But what is Salzburger Nockerl? It is a sweet soufflé, a culinary specialty in the Austrian city of Salzburg. The sweet dumplings are made of egg yolk, flour, sugar, and vanilla, mixed into a thin dough. Then egg white is whisked until it is stiff and mixed carefully with the dough. Afterwards dumplings (Nocken corresponds to Italian Gnocchi) are formed and baked on low heat in an oven. The difficulty of this dessert that the Salzburger Nockerl need to be prepared always freshly and served warm with powdered sugar, sometimes with a raspberry sauce. Like any soufflé, the preparation requires a bit of practice. Though traditionally a dessert, the dish is so filling that it is also suitable as a main course.
The story behind of the nockerl
Like Kaiserschmarrn or Apple strudel, Salzburger Nockerl have become an icon of Austrian cuisine. Allegedly they were invented by Salome Alt, the concubine of Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich Raitenau in the early 17th century. She met the Prince Bishop at a party, and was installed officially as his common law spouse at the Princely residence in Salzburg. The couple had fifteen children, and the Prince Bishop worked unsuccessfully to obtain a permission to marry her. Upon a visit by the emperor, their children were officially relieved from their status as illegitimate. She was said to have no enemies. After the death of Wolf in 1617, she dressed in morning like a widow for the rest of her life.
In any case the golden dumplings represent Salzburg’s Baroque atmosphere left by the territorial prince, whose life of dissipation came to an end when his archbishopric was challenged by the Bavarian neighbours. They are supposed to represent the hillsides surrounding the city centre: Festungsberg, Mönchsberg and Kapuzinerberg. The dusting of powdered sugar resembles the snow-covered peaks.
Ingredients: 1/4 cup heavy cream, 1/4 cup bottled raspberry sauce or any fruit preserves or jam, 5 large egg whites, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, 3 large egg yolks, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, confection sugar for dusting
Directions: Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.
Pour cream into a 9-inch pie plate or shallow gratin dish and spoon raspberry sauce into cream in dollops (it will be sparse).
Put egg whites and salt in a bowl, then set bowl in a larger bowl of hot water and stir whites to warm to room temperature, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from hot water. Beat whites with an electric mixer at high speed until they just form soft peaks, then beat in granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until whites just form stiff, glossy peaks. Sprinkle flour over meringue and fold in gently but thoroughly. Whisk together egg yolks and vanilla in a small bowl, then fold into whites gently but thoroughly.
Spoon large dollops of meringue into cream mixture and bake until golden brown and set, 13 to 15 minutes. If you prefer a less creamy soufflé, bake 5 minutes more. Dust lightly with confection sugar and cool 5 minutes before serving.
Fred Raymond (1900–1954) composed in 1938 an operetta called Saison in Salzburg – Salzburger Nockerln (Season in Salzburg – Salzburger Nockerln). In this composition the sweet dumplings are praised as “Süß wie die Liebe und zart wie ein Kuss” (meaning Sweet as love and tender as a kiss).