A Torte So Delicious, It’s a Special Occasion

THE DAYMichelle Polzine acquired the primary certain copy of her e book, “Baking at the 20th Century Cafe” (Artisan), she celebrated by donning a purple Nineteen Thirties ballgown to sit down at her eating room desk and thumb via the fruits of a decade’s work.


Share your expertise with this recipe—which did you select, or did you make each of them? Join the dialog under.

She focuses on baked items from throughout the previous Austro-Hungarian Empire, rendered in Northern California flavors. Until the pandemic hit this spring, fortunate diners on the marble-topped tables of her twentieth Century Cafe in San Francisco would watch Ms. Polzine stretch strudel dough till it was translucent. Nearly six toes tall, she wears her vividly orange hair in a classical Hollywood coif, with garments sewn almost a century in the past. She’s a Nineteen Eighties punk child possessed by the spirit of a screwball-comedy actress, incisive and good.

She earned her first James Beard Award nomination on the San Francisco bistro Range, the place her desserts centered on seasonal fruit. Curious about Central European pastries, she traveled to Prague, Vienna and Budapest with the objective of dressing as much as eat fancy cake.

First cease: Café Imperial in Prague, the place she ate apple strudel off gold-rimmed china in a magnificent Art Nouveau room. She tasted her method via the area’s classics—Linzer torte, Kókusz torta, Esterházy schnitten—carrying a completely different classic outfit to every cafe.

“Everything was dense and intensely flavored, but with all these different textures,” she stated. Pastry cooks within the U.S. have been separating every taste into its personal part, with swirls and dollops on the plate. Bakers of Central European muffins and tortes layered all that complexity into every wonderful forkful.

The basic pastries matched her personal strategy: Underpromise and overdeliver. “A dish should look unassuming, and then when you eat it, you ask yourself: Why is this so good? What is happening here?” she stated. Ms. Polzine amassed previous cookbooks and performed with recipes dozens of instances to adapt conventional pastries to her palate, with Northern California components and fewer sugar. “I’m a food listener,” she stated. “I just pay attention and do what the dish tells me to do.”

Michelle Polzine


Aya Brackett

Aided by family and friends, Ms. Polizine renovated a former laundromat to open twentieth Century Cafe. Her bagels have been among the many metropolis’s greatest. Her strudel crackled on the tongue. Her honey cake, whose 10 slim layers alternate with a combination of whipped cream, burnt honey and dulce de leche, grew to become one in all San Francisco’s most celebrated desserts. For the e book, she partnered with writer Jessica Battilana to translate what the chef jokingly calls “the patented Michelle Polzine secret fanciness” into recipes for house cooks.

The e book’s publication this month is a shiny spot in a yr of just about insufferable disasters. Ms. Polzine had surgical procedure for ovarian most cancers this spring; she was barely out of the hospital when the pandemic shut down San Francisco’s economic system. Her husband’s youthful brother died in an accident two months later. Though the cafe has reopened for takeout a few days a week, its future is overshadowed by nervousness. “This business isn’t you,” she is studying to inform herself.

Recipes in “Baking at the 20th Century Cafe” vary from Ashkenazi Jewish cookies to Californian puddings, preserves, savory and candy tarts and sufficient forms of whipped cream to wear down a whisk. The directions are descriptive and actual, heavy on butter and cornball jokes. Ms. Polzine swears the pastries are solely exhausting to make the primary time. You can stagger the steps over a few days.

Like the Linzer torte right here, most of her muffins solely need for a dollop of whipped cream to serve at a get together. Or why await the get together? When Ms. Polzine spots a beautiful Nineteen Thirties gown, she comes up with a cause to indicate it off. “Make the cake you want,” she writes within the e book, “and the occasion will happen!”

Cranberry-pomegranate jam is Ms. Polzine’s intelligent Californian substitute for European pink currant.


  1. Make the fake pink currant jam: In a medium saucepan, mix berries, sugar and pomegranate juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high warmth, skimming foam from floor. Reduce warmth and simmer till cranberries pop. Whisk vigorously to interrupt up berries.
  2. Cook jam till bubbles on prime are small and shiny or combination registers 221 levels on a thermometer, 10-Quarter-hour. Remove from oven, pour into a heat-proof bowl and let cool.
  3. Make the crust: Generously butter a 10-inch fluted tart pan with a detachable backside.
  4. In a medium bowl, sift collectively flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir in almond flour.
  5. Use an electrical mixer to cream butter, sugar and lemon zest on medium-high till fluffy, about 3 minutes. Remove yolks from hard-boiled eggs and press via a fine-mesh sieve. (Save whites for one more use.) Add yolks to butter and blend on medium-high 30 seconds. Add dry components suddenly and pulse till dough is homogeneous.
  6. Divide dough into 2 uneven items. The smaller one ought to weigh 6 ounces. Wrap every bit tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate a minimum of 20 minutes.
  7. Roll bigger piece of dough between two sheets of plastic wrap into a 12-inch circle. Peel off prime piece of plastic. Pick up dough, invert into tart pan and peel off remaining plastic. Fold extra dough into sides, then use your thumb to easy prime fringe of dough. Freeze or chill pan 1 hour.
  8. Meanwhile, roll smaller piece of dough between two sheets of parchment into an oval ⅛ inch thick and 10 inches throughout. Transfer dough in parchment to a sheet pan and refrigerate till chilly, 10 minutes.
  9. Peel prime piece of parchment from oval of dough and use a sharp knife or pastry wheel to chop dough into strips ½ inch large. Return to fridge.
  10. Assemble and bake: Preheat oven to 325 levels and set a rack in decrease third. Remove tart pan from freezer or fridge and spoon in 2 cups jam, spreading evenly.
  11. Brush every dough strip with egg wash. Carefully lay strips, egg-washed aspect up, throughout prime of tart to create a lattice. (Don’t hassle weaving. Dough will soften collectively.)
  12. Sprinkle prime of torte with sugar. Set pan on a sheet pan and pop into oven on backside rack. Bake till filling bubbles in middle and lattice colours, 45-50 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Unmold and switch to a serving plate.

Michelle Polzine developed this distinctive variation on a Linzer torte as a gluten-free Thanksgiving dessert. Chestnut flour, accessible at many gourmand shops in addition to from, produces an earthy-sweet crust whose chocolate notes she accentuates with cocoa powder and counterbalances with lemon zest. The “apple butter” filling is lighter than Pennsylvania Dutch jams however denser and richer than applesauce. The recipe makes sufficient dough for a 12-inch tart; if you happen to make a 10-inch model you’ll have sufficient dough left over for a few cookies. Heads up: You’ll have much better luck with this recipe measuring the dry components by weight, not quantity. The dough is delicate, so maintain it chilled, at all times rolling it between parchment or plastic.


  • 1 ¼ kilos (550 grams) apples, cored and minimize into eighths
  • 1 ½ cups apple juice
  • ¾ cups (150 grams) granulated sugar
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 3 ½ cups (385 grams) chestnut flour, plus extra for dusting 
  • 1 teaspoon floor cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 3 giant eggs, hard-boiled
  • 15 ounces (3 sticks plus 6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, gentle however nonetheless cool, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • ¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Grated zest of two lemons
  • 1 giant egg, overwhelmed, for egg wash
  • 2 teaspoons turbinado sugar for sprinkling (elective)


  1. Make the apple butter: Place apples in a nonreactive saucepan, pour juice over, and convey to a boil. Reduce warmth so liquid is simmering. Simmer till apples are gentle however not mushy, about Quarter-hour.
  2. Place a meals mill fitted with a high-quality disk over a bowl and pour apples in, permitting juice to movement via. Transfer juice again to saucepan, add granulated sugar and lemon juice, and convey to a boil. Boil till liquid reduces by half, about 10 minutes.
  3. Mill apple solids into lowered juice. Discard pores and skin and seeds left behind in mill. Add salt, carry to a simmer, and simmer, stirring regularly, till apple combination is thickened and lowered, about 20 minutes. You ought to find yourself with about 2 ½ cups. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate, as much as one week.
  4. Make the dough: Sift collectively chestnut flour, cinnamon and cocoa powder into a medium bowl. 
  5. Remove yolks from hard-boiled eggs, and press them via a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. (Save the whites for one more use.) Use an electrical mixer fitted with paddle attachment to cream butter, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and sieved egg yolks on excessive pace till very pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
    Add dry components in 2 additions, mixing as little as potential to include. Then divide dough into 2 items of uneven measurement. The smaller piece ought to weigh 8 ounces (225g). Wrap every bit tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate 20 minutes.
  6. Generously butter a 10-inch fluted tart pan with a detachable backside. Remove bigger piece of dough from the fridge and roll between two sheets of parchment paper into a 12-inch circle. Carefully peel off prime piece of parchment. Pick up dough, nonetheless on parchment, and punctiliously invert it into tart pan, then take away remaining paper. Fold extra dough into sides, then use your thumb to easy prime edge. Freeze or refrigerate dough till agency, about 1 hour.
  7. Meanwhile, mud smaller piece of dough with chestnut flour and roll between two sheets of parchment paper into an oval ⅛ inch thick and 10 inches throughout at its widest level. Transfer dough, nonetheless between sheets of parchment, to a sheet pan and refrigerate till chilly, about 20 minutes. Remove dough oval from fridge, fastidiously peel off prime piece of parchment, and with a sharp knife or pastry wheel, minimize dough into strips ½ inch large. Return to fridge till able to bake.
  8. Bake the torte: Preheat oven to 325 levels and prepare a rack in decrease third of oven.
  9. Remove tart pan from fridge and spoon in apple butter, spreading it in a fair layer. Remove dough strips from fridge and brush with egg wash. Carefully raise every strip of dough, utilizing an offset spatula that can assist you, and gently lay strips throughout prime of tart to create a lattice, with half the strips working vertically and half at an angle. Don’t fear about weaving it; the dough is simply too sticky and delicate.
  10. Sprinkle prime of torte with turbinado sugar, if utilizing. Set tart pan on a sheet pan and pop it into the oven. Bake for 35 minutes, then cowl edges of tart with foil. Continue baking till filling bubbles in middle and lattice has coloured, 15-20 minutes extra. Let cool on a wire rack, then unmold and switch to a serving plate. 

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