Food Memory: Linzer Torte

Oh, the food rapture! How do I say that in Italian?! I was inspired by how you transported me to Italy (in Sydney) and stuffed me full of gnocchi and I had to come up with my own food-filled, nostalgic ramble. So here goes.

Aren’t food memories the most quality memories you’ve got? Taste and smell are so interlinked that I’d throw smell memories in there too, both the lavender field and the pig sty, even if that seems nasty. It just makes sense to me.

So I thought I’d tell you a little story about a food memory that’s been on my mind lately, pardon the pun. It’s our wedding anniversary this time of year and that got me thinking about the event itself, four years ago.

And what I mean by that is, the food. Specifically, the cake. Are you surprised? Of course not. You know cake is my favourite food group. So we had some lovely cupcakes that were cute and delicious and perfect for our backyard wedding. I can’t pass by a cupcake without eating it, so let’s just say I rushed through the meal to get to them.

But the night before, we had Linzer Torte. Cue memory.

As long ago as I can remember, it has been my favourite: Raspberry jam encased in a hazelnut, clove and lemon zest-scented pastry, latticed so that the jam shines like rubies in deep brown lacework. Softly whipped, room temperature cream dolloped on top. Plates passed around to guests first, so that my mouth waters with each passing slice. We use the long-tined forks that are family heirlooms and somehow make eating better. We take it outside if it’s summer—robins calling in the trees around the garden. If it’s winter we eat around the dining room table and the torte fills our conversation. Plates are scraped clean. I always ask for another piece.

Naturally, for our wedding, I just wanted a table full of desserts, never mind the main course. Clearer heads prevailed, but I got two wedding cakes—the cupcakes, and my mother’s Linzer Torte. There wasn’t enough for the actual wedding day, so we ate the lovingly-prepared tarts the night before, as we relaxed after setting up all the tables and chairs in the garden. Warm August night, hummingbirds buzzing our heads, somewhere, a jazz song on the radio. Raspberry jam and hazelnut curling around each other perfectly.

Linzer Torte

This is the recipe that my mother uses and it comes from one of those tourist cookbooks you pick up at the train station or souvenir shop. I’d be ashamed that it doesn’t come from my great-great grandmother if it weren’t so damn tasty. Pedigree isn’t everything, clearly.

I use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer for ease and speed.

250 g unbleached flour

250 g ground hazelnuts

250 g butter

250 g sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

a pinch of salt

zest of one lemon

about 250 ml raspberry jam

Mix together the flour, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a small bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light, then add the hazelnuts and lemon zest. Add the flour mixture and mix until the dough comes together. Leave to rest for an hour in the fridge.

Roll out two-thirds of the dough to line a tart pan (the kind with a removable bottom and fluted edges works best). You also can skip the rolling and pat the dough into the pan, pressing down firmly and creating a raised edge to contain the filling. Fill the tart with raspberry jam. Roll out the remaining dough and cut into long strips. Lay the strips on top of the jam to form a lattice. For help with this pattern, go here. Bake at 350F until golden brown on top. I’d guess 35-40 minutes. Austrian recipes are notorious for not giving specific (and helpful) times and instructions. Let cool before unmolding. Serve at room temp with whipped cream and long-tined forks.

Let’s do more of this! What food memory makes you weak with longing? I’d love to hear about it.

(Linzer torte photo credit: Mark Walsh)

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