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Taste sensation from Graubünden
Ivo Adam is best known as a gourmet chef and restaurateur. A trained confectioner, he also has a passion for cakes and traditional baking in particular. Ivo is in Graubünden in search of the secrets of the recipe for Engadine nut tart. He wants to learn about the history of this world-famous classic and get some inspiration for a modern version. He’s at the right place at the Giacometti bakery.
Engadine nut tart is as Swiss as fondue and roesti. It is not only loved by locals and tourists – the tart is also a popular speciality in bakeries from Stockholm to Sydney. Interestingly enough, walnuts do not grow in the Engadine. The frost-sensitive trees do not grow here owing to the cold winter months.
So the question has to be asked: is the Engadine tart really a traditional local recipe, or what is the actual story behind its name? The answer lies in the migration movements of the people of Graubünden, who spread out from the late Middle Ages to the 19th century. The confectioners who worked abroad took recipe ideas to far away places, but also brought innovations from other regions home with them upon their return. This is how walnuts arrived in eastern Switzerland – probably from France or Italy. The shortcrust recipe for this tart already existed in the Engadine at the time, then one thing led to another and the caramelized walnuts found their way into this delicious tart.
All of this happened a long time ago: historians assume that the first versions of the nut tart were created in the Engadine as early as the 18th century. The recipes were written by hand in closely guarded recipe books. Over the centuries, the various families of confectioners in Graubünden – especially in the Engadine – each developed their own recipes, which have been preserved over time and changed only minimally from generation to generation.
One of the most traditional and popular locations for the tart is the Giacometti bakery in Lavin. The baked goods are sold on site – locals and travellers alike enjoy the tart inside or at the tables on the terrace, which offers a fantastic view of the valley. The tasty treats can also be ordered online – deliveries reach as far as Canada and Japan. And that's not all: for many Swiss, the aroma of the Giacometti tart is the true taste of the Engadine nut tart. This could be because Coop has been working together with the Giacomettis for over ten years – the sweet treat, which is baked here at 1,435 metres above sea level, can now be found throughout Switzerland under the Fine Food label at Coop.
The idyllic village of Lavin am Inn has just over 200 residents, and perfectly corresponds to our idea of what Switzerland would once have been like: mountain panoramas, a rushing stream, green meadows and friendly, nature-loving locals who live in charming old houses.
The majority of the residents speak Vallader, a regional variant of Romansh. Cake master Arthur married into this tradition-steeped family of confectioners and is now managing the company in its fourth generation. Arthur also took over the family recipe. If world-famous sculptor Alberto Giacometti is the first person you think of when you hear the name "Giacometti", then you are not far off – he is from a different line in the family.
Challenging a classic item of food which counts among many people’s childhood memories is not an easy task. This is especially true in the case of the Engadine nut tart. But for top chef Ivo, this just makes the challenge even more exciting. How can we modernize the flavour and tap into the current food trends with the tart?
Ivo has given this much thought and developed a recipe. He has come to the conclusion that it's subtle changes that really make a difference. One key idea in Ivo's new recipe is to add salt flakes to the tart filling. This harmonizes beautifully with the caramel and the interplay of sweet and salty meets contemporary tastes.
The master chef has another trick too: add a little allspice. The peppery flavour should be noticeable but in no way dominant. Ivo's final trick is to add pine nuts to the walnuts. He would really like to use the cedar nuts that grow locally in Graubünden, but these are protected, so pine nuts will do. They develop a great flavour when they are toasted briefly beforehand with the walnuts – and they make the tart look interesting when it is cut open, too.
Ivo is happy with his minor changes. The nut tart with a pastry topping is still an Engadine nut tart, but a modern version. Ivo's tart is not only popular with foodies on the search for something new, but it does not frighten off traditionalists either. One person who can really judge gives him the thumbs up – Arthur loves Ivo's nut tart.
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