Viennese biscuits dipped in chocolate
VIENESSE BISCUITS DIPPED IN CHOCOLATE
Oh Vienna, you're so fancy! And so are your sweet treats.
Viennese coffee shops were exactly as I thought they'd be - beautiful, sophisticated, opulent, indulgent and a warm haven from the freezing (literally) Winter weather. And the pastries didn't disappoint.
The cakes with their fine, thin layers and layers and layers of buttercream and sponge were as delicious as I'd hoped, and their biscuits were (literally) melt in your mouth good.
The Sacher Hotel Cafe rides high on the fame of the renowned similarly named Torte. A lengthy back story and ensuing legal battle surrounds the origin of the Sacher torte, which Sacher Hotel won and now proudly pronounce their torte to be the 'original'. A small torte will set you back about a 25euro, and from the slice I had in the tea room, I decided I'd keep my money. It was just a bit drier than I was expecting, but the hint of sweet but tart jam with chocolate is indeed a great combo. The other cakes we indulged in whilst there however - 5 stars, especially the also named 'original' chocolate ice-cream layer cake that comes with a Bellini on the side.
I was most excited however, to visit to the Demel patisserie and tea room (the loser in the aforementioned 'original' Sacher battle). A seat at the tiny round marble tables downstairs, where you can view the production area is the ultimate treat for the patisserie voyeur. Or if you can stand the crowds, a seat at the bar in the opulent surrounds of the retail area has you feeling like you're sitting at a very exclusive club bar (apart from the shoppers and cafe goers bustling past behind you). The choice of layer cakes was both dazzling and mind boggling, and I think they're probably all about as rich and delicious as each other - just pick your poison. We had coffee buttercream cake and a 'cake with nuts, which is very sweet' (exactly as the waitress described it), and it was true on both counts. Both cakes were excellent.
Demel is to the Viennese pastry scene, as Louis Vuitton is to the world of luggage. It's very swish, and little old ladies line up to have every small retail item they've purchased, wrapped with painstaking care by the girls that tie ribbon bows like every gift is about to be photographed for a million dollar ad campaign. It's very old world, and as long as you aren't in a hurry, it's a rare and lovely style of service to witness nowadays.
Legend has it that Demel were the preferred confectioner of Sissi, Empress of Austria, who loved their sweet treats and whose history is hard to ignore whilst visiting Vienna. A visit to the imperial apartments in the old Imperial Palace, now Hofburg Palace, is an interesting glimpse into the history of Viennese royalty in the 1800's, wrapped up in a very pretty package of opulently decorated apartments, period furnishings, enormous ball gowns, jewellery and her death mask, amongst an array of other interesting personal paraphernalia. A visit of the museum silver collection is an absolute must for lovers of historical dinnerware and cookware too .... the copper jelly mould collection rivalled anything I've seen before, and the ostentatious candelabra and table decorations have to be seen to be believed ... the sheer scale of the collection is seriously mind boggling.
Gerstner coffee house was also well worth the stop. With a rich history dating back to 1847, and the title of being appointed Imperial Court Confectioner in 1873 at Schoenbrunn Palace (also see below), they're a pastry heavy weight. The pretty green exterior to the building hides a glorious interior with the most beautiful tiling, cabinetry and a large spiral staircase that lures you upstairs from the retail store to the tea rooms spread over multiple levels. There is also lift access to the upper stories, which isn't so common in old coffee houses, and welcome surprise given we had a wheelchair. A layered chocolate caramel mousse cake with an organge jelly insert has me pretty inspired - but I do love caramel.
The Christmas markets in Vienna were adorable, and ranged from smaller wooden street markets cooking delicious sausages, to very imperial looking white and gold decorated huts outside of Hofburg Palace to the large markets at the Rathaus, which were really beautiful. With the backdrop of the incredible building, a huge ice-skating area lay beside the markets, with narrow trails and pathways to skate along joining the large skating rink areas! It was the best! All under the twinkly lights of markets. As usual, warm local mulled wine 'Gluhwein' flowed freely, and the sweet treats were biscuits, crepes and ice-cream cones with an Italian meringue consistency fluff piped on top, and then dipped in chocolate!
Schoenbrunn Palace, a 20minute drive from the centre of Vienna was fairytale magical. Christmas markets filled the large paved courtyard in front of the palace, and under the giant Christmas tree, carol singers performed and their sweet sounds were amplified through the markets, which just made the whole atmosphere even more magical. And just when we thought it couldn't have been more perfect, it began to snow! Big fat flakes of snow ... and my beautiful Sophie faced the sky, and felt the flakes melt on her face, and in her mouth!
The winner in the sweet stakes at the Schoenbrunn markets was 'Kaiserschmarrn' - aka scrambled pancakes, smothered with dark chocolate (or apple puree if you preferred). Delicious.
Vienna was enchanting, and we just scraped the icing of its sweet surface. I think we have unfinished business there!
These biscuits are very 'short' as in they have a lot of butter in them, which makes them melt in your mouth!
They're so incredibly easy, it's a one bowl recipe ... just beat the butter and icing sugar briefly, then add the flours! Pipe and bake. If you don't have a beater of any sort, you can even just beat it with a wooden spoon. They look so fancy and Viennese, but they're not tricky at all. They will be adorable as a gift in a tin, jar or cello bag tied with a ribbon.
It's also common in Vienna to pipe them in a little straight line, and then dip each end in chocolate!
I hope you enjoy them!
VIENNESE BISCUITS DIPPED IN CHOCOLATE
For a print friendly recipe, CLICK HERE!
225g plain flour
55g icing sugar
250g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 170°C.
Combine and sift flour, cornflour and icing sugar.
Soften butter in microwave if not already softened.
Beat softened butter, add flour/cornflour/icing sugar and beat until combined (don’t overbeat).
Pipe with star nozzle onto baking paper lined baking tray.
Refrigerate for 10mins.
Bake @ 170°C until the edges are lightly golden brown.
Let cool on baking tray for 5 mins, then transfer to cooling rack.
Dip into tempered dark chocolate when cool.
SWITCH IT UP
ZESTY: Grate fresh zest of orange / lemon or lime into the biscuit mix for a fragrant acidity
DOUBLE THE FUN: Sandwich 2 smaller biscuits together with ganache, buttercream or jam
SOME PICS OF VIENNA!
Hotel Sacher & Cafe
Demel Patisserie & Coffee House
Gerstner Patisserie, Confectionery & Coffee House
Christmas Markets Vienna
Rathaus - Central market & ice-skating