Austro-Hungarian Classic: Linzer Torte With Red Currant Jam
Lattice Linzer Torte With Red Currant Jam
Linzer torte is a classic Austro-Hungarian tart (or cake, which is what “Torte” means in German). Like its cousin, the Linzer cookie, it originated in the city of Linz, Austria. The big difference is in the dough: Toasted and ground hazelnuts (or walnuts) are added to it, along with a battery of Christmassy spices to scent it (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, and lemon zest).
My father loved this dense, tart-sweet cake, and growing up, I remember my mother baking it on many a Sunday. Back then, I wasn’t too crazy about it, though; I thought it was a tad dry and should have been filled with double the jam. But I did like the handsome lattice pattern on top.
It’s been years since I last had the torte, and honestly, I’d completely forgotten about it until this summer, when I spotted one in a café vitrine in Vienna, Austria. I bought a slice and devoured it, and then I asked my mom for her old recipe. I got that, along with a few jars of her exquisite, super tangy red currant jam, which she’d just finished making (she grows both red and black currants in her garden in the Czech countryside).
The dough comes together easily, but note: It’s pretty sticky and fragile. I recommend having everything set in place and then working quickly. Make sure to flour your work surface and the rolling pin thoroughly as you go. Some of the lattice strips broke when I was setting them over the jam, but it’s no big deal: All the little flaws disappeared during baking and got hidden under the sprinkle of slivered almonds (traditionally, almonds are sprinkled only around the edges so that the lattice is visible, but I put them all over to cover my imperfections).
The great thing about this cake, too, is that it tastes fantastic on the day you make it, but it’s also just as good in a few days, after it settles and the jam has time to moisten the crust.
- Serves 8
- ¾ cup hazelnuts
- 1¼ cup powdered sugar
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted, plus extra to roll out the dough
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1¼ cups red currant jam
- 3 tablespoons sliced almonds
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the hazelnuts in one layer on a rimmed baking pan and toast in the oven, shaking the pan once, until the skins are lightly colored and blistered, and the nuts are fragrant, about 10 minutes. Transfer the nuts in a clean kitchen towel, wrap tightly, and let steam for 1 minute. Rub the nuts in the towel with your hands until the skins come off (don’t worry if some skins stay on). Let cool.
- In a food processor fitted with an S-shape blade, process the nuts until they turn into coarse flour, about 15 to 20 seconds.
- In a large bowl, mix the sugar with the butter, and beat with an electric mixer on low speed, scraping the sides along the way, until combined, about 3 minutes. Add the ground hazelnuts, flour, baking powder, 1 egg, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla extract, and lemon zest. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon until dough forms. Bring the dough together into a ball with your hands. Press the dough down into a disk, and refrigerate for minimum 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take the dough out of the refrigerator, and let it soften slightly on the countertop.
- Flour your work surface and a rolling pin. Cut off 1/3 of the dough, and set it aside. Roll the remaining 2/3 of the dough, flouring it and your pin regularly (the dough will be sticky), into ¼-inch thickness.
- Spray a 9-inch tart pan (with removable bottom) with a vegetable oil, or grease with butter. Fit the rolled-out dough into the tart pan, pressing lightly against the bottom and sides. Add any bits of dough to the 1/3 you’ve set aside.
- Spread the red currant jam evenly over the bottom of the dough. Set aside.
- Roll the remaining 1/3 dough into ¼-inch thickness. Flour your surface and rolling pin as you go. Using a small knife, cut strips ¾ inches wide. Lay the strips over the jam in parallel lines with a 2-inch space between them, and press to adhere. Trim any overhanging dough. Lay another set of strips at a 60- or 90-degree angle over the first set of the strips.
- Optional: Combine all the dough scraps, and form a small ball. With your hands, roll the ball into one long, ¼-inch-thick, cylindrical strip. Fit it along the pan’s perimeter, covering the trimmed lattice-strip ends. Press lightly against the edges. This step makes the tart look neater.
- Beat the remaining egg lightly with a fork. Using a pastry brush, coat the lattice strips with the egg. Sprinkle the tart evenly with the sliced almonds, and bake in the oven until the dough turns light brown, about 40–45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand on a wire rack for 20 minutes. To slide off the outside ring, place the tart on a big can or jar. Carefully slide the tart off the bottom of the pan onto a cutting board or serving dish, and let cool completely. Cut into slices, powder with sugar if you like, and serve.
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