It's hard to describe all the charm, all the gentle loveliness of Salzburg. Beyond the Mozart chocolates and the bright, colorful bustle of its plazas and markets, we found that magic I always knew was there. We found it everywhere, just underneath the surface - in the call of a half-familiar song that always seemed just around the corner, the ancient fortress watching over the stately buildings, the quick splash of the fountains and the flowers in unexpected places.
The past rulers of Salzburg seemed like people after my own heart. They encouraged commerce; built a fortress which could hold and protect all the people in a pinch; one of their palaces has sparkly chandeliers and delicious nooks and crannies, and the other, just down the street, a most magnificent garden with flower-lined paths and mysterious, shaded corners. There was a torture tower where, so it is claimed, no one was ever tortured, and though I am not naive enough to believe that all was happy all the time, I'd like to think that bad times passed by quickly in this beautiful, charmed place.
There are many stories my sister and I took away from our time in Salzburg. Disproportionately many, really, when you consider the short time we spent there. It started from the very beginning, as if the city was trying to show up all those nay-sayers who tried to prevent us from coming here. We were wandering around the 1000-year old fortress that stands on a hill above Salzburg - a mini city in itself - when we heard chanting voices. Naturally, we followed the sound, we could not resist. It was the first of many times when we would follow the sound of music in Salzburg and discover something completely unexpected. We came to a low door with red and blue stained glass. We opened it a tiny chink. It was really like a scene out of a movie - a small stone chamber with an altar and about twenty or thirty men, kneeling and chanting a prayer we did not recognize. We snuck away quietly, and then watched the men - in business suits and with briefcases - emerge from the room and leave their separate ways. Was it a meeting of a secret society? A cult? Mysterious choir practice? We never found out; in fact, we never asked. It was part of the magic that we should continue guessing.
The one thing you cannot escape while in Salzburg (and why would you want to?) is chocolate. There is chocolate everywhere, dark and light, wrapped in the most enticing array of Christmas-colored wrappers; chocolate bars and chocolate liqueurs, chocolate truffles, tarts and macarons; and of course, we brought some back with us (though *ehem* not all of it actually made it back... sorry, mom). There was a whole aisle of chocolate at the supermarket - a whole aisle! - my sister had to stage an intervention to drag me away. And everywhere we went after Salzburg, my carefully-wrapped chocolate liqueurs were unwrapped, inspected, and put back into my suitcase most reluctantly. I believe that if they hadn't been exactly compliant with airplane policies, there would have been at least a few slightly squiffy Air France employees bumping into each other at the Charles de Gaulle airport.
For people who like to "do" things, I suppose I should tell you to make your travel plans in a different place because we didn't climb any mountains or do any special activities while there (unless one considers shopping and eating chocolate an acceptable form of special activity, in which case, hey, you found your spot). We sat on benches underneath overhanging flowers, ate ridiculously good pizza, chocolate and cookies, took long walks down streets that ended in small churches and listened to a piano player play Brahms' Hungarian dances in the main plaza. We lost our hearts to this city, absolutely and without reservations, because we found music there, just when we needed it most.
*And the winner of the giveaway is:* if you've stuck with this long post this far, you're probably wondering who won the book featured two posts ago. The random number generator picked no. 6, and I was very excited to learn that it is my very good friend, Brentwood Kitchen Shopper! She loves food and I just know she is going to love this book! Congrats, BK!
Viennese Lemon Cookies
Why Viennese, you ask, if this post is about Salzburg? Well - we ate cookies just like that while there - tender shortbread piped into shapes with a star tip and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Their elegant simplicity reminded me so much of the city that I wanted to share them with you. The recipe comes from the always beautiful blog Fragrante Delicia, and the only thing I would change next time is to swap the whole wheat flour for all purpose flour because I think shortbread should be as sinful as possible. I substituted orange zest for lemon zest because I had oranges on hand.
Viennese Shortbread Cookies
via Leonor at Flagrante Delicia
makes 12 [I got about 16]:
50 g powdered sugar
125 g butter, room temperature
1 g salt
Zest of 1/4 lemon [I used orange]
20 g egg white
150 g wheat flour [or all purpose flour]
Powdered sugar to sprinkle
Cream the butter and sugar together. Add lemon zest and salt and beat for another minute to incorporate. Add the egg whites and whip for a minute or two, until the egg whites are fully incorporated. Gently mix in the flour.
Fit a pastry bag with a star nozzle and, over a siplat or a lined baking sheet, pipe "W"s or "S"s, about 2 inch height. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350F and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are golden around the edges [it took me a little longer, about 15 minutes). Cool and sprinkle with icing sugar. Best served the same day as made, but will keep in an airtight container for at least a few days. Continued after the jump...