Pastry is my favorite word in Europe —
— so, leave it to me to discover the one sugary baked thing that “defines” the region I am visiting. National flags, anthems, costumes, and coats of arms are all very nice, but if you can symbolize your regional pride in an edible manner, you have my allegiance.
Engadin’s Nusstorte (Tuorta da nusch Engiadinaisa in Romansh) is something you’ll only find in Graubünden and it’s delicious: soft, sweet pastry wrapped around a caramelized walnut filling. Several different versions exist, but perhaps the most revered is that of Laager’s Bakery in Samedan, Switzerland.
The recipe is a family secret that dates back to 1850 and when I asked if I could have it, owner Andri Laager smiled and responded frankly, “Nein!” (Hey, I tried).
Mr. Laager did, however, let me hang out with his apprentice bakers who taught me how to make the famed nut tart. Despite my vast life experience with pastry, my finished nut tart came out of the oven with a few minor flaws, causing Andri to shake his head disapprovingly and to retract his initial offer for me to someday take a position among his staff.
I coped with the rejection by eating a piece of my nut tart, which delivered all the sugar and crusty goodness I needed at that moment. As I was chewing on my pie, Andri explained the great value of his pastry.
“It’s a calorie bomb [ein kalorienbombe]” he said, as if that’s a good thing. Then he added, “So I guess it’s a kind of health food.”
I have noticed this about the Swiss. High-calorie foods (raclette, fondue, rösti and nut tarts) are celebrated, since Swiss life is rather physically intensive: if you’re not climbing or biking up a hill, then you’re doing some kind of manual work like driving cattle uphill or chopping and stacking firewood for the next three winters.
Along with tourists like me (and gifts to Swiss people from other parts of the country), Mr. Laager’s nut tarts are very popular with mountain bikers in the area who like the sugar rush to pedal up to the tops of Engadin’s pointed mountains. I experimented myself by eating a piece of the pie and then biking 2,000 meters uphill and honestly, I don’t think I would have made it without the pastry.
While I am unable to broadcast the Laager’s secret family recipe, I did secure another proven recipe for the Engadin Nut Tart. The ingredients are quite simple, the time required minimal. The secret (as shown in the video) is all in the process.
So, good luck to all you bakers out there. I hope yours tastes as good as mine.
Tuorta da Nusch Engiadinaisa (Engadin Nut Tart)
- 300 g white flour
- 150 g sugar
- 150 g butter
- 2 eggs
- pinch of salt
Mix flour, sugar and butter and salt until crumbly. Form a circle of the mixture on a board, then add the (cold) eggs and mix the dough together.
Roll out the dough on parchment paper, cut a circle that fits a standard (low) spring form pan. Press the dough into the form, leaving about 2cm excess around the edges. Store in a cool place.
- 250 g sugar
- 250 g walnuts (shelled and chopped)
- 2 dl cream
Boil the sugar (with some water) in steel pan until caramelized light brown, reducing heat as needed. Add the cream, and stir along with the nuts. The mixture should look very similar to that of pralines. Let the filling cool, then pour it into the crust. Add a second circle of crust to form the top, seal the tart by pressing all around the edges, then prick generously with a fork.
Bake at 350 ° F oven until golden brown (around 45 minutes). Loosen form, let the tart cool, then remove from pan. Cool on racks, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Enjoy a slice with coffee, tea, or before riding your bike up a Swiss mountain.