To me there is nothing more “German” than Obsttorte mit frischem Obst. Translated, it means “fruit tart with fresh fruit.” It is show-stoppingly beautiful, very delicious and relatively easy to make.
Obsttorte is a German fresh fruit tart that Muttis (mommies), Omas (grandmas) and Tantes (aunties) make, showing off their baking, gardening and artistic skills. Strawberries from the garden, red currants and raspberries, peaches, kiwis, and blueberries can all find their way into these beautiful jewel-like creations.
If you came for a Saturday visit at the Kertschers on the lake, you could always count on enjoying Obsttorte with afternoon coffee. While Gertrude was whipping the cream and making coffee, I would set the picnic table in the backyard under the big oak tree with a nice tablecloth, the good china and silver. Sitting with our company, enjoying the cool lake breeze on a nice summer day, the conversation and sharing the delicious Obsttorte are some of my favorite memories.
I’ve tweaked the old recipe here and there to make all of the components more delicious. The crust was the first thing I worked on. The basic “Tortenboden” recipe yielded a pastry crust that could be dry, not very tasty and kind of “cardboardy.” I wanted the Tortenboden (the crust) to be something you looked forward to eating instead of leaving it on your plate after scarfing down all of the fruit and whipped cream. Just barely mixing in the dry ingredients makes the crust come out more like a shortbread cookie. From one of my aunts I learned that adding a pinch of baking powder made the crust lighter. I also dust the pan with sliced almonds, which gives it richness and looks gorgeous.
A filling under the fruit makes the Obsttorte even more luscious. One or two of my aunts made a vanilla pudding filling, which is pretty good, but I decided to use a filling of sweetened cream cheese flecked with grated lemon rind, the perfect complement to the fruit.
You’ll need about 2 pints (4 cups) of fresh fruit or berries; all one kind or a combination of what is ripe, delicious and available.
My family’s favorite is Erdbeere, or strawberry Torte. I use a full two pints of strawberries for one Torte and mound them high for an impressive presentation. Hull and halve them and let them macerate with about a half of a cup sugar for an hour or two before assembling the Obsttorte. Strain before using and reserve the accumulated juice for the glaze.
Blueberries, raspberries and red currants (if you can get them!) all make wonderful toppings for the Obsttorte. If you are using firm berries, mash about a quarter of them with sugar to draw out their juice and mix in with the rest. Feel free to include any other fruit that is sweet and ripe to make your Obsttorte unique and seasonal. Fresh pears and sliced bananas need to be brushed with a little lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.
I often mix in canned fruit such as pears, mandarin oranges, sliced peaches, and pineapple rings. Drain them before using and reserve the syrup for the glaze.
Mürbteig – makes one Tortenboden pastry crust.
•1 cup flour
•A pinch of baking powder
•1 stick of butter
•1⁄2 cup sugar
•1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 package Dr. Oetker’s Vanillin sugar*
•Grated rind of 1 medium-sized lemon •1/3 cup sliced almonds, crushed
•2 tablespoons of butter for greasing the
Tortenbodenform (tart pan)* Gertrude used to say that you HAD to mix this by hand. When I asked her why, she thought for a second and replied: “Because we didn’t have an electric mixer.”
Using an electric mixer works just fine. Sift the flour and baking soda together; set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together until the mixture lightens. Add in the egg and vanilla or Vanillin sugar and grated lemon rind. Spoon in the flour and baking soda mixture until just combined and stop the mixer.
Scrape the dough onto a well-floured surface, gather it into a ball, press into a circle about one and one half inches thick, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for one to two hours or overnight. The dough can be frozen at this point and will keep in the freezer for up to three months.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Let the dough come to room temperature. Generously grease the Tortenbodenform with butter. Sprinkle the almonds on the bottom and sides of the pan.
On a well-floured surface, roll the dough into a circle about one inch bigger than the circumference of the pan. Fold the dough in half and transfer it into the pan. Press the dough into the pan, going up the sides a bit to form a wall to hold in the filling and fruit. Prick the surface of the dough with a fork.
Blind bake using pie weights or dried beans in tin foil for 20 to 30 minutes until golden rotating the pan halfway through the baking time.
Remove from the oven, set on a baking rack to cool. Once thoroughly cooled, set the pan on a flat cake plate.
If using a tart pan, leave the sides on until after filling and glazing, then remove. A genuine Tortenbodenform actually bakes the crust upside down. Let it cool after baking, place a cake plate on top, hold them together and flip. Lift the pan gently off the crust.
Make this while the crust is in the oven.
•1 package cream cheese
•3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
Grated rind of 1 medium-sized lemon.
Beat the cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar and grated lemon rind until fluffy. Spread the filling onto the cooled crust.
Strain the fruit that has been macerating. Pour juice into a cup-measuring cup and add water if necessary to bring the liquid up to the volume needed. If
using canned fruit, save the syrup or juice that is packed with the fruit for the glaze.
Cover the cream cheese filling with fruit. Here is where you can be artistic! Have fun decorating your Obsttorte.
The Glaze (German)
•1 package Dr. Oetker’s Clear Glaze*
•1 cup fruit juice – if your fruit didn’t yield enough juice, add water to make 1 cup
If you can’t find the German ingredients you can make:
•1 package gelatin
•2/3 cup fruit juice
With either glaze, whisk the dry ingredient into the fruit juice. In a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and then boil for two to three minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before spooning over the fruit.
Spoon the glaze over the fruit, making sure to cover every nook and cranny. Let the glaze set for at least 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy with whipped cream and coffee.
*These items make the Obsttorte really authentic, and if you’re like me, you think nothing of making a “field trip” to a specialty market to find them. Both the Dr. Oetker’s Vanillin sugar and fruit tart glaze can be found at Schwind’s Pork Store on Rte. 46 in Rockaway (www.schwindsporkstore.com) and other German markets. The Tortenbodenform, Dr. Oetker’s Vanillin Sugar and Dr. Oetker’s Glaze mix can all be found on Amazon.com.