Torta Ljiljana

In honour of my friend Lilian who is heading off to parts New York next week, I made a serbian dessert for her send-off tea party. She said the pastry was familiar but the meringue was a novelty. “Must be a regional thing,” says Lilian diplomatically. Whatever, it was a hit. People asked to take some home with them.

A layer of nuts and a layer of fruit are stacked between three layers of doughy pastry and topped with meringue. The result is something between baklava and that polish poppyseed roll — makowiec — only with fruit instead of honey.

Torta Ljiljana

Equipment
Cookie sheet with a lip, about 18″ x 12″ or 45 cm x 30 cm
4 pieces of parchment a little bigger than the cookie sheet
Electric mixer or manual eggbeater for meringue
Blender, small food processor or coffee grinder for grinding walnuts

Pastry
2¼ t dried yeast
¼ c warm water
½ c room-temperature sour cream
¾ lb or 375 g soft butter (I accidentally used a whole pound of butter. It was fine.)
4 large egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue)
4 c flour (Since this was the first time I was making it and I didn’t know what to expect, I used the all-purpose flour called for in the recipe. Next time I’ll use whole wheat flour.)

Nut layer
16 oz, 1 lb or 500 g walnuts
¾ c sugar
1 t cinnamon
½ t grated nutmeg

Apricot layer
16 oz or 500 g of apricot jam (the extra fruit kind is best)
8 oz, ½ lb or 275 g dried apricots
2 T cornstarch
1 t almond extract
2 T Grand Marnier or Triple Sec

Meringue
4 large egg whites
⅛ t cream of tartar
½ c sugar

Make the pastry:
1) In a small glass, sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it sit 15 minutes or so until it dissolves.
2) Put the sour cream in a small bowl and warm it gently in the microwave to room temperature or a little above.
3) Stir the yeast into the sour cream and set aside.
4) Cream the butter in a large bowl. The easiest way is to soften the butter gently — don’t melt it! — in the microwave on low power first and then beat it until fluffy with an electric mixer.
5) Beat in the egg yolks.
6) Beat in the yeast and sour cream mixture.
7) Mix in the flour with a wooden spoon.
8) Make three balls out of the dough, wrap them in plastic and let sit for at least 20 minutes while you prepare the nut and fruit layers.

Make the fruit filling:
1) Empty the jam into a small saucepan on low heat.
2) Chop the apricots finely and stir into the jam.
3) Stir in the cornstarch until it dissolves.
4) Keep stirring so the fruit doesn’t burn. When the mixture has started to bubble nicely, take it off the heat.
5) Stir in the almond flavouring and the liqueur.

Make the nut filling:
1) Grind the walnuts finely in a blender or small food processor, ¼ cup at a time.
2) In a medium bowl, mix the ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
3) Set aside ½ c of this mixture for the topping.

Assemble the torta:
1) Heat oven to 350F or 180C.
2) Roll out one ball of pastry dough between two sheets of parchment into a thin rectangle the size of your cookie sheet.
3) Peel off the top sheet of parchment and place the rolled-out pastry into the cookie sheet, leaving it on the bottom sheet of parchment.
4) Spread the nut mixture (except for the ½ c you set aside) evenly over the pastry, right to the edges.
5) Roll out the second ball of pastry dough between two sheets of parchment into a thin rectangle the size of your cookie sheet.
6) Peel off the top sheet of parchment and invert the rolled-out pastry onto the nuts. Peel off the second sheet of parchment.
7) Spread the fruit mixture evenly over the pastry, right to the edges.
8) Roll out the third ball of pastry dough between two sheets of parchment into a thin rectangle the size of your cookie sheet.
9) Peel off the top sheet of parchment and invert the rolled-out pastry onto the fruit. Peel off the second sheet of parchment.
10) Bake 40 minutes.

Meringue topping:
1) About 5 minutes before you take the torta out of the oven, beat the egg whites until they form slightly droopy peaks.
2) Beat in the cream of tartar and the sugar.
3) Remove the torta from the oven and raise the oven temperature to 400F or 200C.
4) Spread the meringue over the hot torta, evenly and right to the edges.
5) Sprinkle the meringue with reserved nut mixture, evenly and right to the edges.
6) Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve:
1) Remove the torta from the oven and cool the cookie sheet with the torta on a rack or balanced on something so that air can circulate above and below.
2) When cool, cut into diamond shapes.

Adapted from:
http://easteuropeanfood.about.com/od/russiandessertrecipes/r/Russian-Apricot-Nut-Meringue-Torte-Recipe.htm

3 Responses to “Torta Ljiljana”

  1. alison Says:

    See more succinct version here:
    http://www.alisoncummins.com/2015/01/05/torta-ljiljana-more-succinctly/

  2. ina Says:

    Jesus christ this recipe reads like a Russian novel!! You must love your friend very much or love baking very much or both!! Or maybe I’m incredibly lazy?

  3. alison Says:

    Ina, I wonder what the serbian novel tradition is like…

    Yes, I love and miss Lilian very much… also I love baking. Unfortunately with the food prices these days there aren’t going to be many walnuts or dried apricots in my future. Sigh.

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