Eloise is officially abroad (and so am I)!
Eight hours on a plane and two countries later, Eloise and I have been able to explore some of the streets and eats of London, UK and Salzburg, Austria.
To start off this new adventure, I spent two nights in the lovely city of London, where I experienced a lot of royalty, rain, and tea. The most notable pastry encounter I had in this country was at a little hole-in-the-wall place call The Muffin Man. Here, I got to partake in a genuine English tea time! Both pastries I sampled are actually on the Ally & Eloise menu, and they were the lemon cake and Queen Mother's cake. Now, sadly, I have never had the A & E Queen Mother's cake, so I was unable to compare (I will get a slice as soon as I get back). However, the lemon cake is a frequent favorite of mine, and it was very interesting to sample the differences between the two. In London, the cake was much denser than the ones back at the bakery, and the frosting was much firmer than the fluffy buttercream I'm used to. Don't get me wrong, the cake was absolutely delicious, but I think I prefer the lemon cake that Ally makes a bit more. The A & E lemon cake tastes much fresher with the lemon curd and light buttercream frosting, so maybe I'll just have to bring back some English Breakfast tea and sit down with a slice of lemon cake when I come back to the States. Have any of you ever had either of the cakes I mentioned? Let me know down in the comments what you think of them!
Continuing on with the adventure, Eloise and I found ourselves in the snowy city of Salzburg, nestled on the border of Germany and Austria, right in the Alps. This is actually the city that I will be spending a majority of my time in these next four months (I actually have to study while studying abroad... who knew??), so you will see many more Austrian pastries featured. But for this first post, I wanted to focus on a tasting I attended just the other day! The program I am abroad with set up a pastry tasting at Die Konditorei in Herzen Salzburgs for all of the students where we sat in a little Austrian bakeshop (not too unlike our bakeshop back home) and sampled some traditional goodies.
The first round of pastries included two tiny cakes and a handmade Mozart chocolate. These two cakes were the Esterhazytorte (the fancy striped one) and the Rigojanschi (the tall chocolate cube). My personal favorite was the Esterhazytorte because it had a little bit of crunch between the layers and a sweet, creamy filling that was the perfect balance of sweet. Now this little square of goodness was named for an aristocratic Hungarian family, and Prinz Esterhazy was the patron of the famous composer Joseph Haydn! The Rigojanschi was very chocolate heavy, but not overwhelmingly sweet. In fact, I would actually say that the chocolate was a bit bitter tasting to me, and I'm assuming that the mousse and cake were made with dark chocolate instead of the usual milk chocolate. The little bit of history behind this cake name is linked to another musician, a violinist by the name Rigo Jancsi. This cake is the celebration cake of his love story with the Princess Clara Ward.
The next round of pastries was my favorite, and this round included Apfelstudel, Sachertorte, and Guglhupf. The Apfelstrudel is just what it sounds like - an apple strudel. This, however, is probably the absolute best apple strudel I have ever had in my life... like I could not stop eating it. It was so perfectly sweet and spiced and fresh and the dough was wonderfully thin. Each and every aspect of this pastry played off of each other so well that I honestly doubt I will ever find something tastier, and I will ABSOLUTELY be returning to this pastry shop for more. To compliment the sweetness of the strudel, the Sachertorte is the chocolate cake that was a bit drier and more bitter (similar to the Rigojanschi). This is arguably the most famous Austrian pastry - created by Franz Sacher as an apprentice cook, it received an immense amount of praise from Prince Metternich. Back in high school, I actually attempted to make a Sachertorte and it was incredibly difficult to make it both look and taste good. Now that I've had the real thing, I can now say the one I attempted to make so many years ago was far too sweet. There is something to be said about a slight bitterness in a good pastry - when executed well and balanced with other flavors, it adds a lot of dimension to the pastry, sort of like a piece of art! But to wrap up the tasting, the Guglhupf actually reminded me a lot of the pound cakes that Ally bakes. This was a denser, sweeter cake that was marbled in the middle - again, very similar to a pound cake in my opinion. This is a typically Viennese breakfast staple, especially on Sundays, and it is thought that people have been making this cake since the 2nd century AD! This blew my mind, but it makes sense why it was so simply delicious - people have had thousands of years to perfect this recipe!
Well, that's all for now! I have at least twelve more pastries that I want to share with you all, but I'm going to save those for next week. Let me know in the comments below if you've ever tried any of the pastries I've mentioned, and let me know if there are any sweet goodies I absolutely NEED to try while I'm in Europe!
Stay tuned for more foods and adventures, because Eloise and I are going to Budapest this weekend! See ya real soon.