Do you like to eat dessert? Austrians, and Viennese in particular, often go one step further and eat a whole sweet main course – usually with a cup of freshly brewed cup of coffee afterwards. Today you will be introduced to the wonderful world of Austrian sweet cuisine with some links to recipes to go with it if you want to try them at home.
Making a perfect Strudel is easy in theory! In practice, however, there is a whole lot of experience and sensitivity required to make the dough golden and flaky on the outside, gooey on the inside, and neatly wrapping around all kinds of delicious fillings without them spilling. If you are from Austria, chances are your grandmother or mother taught you how to do it right. But even as a beginner, learning the art of baking Strudel is well worth a try. Not only are they a delicious treat, but there are even stories told about stubborn bachelors proposing after their loved one baked them a Strudel!
The most traditional version is the Apple Strudel. In my family it was often eaten as a main dish during apple season. All members joined in to help prepare it. My siblings, our father, and I would gather, peel, and cut the apples. My mother would prepare the dough, and then lovingly help the children pull apart the sensitive dough by hand until it covered the entire table and became see-through. She then filled it, rolled it, and put it in the oven – which soon enough made the whole house smell of roasting apples.
Another popular version of this classic is the Topfenstrudel. The `Topfen´ used for the filling is a type of fresh cheese also known as “curd cheese”. Topfenstrudel is usually eaten with vanilla custard, but make sure to specifically order it with it when eating out – it is not always included free of charge. Lastly, the list of sweet strudels would not be complete without mentioning Poppy Seed Strudel (Mohnstrudel), although a different dough is used.
Skiing burns calories – the perfect excuse for Austrians to eat whatever their heart desires, including a large variety of sweet deliciousness! `Germknödel´, for instance, are steamed yeast dumplings filled with an intense marmalade called `powidl´. It is made by cooking plums and sugar for a very long time to reduce the mixture down to a thick sweet paste. You can find a variety of pastries filled with it as well. The dumplings are traditionally served with melted butter, poppy seeds, and powdered sugar on top.
Another remnant of the Habsburg Monarchy is the `Kaiserschmarrn´, or Emperor’s Mess. It was named after the emperor Franz Joseph I who was known to love this dish. It is a type of pancake, yet thicker, fluffier, and torn into small pieces. Traditionally, it is eaten either with a fruity plum compote with a good hint of rum, or apple sauce. If you want, you can also spice it up by adding berries on top, as shown below!
Poppy Seed Noodles (Mohnnudeln) are made from a potato dough and then tossed in butter, poppy seeds, and powdered sugar before being eaten either with plum marmalade or apple sauce. Sound amazing enough? Poppy Seed Noodles are a popular dish during the winter months, and certainly a mandatory part of every Christmas Market. Yet during summer you can also find a delicious frozen version of them with ice cream instead of the dough.
Wachau Valley is an area in Lower Austria known for its unique high-quality apricots. With such great produce available locally, it is no surprise that many sweet dishes use these apricots, or the marmalade made from them, in their recipes. `Buchteln´, for instance, are fluffy little balls of yeast dough filled with apricot marmalade. They require a good amount of patience to make, since the filling is very runny. However, the result is definitely worth it!
Apricot `Palatschinken´ (Marillenpalatschinken) are Austria’s take on pancakes. They are a little thicker than crêpes, yet similar in size and texture. One of the most traditional fillings is with apricot marmalade, but they are also available with ice cream, or fruit and melted chocolate. Added benefit: Depending on the quantity made per person they can also easily double as main dish!
Another great way to use fresh apricots are Apricot Dumplings (Marilenknödel) tossed in sugar roasted breadcrumbs. Luckily, they are available in Austria not only during the Apricot season. In fact, ripe apricots are easily prepped and frozen for later use by removing the seed and replacing it with a sugar cube! You can also prepare these lovely dumplings with other fruits such as plumbs, or even strawberries.
Of course there are even more sweet dishes and desserts to try, such as various types of pie, cake, and pastries. Writing a list would probably be close to endless… My best recommendation is to simply travel to Austria and leave some room for dessert whenever you go out to eat. Or do it the Austrian way and switch a main course or two!
Let me know which topic to cover the comments below.