The Viennese Kitchen: Tante Hertha’s Book of Family Recipes, written by Monica Meehan and Maria von Baich, brings together over 100 classic Austrian recipes based on the notebook of a 1900s Baroness. From everyday meals to special entertaining and elegant pastries, this book has something for everyone. It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago, so I will also be sharing a recipe for the beautiful Haselnußcrèmetorte, Austrian Hazelnut Cream Torte. The Viennese Kitchen is currently available in hardcover and a new paperback edition with a handful of updated recipes is set to release this fall.
Monica Meehan is a food writer and the great niece of Tante Hertha, Baroness Hertha Freiin von Winkler. She worked with her mother, Maria von Baich, to adapt her aunt’s recipe book/journal into a modernized cookbook with the home cook in mind. Tante Hertha was born in Krain (then Austria, now Slovenia) in 1889 and lived quite the life as a Red Cross nurse during World War I, a portrait photographer, and even ran a catering business before passing away in 1971.
Chapters are divided based on course: Vorspeisen (Appetizers); Suppen und Einlagen (Soups and Accompaniments); Flesh und Fische (Meat and Fish); Gesalzene Mehlspeisen (Mains); Beilagen, Salate, und Gemüse (Sides, Salads, and Vegetables); Bäckereien (Cookies, Pastries, and Confections); Süße Mehlspeisen (Sweet Desserts); Kuchen und Schnitten (Cakes and Gâteaux); Torten (Tortes); and Crèmes und Marmeladen (Puddings and Jams).
Along with Tante Hertha’s background and experiences, you will also learn about Viennese history and society through World War I, the collapse of the Habsburg Empire (Austro-Hungarian), the newly formed Austria, and World War II. Mealtime etiquette, clothing styles, other customs, and notable figures are also discussed.
The beautiful food photography was taken by Tara Fisher with food styling by Annie Rigg and prop styling by Roisin Nield. The gorgeous Viennese scenery was provided by Jon Meade and Georg von Baich. I loved the imprint of Tante Hertha’s notebook on the inside covers. Many of the dishes include a full page photo, generally of the finished product. I also enjoyed the personal touch of the family portraits.
Measurements are provided in US Customary. The name of each dish is listed in German and English. There aren’t any headnotes, so you won’t find much background on individual recipes other than the occasional tip or mention at the beginning of the chapter.
This book is a great pick for those interested in Austrian or Central European cuisine. It is definitely the baker’s dream with nearly half the book dedicated to a variety of cakes, tortes, cookies, and other baked goods. These would be especially perfect for the holiday season, particularly Christmas. Some of the recipes would be great for a weeknight or afternoon snack while others are definitely meant to impress. Sorry beverage lovers, but you won’t find any here. Most of the ingredients can be found in the average American supermarket. Some that may be more difficult to locate include Emmental cheese (often available in the specialty cheese section of larger grocery stores), coarse semolina, speck, parsley root, quark, and rice flour. Those already familiar with Austrian cuisine will find some favorites like Vanillekipferln (Vanilla Shortbread Crescents), Kaiserschmarren (Emperor’s Mess), Serviettenknödel (Dumpling Steamed in a Napkin), Linzerli (Linzer Cookies), and Fisch im Bierteig (Beer-Battered Fish) along with the lesser known Arabisches Reiterfleisch (Arabian Meatloaf), Tante Herthas Geburstagstorte (Tante Hertha’s Birthday Torte), Jugoslawischer Fisch (Yugoslavian Fish), and Kürbisgemüse (Creamed Pumpkin).
Tortes are a special occasion dessert in Austria. They are similar to cakes, but generally have less flour in preference for ground nuts/breadcrumbs and tend to be on the short side. Finding this recipe for Haselnußcrèmetorte, Hazelnut Cream Torte, in time for my birthday was quite special indeed.
In college, I spent every summer visiting my family in Germany. My area in the Alabama didn’t have too many options in the way of German food when I was feeling particularly homesick, so Chad would drive me an hour into Georgia on special occasions to a favorite Bavarian/Austrian restaurant. It was the perfect pick-me-up. For dessert, we would always order the Hazelnut Torte. I searched around for a recipe, but it was never quite the same. Same goes for visiting other restaurants. It would always have a different texture or something else added, like chocolate (which Chad doesn’t like). Well, I finally found it. This beautiful torte has a toasted hazelnut base and a cream filling with rum and candied almonds.
The cake part of the torte includes toasted ground hazelnuts/breadcrumbs and beaten egg whites for lightness. After baking and cooling, it is cut in half through the middle to form two layers. The layers filled and surrounded with a nut cream frosting plus the extra touch of candied almonds.
The candied almonds are made by coating blanched almonds in caramelized sugar. Work quickly and be very very careful when transferring the mixture to a baking sheet to cool.
When mixing the nut cream filling, you may need extra confectioner’s sugar to get a light and fluffy frosting. I ended up adding an additional 1/2 cup or so for my desired consistency.
Note: The frosting uses a raw egg and alcoholic ingredients that are not completely cooked out and intended only for those over the age of 21 (in the United States). Please drink responsibly. Consuming raw eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness, especially if you have certain medical conditions. Be safe about the source of your eggs or used pasteurized.
I also made Käseauflauf (Cheese Soufflé), Wiener Schnitzel, Palatschinken mit gesalzener Füllung (Savory Crêpes, and Parmesan-Stangerln (Parmesan Sticks).
Käseauflauf is an Austrian soufflé made with grated Emmental cheese. It was a delicious addition to weekend brunch. The recipe stated to not expect it to rise as high as a standard French soufflé, but mine still achieved quite a bit of height (of course it started to sink back down before I snapped a photo). I also assembled mine in individual soufflé dishes as opposed to a 9 inch round pan for easy serving.
The idea for Wiener Schnitzel is believed to have started in Italy and is now popular throughout Central Europe. This dish highlights quality and simplicity, without all the additions often included in other countries. Thin slices of veal are coated in breadcrumbs, fried until golden, then served only with lemon wedges. It is often paired with a cucumber or potato salad.
Palatschinken mit gesalzener Füllung are thin crepes with savory fillings. I filled the crepes with the mushroom filling, but there is also a recipe for an herb filling with quark, yogurt, dried herbs, ham, and tomatoes. This dish was overall an easy one to make and perfect for a light lunch. It was also a huge hit for the entire family (Evan actually ate and enjoyed the mushroom filling!).
Parmesan-Stangerln are thin, buttery breadsticks topped with grated parmesan cheese. They were delicious warm from the oven and pairing with a salad or tea is recommended. This one was another favorite with Evan. He also had fun helping me make them.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Interlink Publishing in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own.
Haselnußcrèmetorte (Austrian Hazelnut Cream Torte)
Adapted from The Viennese Kitchen
1 1/2 ounces fine breadcrumbs
1/4 cup (1 ounce) all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups (5 1/2 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, divided
4 ounces toasted and ground hazelnuts
Nut Cream Filling:
2 1/2 ounces blanched almonds
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (3 1/2 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, plus more if needed
1 large egg
1 tablespoon dark rum
To make the torte base: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) and grease an 8 inch round springform pan. Lightly coat in flour.
In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and flour.
In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the confectioner’s sugar until light and fluffy.
In another, clean bowl, beat together the egg whites with clean beaters until beginning to form stiff peaks. Beat in the last 2 tablespoons of the confectioner’s sugar. Gently fold in half of the egg whites, then half the hazelnuts and half the flour mixture. Fold in the remaining egg whites, then the hazelnuts and flour.
Evenly pour into the prepared pan and bake in preheated oven until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 35-45 minutes. Allow to cool in pan before removing.
To make the nut cream filling: Preheat oven to 300 degrees (150 C). Arrange the blanched almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once cooled, coarsely chop.
Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a medium saucepan, met the 1/3 cup granulated sugar over medium heat. Once golden, remove from heat and stir in the chopped almonds. Spread the mixture over the parchment lined baking sheet in a thin layer. Once cooled, pound into pieces with a mortar or lightly pulse in a food processor. Set aside 4 tablespoons to garnish the top of the cake.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter, confectioner’s sugar, and egg until light and fluffy. If needed, beat in more confectioner’s sugar to reach a light, frosting-like consistency. Stir in all but the 4 tablespoons of candied almonds and the rum.
Slice the cooled cake in half horizontally. Place the bottom half on serving dish. Spread 2/3rds of the filling evenly over the top. Cover with the top half of the cake. Cover the outside of the cake with the remaining filling. Garnish the top with reserved candied almonds. Serve immediately.