BLUE WINDOW | Food Travels in the Alps | Birnenweggen (pear wedges)

SWITZERLAND

Continuing our quest for alpine recipes we took the bus up along the Engstligental to Adelboden, in the mountains above Fruitgen, reassured that we would return with the secrets of birnenbrot, birnenweggen and nusstorte.

All we managed was confirmation that each contains nuts, either hazelnuts or walnuts! None of the bakeries wished to share their secret recipes.

Birnenbrot and birnenweggen are interchangable throughout the Swiss Alps, from Bern to Graubünden.

One is made with bread (yeast) dough, the other with pastry (oil) dough, puff (butter) pastry being preferred by many bakeries because of its lightness.

One is thick with filling, like a boat, the other thin, like a wedge.

In Adelboden the birnenbrot has hazelnuts and pears, the birnenweggen pears and walnuts.

We will come back to nusstorte later.

The puff pastry pear bread of Adelboden

Traditionally birnenweggen is an elaborate affair. Dried as well as fresh pears, raisins and sultanas, and candied peel are used in the preparation, the dried fruit soaked in brandy or juice, the fresh fruit cooked until soft.

This recipe is based on the versions from the early part of the 20th century, when figs and plums or prunes were an essential ingredient in the filling and the spices included cinnamom, cloves and nutmeg.

The idea is to produce a sweet, aromatic confection.

Dough

  • 250 g white wheat baking flour
  • 150 ml water
  • 125 g butter, softened
  • 125 g lard, softened
  • 8 g salt

Filling

  • 300 g soft pears, cored, chopped
  • 200 g hard pears, cored, cubed
  • 150 g sweet apples, peeled, cored, cubed
  • 150 g dried pears, chopped
  • 100 ml kirschwasser / fruit brandy
  • 100 ml lemon juice / apple juice
  • 100 ml mineral water
  • 100 g walnuts, crushed small
  • 50 g almonds / hazelnuts, ground
  • 50 g dried figs, chopped
  • 50 g raisins / sultanas
  • 45 g brown sugar
  • 25 g candied peel
  • 5 g cinnamon
  • 3 g cloves
  • Nutmeg, very large pinch

Finish

  • 60 g egg yolks, beaten

Soak dried pears, figs, peel and raisins or sultanas in kirschwasser, and choice of juice overnight or at least 12 hours. Boil hard and soft pears, and sweet apples in mineral water. Add sugar when all the liquid has evaporated, cook for a further 10 minutes, leave to cool. Add almonds and walnuts to the apple-pear mixture, then fold in the soaked fruit mixture and spices.

Combine flour, salt and water into a loose dough, leave for 30 minutes, then roll out into a 25 cm square. Incorporate lard into the butter, place in the centre of the dough. Bring the edges of the dough together over the butter-lard, refrigerate for 10 minutes. Flour the work surface, roll dough into a large rectangle, roughly 60 cm by 20 cm. Fold into three, turn and roll out again into large rectangle. Fold into three, refrigerate for 15 minutes. Repeat this turn-roll-fold- refrigerate procedure four or five times until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky. Refrigerate until needed.

Divide the dough into 220 g pieces, roll into into 40 cm x 20 cm rectangles no more than 5 mm thick. Place filling toward the edge of the long side, fold over and seal, using milk to moisten the edges. Preheat oven to 200°C. Pierce surface with a fork, smear with egg yolk. Bake at 180°C for 60 minutes. Leave to cool. Cut each wedge into two or three pieces, wrap in cling-film.

Adelboden
Frutigen