Osterfladen is basically a rice or semolina pudding, baked in a pastry shell. It is sold in the weeks leading up to Easter in most Swiss bakeries.
Osterfladen, a history
According to the Kulinarisches Erbe, some form of Osterfladen may date back to as early as 962, though sources are hazy. There is, however, mention of such a cake being blessed by a priest in Basel in the 1300s. It wasn’t just a Basler speciality, over the next centuries it was mentioned in other religious texts throughout Switzerland.
However, there is no way of knowing if the ingredients of these early Osterfladen match the ingredients of the cakes eaten today. The first available recipes for a similar cake are from the end of the 16th century, but they don't always specify that the cake is related to Easter celebrations.
For example, a cookbook by Anna Wecker, Ein köstlich new Kochbuch, (the first German cookbook published by a woman) mentions a cake similar in form to the Osterfladen of today. However, Wecker was a nutritionist who wrote about treating illness through food and didn't mention the cake as particularly connected to Easter. She did, though, suggest that it would help those suffering from fever, fainting, coughing and other such ailments. This is echoed in nutritionist Albert Spycher’s writings around the same time, although in his work he does mention the cake in relation to Easter.
In some of these early recipes, parmesan cheese was included in the dough, but this was soon abandoned for a sweeter crust. The Bernerisches Koch-Büchlein from 1749 (pictured above) uses bread as a starchy filling instead of rice or semolina and the flavoring is rosewater and wine.
By the 19th century, the Osterfladen as it is known today made it into rotation in most Swiss bakeries, having been included in much of the professional literature for pastry chefs (for example, Otto Bierbaum's Conditorei-Lexikon (pastry lexicon) from 1898).
This recipe is based on the one in the 1990 edition of Tiptopf, the Mürbeteig and Osterfladen recipes were found on pages 243 and 255.
For the pastry:
200 g flour
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
the zest of half a lemon
100 g cold butter
5 tbsp jam
Mix together the flour, salt, sugar, and lemon zest, then add the cold butter and rub it into the flour carefully with your hands.
Whisk the egg, then add it to the flour and butter mixture, mixing gently until it all comes together. Gather the dough into a mass, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Once it is cool, roll it out and place it in a 22-24 cm tart pan. Spread the jam over the bottom of the tart and then keep in the fridge until you have the filling ready.
For the filling:
400 ml milk
1 tbsp vanilla paste or extract
4 tbsp semolina
half a lemon, zest and juice
a knob of butter
3 tbsp sugar
60 g ground nuts
100 g raisins
Preheat oven to 200 C / 400 F / gas mark 6
Put the milk, vanilla, and salt in a medium sized pot and bring to a boil. Add the semolina and stir well. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring from time to time. Take off the heat and add the lemon zest, lemon juice, butter, sugar, ground nuts, and raisins, and mix well. Leave this to cool for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, separate the eggs. Whisk together the yolks and set aside. Using a separate, clean bowl and whisk or mixer, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks.
Once the semolina mixture has cooled a bit, mix in the yolks, then gently fold in the whites.
Gently spread this filling over the pastry base.
Bake for about 40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and the bottom is baked through.
Cut a bunny shape out of parchment or wax paper, either freehand or using a cookie cutter as a template.
Put the bunny in the middle of the Osterfladen and, once the tart has fully cooled, dust with powdered sugar.
- The raisins could be replaced with currants, or even dried chopped figs or other fruits.
- The semolina could be replaced with short grain rice, just increase the cooking time to 30 minutes.
- Any kind of jam could be used.
- Any kind of ground nuts, or a mix, could be used.
- You can decorate this in any way, tulips, chicks, or a bounty of bunnies, one for each slice.