Chronicle readers, thank you for your patience. A holiday for me is just that: no missives except those to family who need a hey, hello and Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo….
But I’m back, to hail and brimstone in this sorry state some sadist calls “summer” in Toronto.
Go ahead. Tease us with sunshine. We know you don’t mean it.
Send me back to the Austrian mountains where I will now retool my idea of the perfect picnic after the high (!) of an alpine feast of simple sandwich and mineral water.
Location, location, location. Here I thought is was all about the grub!
|Near the top of the famous Glossglockner High Alpine Road|
Who needs dessert? Uh…that would be baker girl me.
Austria was unknown to me but for Julie Andrews cavorting in the hills while a helicopter’s down draft almost knocked her over to shoot the opening scenes in The Sound of Music (and yes, I did go on the tour), Mozart mania and a vague sense of the breadth of an empire.
But was I prepared for the desserts?
|The perfect strudel at Café Lantmann|
Our first stop was Vienna where we were schooled in strudel, the national dessert of Austria and what was once the Austro-Hungarian empire. My Greek mother-in-law has promised to show me the secret technique of baklava, a close cousin. At the imperial bakery in Schonbrunn Palace, pastry chefs demonstrate the method and make it look easy.
Apples, cinnamon, salt, bread crumbs, vats of butter and that crispy,wafer-thin dough should be simple enough, but as we forked our way through coffee palaces, where coffee and confectionery are meant to be lingered over, we tasted versions better than others.
Rhubarb, strawberry and other fruit are seen in a strudel but the apple is king and rightly so, save the sour cherry, sure to ascend to the throne, my cherry addicted companion planning the deposition.
Cherries were in abundance throughout the country, in roadside stands, and on most menus.
Breakfast in our Vienna hotel was a long table of treats where the strudel shared space alongside other traditional confections and champagne because we need bubbly to get the day going in this gem of a city. I stuck to my coffee. But, as you will hear, that was hardly roughing it.
|SCHOKERLKUCHEN ( fudge cake with egg liqueur): decadent|
GEWÜRZGUGLHUPF ( spiced citrus cake): delicious
The richest of these is by far the Sacher torte, once the subject of a nine year legal battle between the Hotel Sacher and Café Demel over the dessert’s specific characteristics.
|SACHER TORTE ( chocolate sponge cake with apricot jam filling and dark chocolate glaze)|