Before Christmas in 1984, the New York Times published a great article entitled “Baker’s Half-Dozen Recipes: Cheesecake to Buche de Noel”. I made half of those recipes over the years, and the one which turned into a family tradition for Christmas was the Linzer Torte. This is a bit different from the usual Linzer Tortes one comes across because the top layer is not more pastry but instead is a chocolate meringue. This is a three layer torte which is made in three stages:
1-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground mace
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs. sugar
2 egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue layer)
Grated zest of a small orange
Grated zest of a lemon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 cup finely ground almonds
3/4 cup raspberry preserves
2 tsp. lemon juice
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 egg whites
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs. sugar
Pinch of ground cinnamon
To make the pastry:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together in a bowl the flour and spices. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add to the mixing bowl the egg yolks, zest, extracts, and ground almonds. Mix until well blended. Add to the mixing bowl the flour and spices in two batches, scraping the bowl between batches. Place the pastry dough in a 10.25 inch greased spring form pan and bake until the pastry is done and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven.
Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees and move an oven rack to the top third of the oven.
Make the filling by mixing together the raspberry preserves and lemon juice. Spread the mixture over the top of the cooked pastry leaving the outside edge uncovered.
Make the meringue by mixing together the sugar and egg whites and beat them in a mixer until they form stiff peaks. Sprinkle the pinch of cinnamon on the melted chocolate, mix together, and then fold the chocolate into the meringue. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue and then pipe a lattice pattern on the torte followed by piping on the outer edge. (It is important that the chocolate be fully melted since otherwise little pieces of chocolate will clog the tip of the pastry bag.) Return the torte to the oven and bake until the meringue is set, which should be less than 10 minutes. Remove the torte from the oven, dust heavily with confectioner’s sugar, and cover with plastic wrap. The heat and moisture from the exposed preserves will melt the sugar on top of it so that after a few minutes there will be an attractive pattern where the white sugar appears only on top of the meringue.
Allow to cool fully. The torte can be served immediately, or it can be kept to mellow for several days in the refrigerator. It will improve with age.