Well that was a Eurovision to remember! Australia had a wildcard entry with Guy Sebastian taking out a respectable 5th place, Nigella Lawson read out the results for the UK, Conchita Wurst introduced the show by flying through the air and not one but two countries managed to achieve the highly elusive and never sought after nul points including hosts, Austria and their border mates Germany. The last time we saw a nul pointer was the truly woeful Jemini from the UK in 2003.
This year, our Eurovision party was hosted by Cath and Steve after their daughter Johanna drew Austria last year. Of course, Johanna should have been hosting but she was too busy having fun in the UK so it was up to her parents to feed and water us. Guests were asked to bring a dessert. If there is one thing that is certain, those Austrian’s love their desserts and cakes and biscuits and tortes and hot drinks mit schlag (with whipped cream).
The Oldest Cake Recipe
After some research, I decided to make a Linzer Torte. Named after the town on Linz in northern Austria, it is said to be the oldest cake in the world with a recipe dating back to 1653. The torte is typically filled with redcurrant jam that is covered with a nutty pastry lattice, the hallmark of the dessert. Other jams such as apricot and plum are often used. Plum is my favourite jam and really the only one I truly enjoy so when my colleague Jen gifted me a jar of her tangy homemade plum jam, I was in two minds whether to use it in the recipe. I leaned towards ‘yes’ as it was traditional but also leaned towards ‘no’ as I didn’t want to give up the precious homemade jam in such a large quantity. In the end, ‘yes’ won out and I was glad I decided to use the gifted preserve as it meant the whole torte was truly homemade. This recipe is taken from The Joy of Baking.
Rather than the traditional round shape, I made the torte in a slice tray so that it could be cut into small bars. Though there are a few steps, I was surprised how easy this recipe was. Minimal effort for maximum effect. You can of course use almond meal but it’s worth the extra few minutes to roast and grind the almonds as it adds an extra warmth and depth to the pastry as well as a hint of crunchiness. This is a wonderful recipe if you want to make something impressive for an afternoon tea or picnic as it travels quite well. Serve as is or mit schlag.
(The Joy of Baking)
- 150g whole almonds (skin on or blanched)
- 200g plain flour
- 130g caster sugar
- zest of one lemon
- 1 tspn cinnamon
- 1/8 tspn ground cloves (don’t be tempted to use more)
- 1/4 tspn salt
- 1/2 tspn baking powder
- 200g cold butter, cut into cubes
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tspn vanilla extract
- 200 – 250g redcurrant or plum jam
- Heat the oven to 175c and place the almonds on a baking sheet in the middle of the oven to bake for 8 – 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir once during baking to ensure even colouring.
- Remove almonds from oven and set aside to cool. As they cool you will hear some of them start to crack and split.
- Once cooled, place nuts in a food processor with 1/2 a cup of the flour. Chop until the nut/flour mixture is like sand.
- Add the remaining flour, caster sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon, ground cloves, salt and baking powder and process to combine.
- Add the butter and pulse until mixture is like bread crumbs.
- Add egg yolks and vanilla and pulse until a dough comes together. If dough does not come together, turn out into a bowl and press together. It is a very soft pastry.
- Form dough into a ball and divide into two, making one ball slightly larger than the other. Wrap the smaller ball in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hr.
- Line a slice tin approx 30 x 25cm with baking paper and press larger ball of dough evenly into bottom of tray to form a base. Use a large flat spoon if you need help pushing out the dough. Place tray in fridge to chill.
- When smaller ball of dough is chilled, remove dough and tray from fridge. Spread jam evenly across chilled pastry base.
- Press out smaller ball of dough into a flat rectangle approx 1cm thick. Roll this our on baking paper to make it easier to manage the next few steps.
- Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the pastry into even strips approximately 2cm wide.
- Using a palette knife, carefully lift one pastry strip at a time from paper and drape it diagonally across the jam filled base. The pastry will be soft so it may break when your transfer it. Just pinch the strips back together. Pinch or cut off excess at ends.
- Continue to place slices of pastry across jam filled base, spacing evenly with jam showing into between.
- Turn tin diagonally and repeat with remaining pastry strips to create a lattice effect. It doesn’t need to be perfect – you’re going for rustic.
- If there are remaining pastry trimmings, roll into thin lengths and press around edge of lattice and jam to seal. If there are no trimmings remaining, this step can be skipped.
- Bake torte in 175c oven for approximately 30 – 35 minutes until the pastry is golden and the filling has started to bubble. Remove from oven and allow torte to cool for at 30 minutes before carefully lifting out using baking paper.
- Slice into squares and serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream.
Makes approximately 12 squares
Sweden once again came up trumps and won Eurovision on the night. That’s twice in three years! Soon they’ll have to do an Ireland and send truly dire acts to ensure they don’t win and have to host. So, it’s another round of meatballs and lingonberries in 2016 but this time at Robert and Bronlynn’s. With their newly minted house, I hope they paid for the added extras package of retractable disco ball and concealed wind machine.