We interviewed Sabino Spadaccino earlier this summer via email. It was a great pleasure to meet him in person. Meeting at a museum to see a Calder exhibit, we then went for a lunch served outside in a garden. Wonderful people, art, and food. Lovely day.
Holzofenbrot -pain au four à bois. These are the two names of a bread that my sister brought home in a plastic bag during my last visit to Switzerland. It made me pause and ask myself; "where is bread baking going?" Reading the packaged labels for nutritional information and ingredient, I jotted down the basic flour percentages, figuring that at some point I would try to make it. Finally months later, I finally did it.
Plums remind me of summers in Switzerland under my sisters tree in her orchard in August. I still have a a week before I go and visit this year. So having a hankering for something reminiscent of her home made desserts. I decided to make my favorite tarte au quetsche, or zwetchgen which is a just dough and fruits baked, but oh so flavorful.
Tarte au Quetsche
250g Flour ( I used whole wheat pastry flour, but all purpose is fine.)
pinch of salt
Rub butter into mix of flour, sugar and salt, until you get a crumbly mix. Add the beaten egg and lightly combine till dough just starts to come together. Chill in refrigerator for about and hour or overnight.
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1tbslp. Sliced almonds
5 tblsp. bread crumbs (I used fresh bread and processed in food processor)
Cut the plums into eighths and place in a bowl. Mix in sugar, (minus 1 tbslp sugar for top of tarte) and cinnamon till combined.
Making the tarte:
Roll out dough and fill either an 8" inch tarte pan or as I did a cast iron pan. Layer the bottom of tarte dough with bread crumbs, which absorb the plum juices when baked. Place the cut plums inside the shell with the skin side down in circular layers till filled. Sprinkle almond slices and sugar over the top of the plums tarte.
Bake in a preheated oven 375 F for 35-40 minutes or untill the plum juices bubble and the dough has a golden color. Cool and sprinkle with confectioners sugar, serve with whipped cream or even Greek yogurt as I did for a lighter, yet creamy texture that feels a bit like creme fraiche.
About five years ago when visiting my sister in Switzerland, we traveled to the French Canton surrounding Lake Leman. There, my sister took me to a bread museum in Echallens, Switzerland's bread basket.
The museum features exhibitions of baker's tools, ovens and assorted history documents and artifcats around bread. Of course, what got me were the baked goods, including a loaf of spelt bread.
It had a rustic shape, not pretty but interesting. Biting into it we found a tight crumb studded with sunflower seeds and sweet flavor of spelt.
We decided to eat outdoors, enjoying saucisson, bread and some beer while exploring a beautiful chateau.
This bread was my introduction to spelt. Later in my sister's kitchen, I tried my hand at replicating that bread, not always succeeding. But I've managed to reproduce the loaf back at home in my New York kitchen. My latest version included some hemp, a throw back to hippy granola days, but something that's good for you.
When visiting my sister in Switzerland, I always find a specific bread conjoined by six rounds and split with a razor down the middle. When seperated, it has a wonderful pillowy crumb that invites butter, jam, whatever. It's a delicious bread whose exterior crust is thin and egg shell-like baguette feel, and is known as Tessiner brot, pain Tesinés or Pane Ticinese, a bread from the Italian speaking region of Switzerland known as Ticino.
Tessiner brot is a staple in most bakers' repertoires throughout the Swiss cantons. Probably because it's an easy bread that makes friends with your würstli, butter and cheese, the common staples in eating a family style Swiss meal. Below are photographs of my recent attempt to bake some Ticino bread locally, at home in Sunnyside, Queens.
I made mine with yeast, using an easy formula from the Richemont school. That said, there are some ingredients, including the flour and a weird product called levit, which are unavailable here in America. As for the flour, like most found in Europe, there are various types. In this case it's "halbweissmehl," which translates literally to "half white." Before our borders were so highly protective, my sister would send me flour from Switzerland, always a treat. I'd get exotic Ruchmehl, Halbweiss, Dinkel and this list goes on. Subjected to the constraints of a global world's bureaucracy, I now just wing the percentages of milled flours; Halbweiss is around 75 percent milled wheat, so I adapted this formula by adding 25 percent whole wheat flour to white to make my own halbweiss flour.
As I don't have a packet of Levit, I subbed some backferment, which is a mysterious Rudolph Steiner hippie product, which I am still finding a bit unpredictable but will use until it's gone. Or until I make my own dry sourdough. So basically this is a yeasted dough, with some bit of levaining for more likely flavor. To my friend, Mick, I know you're rolling your eyes. But... I love you, baby. And you'll love this bread. It welcomes butter and jam, prosciutto and cheese....basically a loving loaf!
It's likely when visiting my sister in Switzerland she will whip up some extraordinary traditional desserts, a quark kuchen, Baseler leckerli,Quarkkuchen mit shokolade striesel. One of my top favorites is wähe which is made with seasonal fruits,like apples or plums. It can be a quick breakfast bite, or coffee time dessert, or all day if there is any left...with my nephew and three nieces, oh and my brother in-law around,well you get the picture.
Wähe can be a fruit or savory egg and cream custard filled tarte, it's related to the quiche as well the onion tarte's and other favorites along the Rhine river by the Swiss, German and French borders. Most often I like them with mirabelle that come off the trees at my sisters orchard.
Feeling the last breaths of summer, I decided to make a Wähe, and my sister reminded me about them when she called me the other day.
So I had only a few Italian plums and decided to add in some local concord grapes as well some muscat,and apples sort of an hommage to the vendage or wine harvest...actually I'm just really craving a wähe!
Racheli's wähe teig
Makes 1 8" inch square or round tarte. Enough wäehe for a hungry family!
pinch of salt
3-4 Tbsp. water, (American flour probably needs more water, higher protein and it likes to drink!)
Mix dry ingredients, then rub butter and flour mixture between your hands until you get a sandy mixture.Gradually add in water, gently incorporating to form a ball of dough.(Don't knead, it's not bread!)
Chill in fridge for a half hour to an hour. Roll out to about a 1/4 inch thick and place it into a quiche or tart mold. If you don't have a mold, feel free to place the circle on a flat sheet pan and make a free form tarte, but with caution to fold the edges up so you can place fruit and custard filling to bake.
My filling was a bit unorthodox, I didn't have cream and probably shouldn't either! So here I went for a healthy substitute of yogurt.
2 full Tbsp. Greek yogurt
pinch of salt
11/2 Tbsp of Dr. Oeteker pudding powder, or corn starch. (I just happened to be out of starch and found the pudding mix!)
4 Tbsp of almond meal, for the bottom of the dough
Fruits, apples sliced, grapes, plums halved and whole.
Whisk eggs and pudding or starch, sugar in a bowl, add yogurt and milk, set aside. Poke the bottom of the rolled dough with tines of a fork, cover with almond meal. Fill tarte with fruit in prepared shell in free form or in concentric circles. Cover with custard and bake.Bake for about 45 minutes at 400 for 25minutes lower to 375 F for about 10 minutes till custard is set and tarte shell is golden. Serve at room temperature.