. The version that I use includes a bit of cocoa in the crust. The Austrian version is pale and uses flaked almonds to edge the pastry.
Here are two recipes for Linzer Torte: the Austrian one is adapted from the Linz city website; the German one I translated and adapted from the magazine Mein Schönes Land Nov-Dec 2011.
Austrian Linzer Torte
150 g butter
150 g powdered sugar
250 g flour
10 g baking powder
100 g roasted hazelnuts , finely ground
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla essence
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp – 1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
300 g red currant jam
1 egg yolk, beaten for glaze
50 – 75 g flaked almond
Optional: icing sugar for serving
Mix butter and sugar until smooth. Mix in the flour sifted together with the baking powder. Mix in powdered hazel nuts, egg, and flavourings. Knead briefly and quickly shape dough into a ball, wrap, and chill for 30 – 60 minutes.
Remove from the fridge and divide dough into two portions — a large one about 3/4, and a smaller one. Roll out the larger piece to a thickness of about 1.5 cm (~1/2 inch) and fit on a 22-cm (~10-inch) springform baking pan or tart tin with removable bottom. Spread red currant jam over the dough, leaving the edges uncovered. Shape remaining dough into thin strips, weave into a lattice over the jam, setting aside a strip or two long enough to cover the edge. Brush the lattice with egg yolk and lay the remaining strip/s all around the edge of the crust. Brush the edging strip/s with the rest of the yolk and arrange the flaked almonds on it. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until just golden, at 180º C (350ºF). Allow to cool then remove carefully from pan. Sprinkle with icing sugar to serve in thin wedges.
German Linzer Torte
200 g flour, sifted
200 g sugar
200 g butter, diced
100 g ground walnuts
100 g ground almonds
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch powdered cloves
1 tsp grated lemon rind
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp cherry brandy (or other fruit liqueur or vanilla essence)
4 Tbsp raspberry preserves
1 Tbsp cranberry preserves
Optional: powdered or icing sugar for serving
In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, nuts, cocoa, spices, and lemon rind until well mixed. Add the butter, 1 egg yolk, and cherry brandy; pulse only until the mixture comes together to form a dough. Take the dough out, knead briefly for 2 – 3 minutes, form into a ball, wrap in cling film, and chill for up to 2 hours. Divide dough into two — a large one about 2/3 of the dough and a smaller one. Wrap the smaller piece and return to the fridge. Roll out the larger piece to 1-cm (~1/4-inch) thickness on a lightly floured surface to cover a 22-cm (10-inch) tart tin with removable bottom or springform pan. Mix the raspberry and cranberry preserves together and spread over the crust, leaving a border along the edges untouched. Take out the rest of the dough and roll out thinly. Cut into thin strips and make a lattice to lay over the preserves, reserving a strip or two large enough for edging the crust. Brush the lattice with egg yolk, lay the remaining strip/s all around the edge to keep the filling in place, and brush with egg yolk. Bake at 175ºC or 325ºF for 30 – 35 minutes, or just until golden. Allow to cool and remove carefully from the pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired, before serving.
Notes: You may use all walnut or all almond or any other ground nuts you prefer. For preserves, any red or other colour preserve is fine, although raspberry, red currant, and apricot are traditional. Instead of lattice strips, use cookie cutters for stars or other forms to lay over the filling.
I am taking being unwell with as much good grace and as little grumbling as I can muster. Like most everyone, I tend to take good health and wellbeing for granted, until illness strikes. So — my deep thanks to good health and its speedy return so that I can turn my heart and the hearth into Christmas mode.