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When I graduated from college, I was afforded the opportunity to spend 3 weeks with my Grandma in her homeland of Denmark. Best gift ever! (I told y’all a little bit about how she came to live in the U.S., after World War II here.) We spent many days walking around Copenhagen, seeing the sites: her childhood home, the place where her family rented garden space in the summer, and of course all of the impressive architecture, much of which was comissioned around the time of King Christian IV in the late 1500′s.

Of course, with all that walking, we needed to replenish our energy stores with as much street food as possible. But when we weren’t eating sausage from a street vendor, we were looking for these symbols:

 

The danish kringle symbol for bakery. It’s one of the few old guild symbols still in use today. If you see this symbol outside of a shop, there are probably some seriously good pastries inside. I think it goes without saying that we sampled every last one of them. But upon our first foray into a flaky, custard filled linser tart, we were both instantly obsessed smitten. Like, if I could only ever have one dessert for the rest of my life, Danish Linser Tarts would be it! They are just that good.

My Grandma’s exact response was “Well, I guess we need to find out who makes the best one.”

So with that, we ventured into literally every bakery that we walked by in order to try their linser tarts. Lucky for us, and being that it was pre-9/11, we were able to bring a small suitcase full of them home to share with our family. Thus began our quest to make linser tarts at home. There was a lot of trial and error–both scary and delicious. (Mine were scary, hers were delicious, although she’d have said it was the reverse.)

But it was Grandma that perfected the recipe first. No surprise there. Being that she tended to throw ingredients around until it looked/felt/tasted right, I was very surprised that she wrote the recipe down. Since I have made these tarts at her side more times than I can count, the verbage makes me smile. I can just picture Grandma explaining it to me. So, just for fun, I’ll share her directions in italics, and put my translation afterward in plain text. And while I try to make my recipes very accessible to everyone, I will say that this one takes a bit of time. But it will be worth every bite. Thanks for playing along.

Danish Linser Tarts

For Dough:

4 egg yolks

1C. powdered sugar

3 sticks of butter

3 ¼ C. all-purpose flour

For Custard:

2 eggs

2 tsp. granulated sugar

3 Tbs. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 ¼ C. milk or cream

First, let’s put together the pastry. I know that I have mentioned a time or two that I do not, under any circumstances, sift ingredients.  But when I said never, what I really meant was, never unless I am making a Danish pastry. OK? Good! So, cut butter into dry ingredients. Which means sift the flour and powdered sugar into a large bowl.

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or by criss-crossing two knives, until the butter is the size of peas.

A few larger butter pieces are just fine, but for the most part, they shouldn’t be much larger than a pea.

Separate the yolks from four of the eggs. Save the whites for an egg white omelette. Think of it as atonement for all of the pastries that you are going to eat. That’s what I do. I’m all about balance.

Whip the egg yolks together and pour them into the bowl.

Mix in yolks (as for pie crust,) mixing no more than necessary to make dough hold together. Stir the egg yolks into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula.

Press and slide the mixture with the back of the rubber spatula, in order to try and mix in the egg yolks as much as possible.

When you can’t get the yolks worked in any more with the spatula, dig in their with your hands and knead it a bit.  The heat of your hands will soften the butter, allowing the dough to come together. Just remember to remove any rings that you might be wearing–egg yolks and flour are tough to get out of the little crevices of your rings. Or so I hear.

When the dough stays together in clumps, it’s ready.

Turn the dough onto a couple of sheets of plastic wrap. Don’t worry that it’s still a bit crumbly. It’ll be fine!

Just press and fold the plastic wrap over the dough until it comes together. Nice, neat rectangles take practice. A little kitchen-OCD helps, too.  Chill at least ½ hour. Pop the dough into the refrigerator for about a half an hour or so, while we make the custard filling.

Make custard: beat together eggs, sugar, and flour until smooth. Crack the remaining two eggs into a small bowl, and add the granulated sugar.

You can sift the flour over the eggs, but seeing as I’ve used up my sifting tolerance for the day, I just scoop the flour up by the tablespoonful, and tap it against my finger. Super technical method, right?

Whip the egg mixture until it is smooth and frothy. Heat milk or cream. Meanwhile, heat the cream in a saucepan over low heat until it is very warm (about 120 degrees F.) Remove from heat.

Blend into egg mixture, return to heat, stirring constantly, till mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Pour a few tablespoons of warm cream, while simultaneously whisking the eggs to blend the two. Whisking the eggs while adding a bit of warm liquid tempers the eggs, or gradually brings them up to temperature, (hopefully) without scrambling them.

Pour the tempered eggs into the warm cream, and turn the heat back on to low. Continue to heat the mixture until it comes to a boil and thickens, stirring constantly. (about 2-3 minutes.)

The custard will appear to “clump” up a bit. Turn off the heat, and continue stirring for another minute. It should all smooth out. Being this is an egg custard, it will not be as smooth as a commercial pudding.

Stir in vanilla, cool. Uh..stir in the vanilla extract.

Lay a piece of Saran Wrap directly on custard, and it will not form a skin. I usually put the wrapped custard in the refrigerator to speed the process along. I get impatient when there is pastry to be had!

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out dough rather thinly. Take the pastry dough out of the fridge, and roll it out on a clean, floured surface. If it starts to crack, then let it warm up for a few minutes, and try again.

Pinch the dough back together if it cracks, and continue to roll it out to 1/4 inch thickness. This is a super flaky dough, so it tends to crack a bit, but is easily pieced back together.

Grandma and I made linser tarts for years with standard muffin pans. They were a bit bigger than the ones we gorged ourselves on enjoyed in Denmark, but they were just as lovely. Later, she ran across these muffin-top pans and used them as linser forms. You know, for people that just want to eat the tops of muffins. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t get my muffin top by eating  just the tops of muffins.

Since her muffin-top pans are now mine, I use those, but a standard muffin pan will do nicely.  You’ll get about 12-14 tarts with a standard muffin pan, or 22-24 tarts with muffin-top pans. Whichever pan you use, spray it well with baking spray.

Cut pastry with a 3-inch biscuit cutter (for a full size muffin pan,) or a 2-inch cutter (for a muffin-top pan.)

I like to cut the circles and set them aside in pairs, just so I know that I have tops to all of the bottoms. It’s a good rule to live by.

Line linser forms. Line each cavity of your pan of choice with a circle of dough.

Drop 1 Tbs. of custard. Drop 1 tablespoon of custard onto the pastry. (Or 1 tsp. if using the muffin-top pans.)

Cover with lid of dough, pressing edges well together. Gently place the “lids” of the pastries over the custard filling, and press around the edges to seal.

I like to give the centers a little push to get a bit of the air out, then press around the edges to make sure they are still sealed.

Bake. 375-400 depending on your oven for 15 minutes. I always bake linser at 375 degrees F for 12-14 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. I figure that I can always bake it longer if need be, but I can’t bake it less if I over do it at the higher heat.

Allow the tarts to sit in the pan for 1 minute. Then run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan, and gently lift them out and put them onto a cooling rack.

It was at this point that the Baby found his way onto the table and said “Cookie? Thanks!” over and over again. If this happens at your house, take the Baby off the table so that he doesn’t burn his little fingers. Then praise him for his ingenuity.

Allow tarts to cool completely, then put them in an airtight container to chill overnight in the refrigerator. The chill time give the tarts time to become divine. Your patience will be rewarded.

 

A dash of powdered sugar is a good choice for serving. Grandma and I walked all over Denmark happily eating linser tarts with our fingers. No one looked at us strangely, so we figured it was an accepted custom. So by all means, feel free to use your fingers.

Or you can set the stage with a nice cup of tea in your Grandma’s china, and eat your tarts with a fork. That’s what I did. And I reminisced about all of the hours that Grandma and I chatted  over tea and linser tarts.

BTW–I’ve linked my Danish Linser Tarts to Sweets on Saturday.

Linser Tarts

http://comfortablydomestic.com

14-24 Tarts, depending on size

 

For Dough:

4 egg yolks

1C. powdered sugar

3 sticks of butter

3 ¼ C. all-purpose flour

 

For Custard:

2 eggs

2 tsp. granulated sugar

3 Tbs. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 ¼ C. milk or cream

 

  1. Cut butter into dry ingredients. Mix in yolks (as for pie crust,) mixing no more than necessary to make dough hold together. Chill at least ½ hour.
  2. Make custard: beat together eggs, sugar, and flour until smooth. Heat milk or cream. Blend into egg mixture, return to heat, stirring constantly, till mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Stir in vanilla, cool. Lay a piece of Saran Wrap directly on custard, and it will not form a skin.
  3. Roll out dough rather thinly. Line linser forms (muffin pans.) Drop 1 Tbs. of custard (for muffins, 1 tsp. for linser pans,) cover with lid of dough, pressing edges well together. Bake.
  4. 375-400 degrees F for 15 minutes.

 

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