Utter the words “apple pie” and what comes to my mind (shortly followed by pools of saliva) is the classic ooey-gooey warm mess of cinnamon sweetness sandwiched between two crispy golden flaky crusts. Imagine then, my surprise and confusion when I was presented with an apple “pie” in Switzerland for the first time. For one, the Swiss don’t really have pies. Just tarts. I have rarely seen pies with a top crust in Switzerland. In fact, they don’t even have a word for pie. And the typical Swiss tart always has “guss”— a slightly sweet egg & hazelnut custardy filling.
OK, I have to admit, when it comes to apple pie, I’m a bit of a traditionalist… so I can’t say I received my first introduction to guss particularly well. But in Switzerland, you cannot escape guss. Seriously, they use it for almost every tart (called wähe)— sweet or savory. And once I tried other fruit wähen which didn’t have to compete with a pinnacle of American idealism & romanticism, I quickly warmed up to them. Guss introduced me to a whole new world of fruit pastries that didn’t need to be sickly sugary sweet. And the Swiss obsession with hazelnuts is definitely a welcome addition here. Not to mention its simplicity. It’s easy to whip up a wähe with whatever fruits are in season, as Michael did for me here with the neighbour’s bounty of plums for a most apt welcome back to Switzerland.
Try it for yourself— add some guss to your next tart and almost effortlessly you’ll end up with a beautiful and delicious tart full of interest. Start with your favorite pie crust recipe. With the crust rolled out and placed in the pan, sprinkle a layer of hazelnut powder (if you have it), and top with fresh, sliced fruits of your choosing until just level with the sides of the pan. Sprinkle generously with sugar and cinnamon (if you like) on top, and bake as normal. While the tart is baking, prepare the guss by combining the ingredients below. In the last ten or so minutes of baking, add the guss and finish baking. When the guss is no longer liquidy, and has a nice light golden color, the tart is ready to come out of the oven. Let it cool a bit before serving.
Basic Sweet Guss :
3/4 cup milk
sugar to taste
Optional (but highly recommended :) Additions:
almond powder or hazelnut powder
vanilla extract or even better— the seeds of a real vanilla bean [special note from Michael: “for those who never have done that get used to it (it’s so much better, it’s the f”*ç%ing real thing)” instructions here]
So try it out and let me know which you like better— mit oder ohne guss?