Linzertorte is of the most famous desserts to come out of Austria, along with Sachertorte (see Rick Rodger’s wonderful Kaffehaus for an absorbing history of Eastern European pastry). A delicate crust made with ground almonds, egg yolks (hard-boiled, different from French pâte sucrée),and spices, is filled with preserves and topped with a lattice crust. Interestingly, the traditional preserves of choice was blackcurrant, but today most of us are more familiar with the cheery red of raspberry preserves peeking from beneath the crust. The Linzertorte is supposed to be the oldest known cake in the world: recipes for the dessert date back to 1693. Linzertorte’s bite-sized cousin, the Linzer cookie, is quite famous in its own right – the most elegant and European take on a sandwich cookie.
I had never gotten around to trying Pierre Hermé’s rendition of the Linzertorte, and I wish I had sooner. It is so simple to make and the results are absolutely stellar. Hermé takes the traditional Linzertorte crust, recasts it in the classic French tart ring, spreads in a layer of homemade raspberry jam, and above that pours a decadent layer of chocolate ganache. Raspberry and chocolate – one of my favorite flavor combinations. I can tell you I was very impatient to try the result!
This recipe was nothing but fun from start to finish. The dough for the crust is a bit more crumbly than for a traditional pâte sucrée, but quite workable – the recipe even says that you can pat the dough into the ring, and any tears are easily patched. Making raspberry jam reminded me of how much more satisfying homemade is than store bought. A few pints of raspberries boiled in a pot with some sugar for several minutes resulted in a bowl of ruby-red jam so sweetly tart I had to restrain myself from stealing spoonfuls for the rest of the day. Putting together ganache is also one of baking’s finest pleasures: turning hot cream and chocolate into a smooth, molten, sensual luxury for the palate.
With the exception of making and baking off the tart shell, the entire dessert can be assembled (and enjoyed)quite quickly. This is one of those looks-plain-but-tastes-rich desserts – no extra frills or garnishes are needed to enhance the star components. The tart is a perfect balance of flavors and textures – the marvelously thin, crisp crust, tasting of nuts and cinnamon; the bright tartness of the raspberries, and the rich lushness of the chocolate. To me,it tastes like a truffle in tart form.
adapted from Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Desserts
3 1/2 ounces butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons finely ground blanched almonds (I use pre-ground almond powder from Trader Joe’s)
1 hard-boiled egg yolk, pressed through a fine sieve into crumbs
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon dark rum
pinch of double-acting baking powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Place butter in a food processor and process until creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, ground almonds, egg yolk, cinnamon, and salt, and blend together. Add in the rum and blend. Add in the baking powder and flour and process until thoroughly blended. The dough will be quite soft. Scrape the dough out into a ball, and then flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for about 4 hours until firm.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place an 8 3/4-in tart ring on the sheet. Roll the dough out to a thickness of about 1/4 in and fit into the ring. If you are having difficulty with the dough, you can also pat it into the ring. One trick I learned in pastry school was to place the tart ring over the rolled-out dough and trim the dough in a circle slightly larger than the ring (to accommodate the sides);then carefully wrap the circle around the rolling pin and unroll over the ring. It’s much easier to fit a circular piece of dough into a ring rather than a large unwieldy shape.
When the dough has been fitted into the ring, trim the top even with ring, and chill for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven 350 degrees. When the dough is ready, fit a circle of parchment paper inside and fill with rice or beans. Bake the crust for about 18 to 20 minutes, then remove the parchment and rice and bake for another 3 to 5 minutes or the crust is colored. Let crust cool on rack.
2 pints raspberries
1 1/3 cups sugar
Put berries in a food processor and process for about 5 minutes. Scrape into a heavy pot and add the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil on the stove, stirring occasionally, until the jam thickens. About 5 to 10 minutes on med-high heat was enough for me; don’t let the berries burn!
Stir in about a tablespoon of lemon juice and pour the jam into a bowl to cool. It should thicken more as cools; if it is too runny you can boil it a bit more in the microwave.
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (Hermé calls for Valrhona Guanaja), finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
Place the chocolate in a large bowl. Bring the cream to a boil on the stove and pour over the chocolate. Stir gently with a rubber spatula to combine, avoiding vigorous movement which will incorporate extra air. Beat the butter with a spatula until it is soft and creamy, and then add in two additions to the chocolate mixture, also combining carefully until it is fully mixed.
At this point you can let it cool on the countertop for a bit until it has thickened but is still pourable. You can also store it in the refrigerator for later – to warm it up place in the microwave and heat for 5 second intervals, checking and stirring frequently. You do not want to heat chocolate in the microwave for a long period of time because you could overcook and ruin the consistency of the ganache.
Spread about 3/4 cup of raspberry jam over the bottom of the tart crust. The ganache should be warm (not hot) and pourable. Pour over the jam and spread to fill just to the top of the crust (you will probably have leftover ganache – don’t overfill). Place tart into the refrigerator for about half an hour to set.
When serving, let the tart come to room temperature. It will be easier to slice and the flavors will be stronger. However, be warned that if you leave it out too long the ganache will start to melt and it will become quite soft and gooey – even more like a truffle filling!