Sunday, April 28, 2013

When Nietzsche Wept I Made A Linzer Torte

This is a post about serendipity and how I came to bake a Linzer Torte.

It's also about changing - changing all these ingredients into a torte.  I could include the changes that reading a particular book causes in one's understanding of the world, but that's too much.

So how did I get to the spot where I had all these ingredients measured and waiting to be combined?

About a year ago I was headed to Juneau and my friend Paul with whom I was going to stay while there, asked if I could bring him the book The Spinoza Problem from Anchorage. I started reading it while I was there, but Paul suggested I read an older book by the same other author, Irvin Yalom, When Nietzsche Wept.  [I thought I'd posted about the book in the past, but I can't find such a post, only one that mentions The Spinoza Problem in passing.  There's a lot in both these books to chew on and so I'm guessing I kept putting off actually writing a post.]

Anyway, I recommended Nietzsche to my book club and eventually we got to it - last Monday and I was the host.  We try to have some snacks that are mentioned in the book.  But I had borrowed Paul's copy and returned it long ago.  So I emailed Paul, who is also an incredible cook, and suggested that since he'd originally recommended the book and since he's interested in food, maybe he could scan the book and come up with a recommendation for something I could make for the group.  He enthusiastically accepted the challenge and the next day I had two recipes for Linzer Torte and one for Apple Strudel.  (The book takes place in Vienna in the late 1800s.)

The strudel recipe looked like more things could go wrong.  I chose the Joy of Baking Linzer Torte recipe.  Above you can see all the ingredients gathered.  I had no idea how much butter these tortes have in them.  I haven't had that much butter in the last ten years - except maybe what's hidden inside things like, well, Linzer Torte and or food I eat in a restaurant. 

The first thing to do is put the raspberries and sugar into saucepan and boil off the liquid. 

Then I mixed the rest of the ingredients.

The major adjustment I made to the recipe was that I didn't have hazelnuts and we did have some almond meal, so I didn't crush my own almonds.  I just used the almond meal.  The dough was very different from bread dough.  Not as sticky, but all that butter made it very oily.  

The recipe said to divide the dough into two balls.  This one had to be flattened between wax paper and put into the refrigerator.  This part of the would later be cut into strips that I would (very badly) braid across the top. 

The other half of the dough on the bottom of the pan and poured the raspberry sauce into the pan.

The chilled dough broke very easily and as you can see, the braiding was pretty sloppy.  Then whatever was leftover was put around the edge of the pan. 

And here it is out of the oven.

The powdered sugar was sort of like make up, covering some of the flaws I'd had in the braiding. 

The book club members were all very polite and complimentary.  Paul said people always say nice things when they find out you made it yourself.  But I've tasted his masterpieces and they're incredible. (You can see what I mean at a post about what he made for an Easter brunch a couple of years ago.)  This was good, but anyone who really knew about Linzer Torte would know it was my first try.  (And yes, we had whipped cream for each piece.)

Go back and compare the finished torte to all the ingredients in the first picture.  I think it's pretty amazing how human beings have figured out how to take a bunch of items - whether it's to make food, a machine, a book, a painting - and transform them into something else. 

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