Heaven came down, or so it seemed one summer Sunday in Haiger, Germany.
A July Sunday in 1990 shared with new friends introduced to my family and me by our old friends.
A Sunday our new friends graciously shared with us. We all began with morning worship followed by afternoon lunch at their home and then a long walk through the countryside.
As our day was winding down, Gisela our hostess, set a table beneath their backyard trees for “kaffee and kuchen”. Mismatched chairs lined the table that held coffee and cake, accompanied by exquisite china and lovely napkins.
All together at the end of the day, we sat laughing, talking and enjoying Gisela’s melt-in-your-mouth confection she calls “Heaven Torte” and sipping rich dark coffee. A savored experience not to be forgotten.
Days later we returned to the States with Gisela’s “Heaven Torte” recipe in hand along with china purchased in Germany (as shown in the photo) for serving our own “kaffee and kuchen”. Our hearts were grateful, renewed, and thankful for new friends.
Those new friends are now old friends. Here we are almost thirty years later remembering that July Sunday and how this gracious family freely shared the sweet gift of hospitality. May we also do the same for sojourners crossing our threshold. As Paul wrote: “Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.” Romans 12:13 KJV
From Gisela Heinz (Haiger, Germany) / Adapted by Chef Doug Allen June 2019
Light crispy almond meringue on a cookie crust layered with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Makes a very showy dessert or afternoon “kaffee and kuchen”.
Ingredients: by weight
4 ½ oz butter, unsalted, room temp
4 ½ oz granulated sugar
1 oz ground almonds
¼ tsp vanilla
Pinch sea salt or kosher salt
4 each egg yolks
7 oz AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 each egg whites
7 oz granulated sugar
¼ tsp cream of tartar
½ cup sliced almonds, natural or blanched
1 cup heavy cream
1 quart fresh strawberries or fruit of choice
¼ cup strawberry preserves, premium quality
- Using a food processor or stand mixer with paddle, cream butter and sugar until light.
- Add ground almonds, a pinch of salt, and blend well.
- Add egg yolks two at a time blending between additions.
- Stir flour and baking powder together then add to mixing bowl all at once.
- Blend just until combined, do not overmix.
- Divide dough between two 10-inch springform pans. Spray with pan release even if using non-stick type.
- Press dough out dipping fingertips in flour to prevent sticking. Does not have to be perfect but fairly even and all the way to the edge of the pan.
- Set pans aside and make the meringue.
- Place egg whites and cream of tartar in clean, ice cold mixer bowl and use whip attachment to mix until foamy.
- Gradually add 7oz granulated sugar and whip to medium peaks.
- Divide meringue between cookie crust in pans and spread with back of spoon or offset spatula out to edges. Again, does not have to be perfect.
- Sprinkle sliced almonds on top of meringue.
- Bake at 350 F standard oven or 325 F convection for about 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and puffy.
- Cool in pan on wire rack for a few minutes, use thin spatula run around edge to make sure it is not sticking to springform pan.
- Cool another 20-30 minutes before removing from bottom of pan.
- Can be wrapped in plastic wrap overnight to assemble next day.
- To assemble, whip heavy cream with a little confectioners sugar and vanilla or use non-dairy tubs of whipped topping but the real stuff is so much better!
- Use fresh strawberries sliced and glazed with strawberry preserves to coat and thicken, spread a generous layer of strawberries on one of the meringue layers, then top with whipped cream.
- For the top layer, pre-slice into 8 or 10 wedges and assemble on top of the whipped cream. Use the slices as a guide for cutting all the way through to bottom layer without crushing everything.
- Dust top layer liberally with confectioners sugar.
Other fruits such as raspberries, peaches, blackberries, or blueberries can be used. Just use an appropriate preserve as the glaze.
Images by Kristie Allen Photography
Inspired by confectionary art and baking, Janet Allen left a full time medical job in 1999 turning her part-time wedding cake business into a full-time career. Janet attended the “Culinary Institute of America” in Hyde Park, N.Y. and studied baking, pastry and advanced decorating. Now, making a full circle many years later, Janet is back in the medical field on a more limited basis but continues to use her artistic talents in pastry in her personal life. She works closely with her husband Doug, AKA Chef, believing “two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” Janet is wife, mother, grandmother, mother-in-law (she drops the in-law part) to all her “best loves” and, most importantly, she is a follower of Christ.