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Princesses, Princes, & Pastry: O, my!

July 12, 2010

                                                                                                                        

 

My first endeavor through my pastry expeditions is an exploration through the sweet delicacies of the Austrian-Hungary Empire (1867-1918).  Don’t be bored by the long and seemingly stark historical title. But do be interested in an influential family wrought with controversy comprising one of the oldest dynasties (600 yrs. +)  in Europe.   Two centuries ago, the Hapsburg family dominated the thrones of Europe, (circa 1282-1918) guarding the Austrian-Hungary Empire among their holdings. The vast lands spanned from the Czar’s borders in Russia, to the beaches of the Adriatic Sea; Vienna served as the capital and also stood as the main center for the arts, and of course, the city of Vienna was famous for its cuisine. 

What we know about this luxurious kindgom makes the eyes pop and ones mouth water. Descriptions of tables upon tables laden with sweet delicacies, in every shape and size. Chocolate and sugar sculpture, gold lettering, and houses made from cake, include some of these lasting accounts.

This decadence is best presented by the Congress of Vienna – a meeting of major European powers (with the goal to stabilize Europe) after the fall of Napoleon in 1815.  Known more for its extravagance in drink & food, than for political action, the Congress of Vienna would last for eight months. This coming together marked a new precedence in the art of diplomacy.  The official Host was Emperor Franz I of the Austrian0Hungarian Empire -before anything else, he instructed that 300 gala coaches with golden wheels be available for his honored guests. Though no menus survive from this grand fete, we do know a little about the desserts-  large disks of marzipan filled with creamy nougat. ( Marzipan: a confection made of almonds reduced to a paste with sugar: often molded into various forms, usually imitating fruits and vegetables ).  Fortunately, many recipes do survive from this period.

An ardent Austrian politician and prince has been  forgotten in the pages of history. But maybe Prince Metternich ( 1773 – 1859),  although impossible to resurrect,  can be recaptured by a renewing of his Sachertorte, ( a chocolate sponge cake drenched in hot apricot marmalade along with bittersweet chocolate)  This dessert may continue to conquer the world.  It is this recipe, which I will introduce first along with my questions, problems and findings dotted here and there with historical tidbits.  Please continue to read, and always eat dessert.

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