The world of Austrian desserts hardly needs any introduction. It has a long history and tradition of making some of the finest desserts in the world. No matter whether you cherish these sweet delicacies in a cozy Austrian coffee house or at your home, you will fall in love with these pastries and Torten (locally known as Mehlspeise).
These are my favorite treats (Part 1):
Number 1: Apfelstrudel
Austrians love Strudel – either filled with a sweet or savory filling. The Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) is said to have become the Austrian classic after the victory of Vienna by the Turks. The traditional strudel is a pulled one, but today it is usually made from the same puff pastry that is used in Turkish baklava.
Apfelstrudel is best eaten warm, with vanilla sauce or lashings of whipped cream and a frothy Melange coffee. For the real treat, add a scoop of ice cream!
My mom used to make apple strudel from the original strudel dough, skillfully pulling and extending the dough until it was so thin that you could read the paper through it. It covered the entire kitchen table, with the thicker edges hanging over the table’s edges, before being cut.
Tip: As an alternative to the classic Apfelstrudel, ask for a warm Topfenstrudel, when in Austria next time. “Topfen” is similar to cream cheese but can´t be found anywhere in the US. It´s delicious and you may even prefer it to Apfelstrudel – I do.
Number 2: Kaiserschmarrn (translates as “emperor´s mess)
There are many stories about the origin of this classic sweet, which is often eaten as a main dish. But one says that this dessert was first served to Emperor Franz Joseph I around the turn of the century. The basic ingredients and dough are quite similar to those of pancake but it is enriched with additional eggs and raisins. Be careful not to overcook it, otherwise it will dry out. It is either served as a dessert or main dish.
Tip: Add some rum and flambé it. Then sprinkle powdered sugar and serve with home-made apple puree or cranberry sauce. Pair it with a hot cup of coffee for the ultimate in sweet, cozy comfort food.
Number 3: Sachertorte
Like many historic stories the Sacher-Torte was conceived through serendipity when Prince Metternich was hosting a dinner party in 1832. The chef was ill and apprentice Franz Sacher had to bake a dessert. The guests loved the cake so much that the Sachertorte was born. Since then the Sachertorte – a dense but delectable chocolate cake made with a thin layer of apricot jam and a rich chocolate glaze – has been arguably the most famous cake in the world. The original recipe remains a well-kept secret though.
When in Austria, you can´t leave without having tasted a piece of this famous “Torte,” It is mostly served and enjoyed with a generous dollop of unsweetened whipped cream (to balance sweetness!!). A single conservative slice will set you back 450 calories but trust me; every bite is worth it!
The original version can only be ordered at the Hotel Sacher in Vienna and Salzburg as well as at the Café Sacher Innsbruck and Café Sacher Graz.
Tip: Order it online in a gift box and wow a dear friend!
Number 4: Salzburger Nockerln – an icon of Austrian cuisine
This fluffy iconic dessert may remind you of snow-capped mountains right away.
Created in the 17th century by Salome Alt, the mistress of the archbishop of Salzburg, this Baked Vanilla Soufflé is formed into three mounds (nockerln) to look like the three hills that surround the city of Salzburg (Mönchsberg, Kapuzinerberg and Gaisberg.
This fluffy dessert has become such an icon of Austrian cuisine that Fred Raymond even composed an operetta in 1938 called Saison in Salzburg – Salzburger Nockerln (Season in Salzburg – Salzburger Nockerln). In this composition the sweet dumplings are praised as “Süß wie die Liebe und zart wie ein Kuss” (Sweet as love and tender as a kiss). Salzburger Nockerl can mainly be found in Salzburg, as its name implies.
Tip: It requires some practice to make this culinary specialty at home but give it a try – it doesn´t take long and you will make a home-run with it.
Number 5: Linzer Torte
The Linzer Torte is considered to be the oldest cake in the world – dating back to the 16th century. Its base is a short crust pastry made with ground nuts, filled with red currant or plum jam and with a decorative dough lattice pattern on top. The name of the person who first recorded the recipe is unknown but the ingredients can be traced back to a 350-year-old cook book and are still used today when making the Original Linzer Torte.
Tip: You may also want to try a similar cookie version, called “Linzer Radl” or “Linzer Auge”. These delicacies were traditionally served at Christmas only, but can be found in most Austrian bakeries nowadays.
Filled with history, folklore, and sugar, you can’t go wrong when you taste a piece of these heavenly pleasures in one of the cozy traditional coffee houses in Austria. It may not be good for your waistline but that´s a different story!
Stay tuned for more in Part 2 of “Sweet treats in Austria”