Bringing back cheese and chocolate from a trip to Switzerland is always greeted with joy, but it’s also commonplace. Bringing back a local recipe is an invitation to a feast.
Alpine cream pie, fr. Gâteau ormonanche – is a culinary heritage in our hostess’ family. It originated with madame Alice, the wife of a protestant village priest, who raised four children in a modest village on the slopes of the Swiss Alps. Her youngest son married a Dutch woman with a thunderous voice, who faithfully passed on her mother-in-law’s culinary skills onto her two daughters and us daughter-in-laws. Having invited us to lunch, Madame Elizabeth baked us a pie and gave away a few of granny Alice’s tricks, all the while oozing a discreet bourgeois charm, a motherly tenderness, and a strong attitude. We’ll share the recipe with you now, but getting to know madame Elizabeth would require it’s own occasion.
flour, oil, cold water, salt
flour, cream (unsweetened, liquid cooking cream), brown cane sugar, cinnamon
Madame Elizabeth didn’t give out exact measures – she does everything by feeling.
What’s important is to use equal amounts of oil and water – if you use more oil, the dough will be flaky and fall apart; if you use more water, it’ll be too hard after baking.
Mix the flour with a pinch of salt and equal amounts oil and cold water.
Be sure not to overwork the dough, so it doesn’t end up rubbery.
Roll the dough out into a circle, then transfer it to a tray lined with baking paper (or grease the tray with oil and sprinkle with a bit of flour). Don’t forget to prick the dough with a fork to prevent it from puffing up!
Filling: “It’s all in the gesture” – granny Alice would say.
First sprinkle the dough with flour, then cinnamon, then sprinkle it with sugar and finally add some cream.
Add all of the ingredients one more time, in the same order.
Shake the tray a bit and place it in the oven, preheated to 180 C (350 F). Bake until the filling thickens.
This pie is always a surprise. Sometimes it comes out better, sometimes not as good. Sometimes it’s softer, sometimes sweeter. But it always has a creamy, caramelized taste.
It’s a great dessert for surprise guests or a long Sunday afternoon. Serve with a sweet wine or black tea.
Our hostess’ family has a tradition of competing in making this unpredictable dessert. Sons, in-laws, daughters, and the occasional granddaughter all participate. Still, madame Elizabeth wins every time.