My Material Life

An Austrian Birthday Dinner

Greetings dear reader.  I’m back to the blog after an unexpected hiatus, now another number older than when I left you.  This is the dinner I have to show for it.

Why an Austrian dinner?  I don’t have any particular ties to Austria though I’m as fond as the next person of The Sound of Music and I once had a neighbor of Austrian descent who would engage in marathon rounds of strudel and schnitzel making when her mother came to visit.  What led me to the Austrian dinner was the meringue, specifically the Spanische Windtorte (Spanish Wind Cake; see spectacular photos here) from my 1968 Time-Life Foods of the World book, The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire by Joseph Wechsberg.

I knew I wanted a pink meringue cake for my birthday this year.  My initial idea was to combine meringue with cake, but after recently eating two pieces in one sitting of my sister’s salted caramel frosting birthday cake (her birthday is the day before mine, seven years and three boys apart), I decided I’d had enough cake for a while and could just go with the meringue and whipped cream of the Spanish Wind Cake.  I had a clear day and a desire to spend some time in the kitchen building my masterpiece.  So that’s what I did.

Once I piped my rounds on my baking sheets I realized that I probably didn’t have the right skills to execute this dessert, but that didn’t matter in the end.  The meringue is very forgiving and you can use fresh meringue (the meringue you haven’t put in the oven yet) as glue and as spackle.  This is a construction project after all.  I added a little of my India Tree red food coloring to my final batch of meringue that I piped around the edges for that pretty pink color.  Yes, it’s a bit messy, but who cares?  It’s pink meringue for goodness sake!  I found a helpful video here for how to attach a plastic bag to your pastry tube tip.  That seems to be the smart way to go as far as pastry bags are concerned.

I filled my meringue shell with whipped cream, raspberries, and a little apricot nectar to replace the cognac called for in the recipe.  I wish I could tell you that this dessert tasted as good as it looked.  The whipped cream and raspberries were good of course and the texture of the meringue was fine, but it tasted only of sugar.  It didn’t have the flavor that I associate with my other favorite meringue recipes.  Meringue should make you swoon with pleasure; I’m afraid this one was just a good looker.  Next time, I’ll just use the same technique with one of my other meringue recipes.

IMG_9568a

I will say that I am closely related (by marriage) to someone of Hungarian descent and he fried the Austrian chicken for me.  (You may remember that Hungary and Austria were once part of the same empire.)  This is a recipe that I found in the same Time-Life book.  I hope you’ll try this recipe. We loved it and the lemon and sour cream salad dressing also from the book.  I’m going to bake some potatoes tonight and serve the leftover dressing with them.  My scanner isn’t working, but here are some photos from the book for the recipes.  The ingredients are hard to read.  I’ll list them below.  Better yet, buy the book from a used book seller.  Those photos of the cake alone will make it so worth it.

Ingredients:  Wiener Backhendl (Austrian Breaded Fried Chicken)

  • A 3-pound frying chicken, cut into 4, 6 or 8 serving pieces and skinned
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 pound lard (I used safflower oil.)

Ingredients:  Saure Rahmsauce für Salat (Lemon and Sour Cream Salad Dressing)

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients:  Spanische Windtorte (Spanish Wind Cake)

The Shell

  • 8 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2-1/2 cups superfine sugar

The Decoration (optional)

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1-1/4 cups superfine sugar
  • 6 candied violets

The Filling

  • 1-1/2 pints heavy cream (I used 1 pint.)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (I reduced this amount slightly.)
  • 1/4 cup Cognac (I substituted apricot nectar, but only because a minor was partaking.)
  • 2 – 3 cups strawberries, raspberries or blueberries, washed and hulled

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