Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Sweet Life

Celebrating Chris' Birthday the other night, and getting a taste of his mom's homemade sacher-torte gave me the idea to write a little bit about all the savory sweetness you can find in Austria. I apologize in advance to all my friends observing Lent at the moment... you may want to read this post on or after Easter!
Chris' Birthday sacher-torte. One piece for him,
 the rest for me!

What is it? A chocolate lover's heaven. Traditionally it's a little bit on the dry side, however I've had my share of (dare I use the word?) moist and delicious sacher-torten (that is the plural form in German btw). Basically it's just a chocolate cake with a layer of hardened chocolate frosting covering it's entirety which makes it even more delicious and also holds the moisture in. That way if it's not eaten immediately, which rarely happens in this household, its moisture and deliciousness are preserved. The most important ingredient in a sacher-torte is the marmalade (pronounced mar-ma-lah-da in German) which is apricot jam. One layer is usually spread between the cake and the frosting and sometimes even a second between cake layers. Served with a side of schlagobers or just schlag (if you're an insider like me).
What's the occasion? Usually birthdays. While working in the kindergarten a couple years back, I got to eat sacher-torte with “Smarties” a.k.a. fake M & M's quite frequently (hence any weight gain during that time). The only other reason to eat sacher-torte is if I'm ever having a really bad day, or a really good day, or just an average day... I usually just stop by the neighboring bakery for a slice... shhh don't tell Chris!
Where's the best place to get it? Chris' mom makes the most lecker sacher-torte I've ever had, my previous host-mother is a close second. If you want an original “Sacher-torte” you'll have to swing by the Sacher Hotel and be willing to pay about €30-40 for an entire torte or about €6 a slice. My local bakery gives it to me for a more reasonable €2/slice and is just as good.

What is it? This is like a doughnut before it gets its hole punched out. Like a doughnut they are fried but its texture is even softer and fluffier than most American donuts I've had. The best part is the surprise in the middle... can you guess? Apricot jam. Are you noticing a trend here? Yes, Austrians love their apricots which grow here like crazy in the spring/summer. So as you can imagine these folks have gotten crafty with apricots and come up with some really good stuff.
What's the occasion? Bavarians and Austrian traditionally eat Krapfen like mad right before Lent. Good luck trying to snag one without pre-ordering on Karnival (Mardi Gras). I got lucky this year but only because I was up at 6:30am and headed to work... I think I got one of the last ones. Rumor has it that people observing Lent, at least the hardcore ones who actually fast for 40 days, eat them to fatten up. Apparently each one has about 200-300 calories. That's a good solid breakfast if you ask me. The good news for me is, most people are observing Lent because 75% of the population here is Catholic and a good portion of them swear off sweets. So this time of year means a Krapfen surplus. I've made it my duty to eat a Krapfen whenever I can... Hey, we can't let them go to waste!
Where's the best place to get it? I've never had a bad one and you can find them all over Austria or Germany.

What is it? Ice cream! I know, I know.... you know what ice cream is, I'm sure. Quite honestly, ice cream is good just about anywhere you eat it, not just in Austria. I know because it's something I have to test in every country I've ever visited. In fact, you could say I became quite the gelato/ice cream condesour when I was in Italy last spring.
What's the occasion? Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, any day that ends in the letter “y”.... In Austria it's perfectly acceptable to eat ice cream at any time of the day for any reason and even replace a meal with it. It's probably the only weird thing I can do in this country without getting strange looks or eye-rolls. The only down side to being an ice-cream addict is that your options are pretty limited during the winter months when all the Eis salons close. If you're a true Eis eating princess like me... you find a way!
Where's the best place to get it? If I am forced to rule out driving to Italy (it's only 4-5 hours!) and pick a place a little closer to home then I have to say my #1 favorite is Eis Peter which is only a 2 minute bike ride away! I also hold a special place in my heart for the Eis Salon Chris took me to on our first date. It's about a 15 minute bike ride away from where we live and is located next to a gorgeous park with a castle on an island (Laxenburg). It's magical and like an Austrian Disneyland and I'm sure that's why I fell in love. :-)

What is it? Gingerbread Cookies. I know what you're thinking... those dry crumbly old things we would have to eat when visiting great grandma? Not really. These are the only cookies I've seen done really well in my entire stay in Europe. I'm the kind of girl who grew up eating chewy, melt in your mouth cookies. I also ate great-grandma's gingersnaps which on some occasions nearly broke my teeth off. For anyone who's not really a fan of either... these cookies are for you. Sure in Austria you can get them in any supermarket... but the very best are ones made only in my Austrian “home-town,” Mödling (I'll explain more under “Where's the best place to get it?”).
What's the occasion? Special occasions, bad days, and heart-break. When I first moved out to Mödling the woman who lined up my job and housing gave me one of the famous lebkuchenhertzl (little gingerbread cookie heart with chocolate on top). She told me that when she was married she was so nervous that she couldn't eat anything. Right before she passed out she found a table filled with the lebkuchenhertzln and ate a couple. After that she said she could get married and didn't feel nervous anymore. She believed that these cookies have a special power and so do I. I've been through some rough times (heart-break, homesickness, flu, etc...) The only thing that has brought me back to life and got me to eat again was the lebkuchenhertzl.
Where's the best place to get it? The only place to get it in my opinion is at Lebzelterei Rachenzentner in Mödling. This family has been in business for over 5 generations...  Which convinces me even more there is a secret healing ingredient in these cookies and that they really know what they're doing. The cookies themselves are super expensive but completely worth it... I mean, common, they are magical! Also they've got quite a variety for every taste... but if you ask me the hertz is where it's at!
It doesn't get any more darling than this tiny little shop! 

This is just the beginning of all the great sweet stuff you can find in Austria. I chose to feature the ones that I love the most and eat on a regular basis ;-) Since reading this post has probably caused you to gain a few pounds/kilos, I promise to write soon about how I make up for eating all these calories! 

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