During the summers spent in an enclave of old cottages on Lake Michigan in the Grand Mere area off the highway near Stevensville, summer treats meant going to Bit of Swiss Bakery, then owned by Hans Kottman and his wife Mary.
Kottman, who hailed from Austria, had first been a baker back in the mid-20th century for the Whitcomb in downtown St. Joseph when it was a high-style hotel and he enchanted visitors and locals with his wonderful pastries that he learned to make both in his home country and in Switzerland.
Emil Tosi, whose family had founded a resort back in the 1930s when the length of Ridge Road in Stevensville was filled with Italian family style resorts, hired Kottman, building a bakery to showcase his breads and cakes, right next door to Tosi’s Restaurant.
My favorite of the bakery’s offerings was Kottman’s Sacher torte, rich chocolate cake layered with marzipan, ganache, butter cream and jam and covered in chocolate ganache, developed in 1832 by 16-year-old apprentice chef Franz Sacher, who was working at the court of Austria’s Prince Metternich. Now acclaimed, the original recipe is said to be a secret held by the confectioners at Hotel Sacher in Vienna.
Back home in Indiana Harbor, my mother and I often tried to replicate the Sacher torte we bought at Bit of Swiss, using recipes from such august foodies as New York Times food writer Craig Claiborne and the one in "Joy of Cooking." None were comparable plus it took an immense amount of work making the cake and all the different fillings. And since none tasted as good, we soon stopped trying, instead waiting for summer and the chance to buy Kottman’s version.
When Tim and Pat Foley bought the bakery a quarter of a century ago, they changed much at the bakery with Tim’s bread baking skills gaining national attention – he appeared on the "Today Show" after winning an international contest for his baguettes, in Paris of all places, and his American Harvest Cranberry Wild Rice was recently honored in Saveur magazine.
The couple was way ahead of the game in artisan bread making and long ago added one of only two French brick bread ovens in the U.S. in use to their kitchen. They also doubled the size of the bakery to 3,200-square-feet. This year, they were named by Modern Baking magazine, considered one of the premier sources for the latest trends and best practices affecting baking industry professionals, as the 2012 Retail Bakery of the Year.
But the Foleys also remain true to the bakery’s Austrian and Swiss roots keeping Kottman’s original bread and pastry recipes including the one for Sacher torte. Those who have tasted both the one made at Hotel Sacher and the torte sold at Bit of Swiss swear that the latter is better. I have never tasted the cake from Hotel Sacher, but I used to order Sacher torte whenever I saw it on a menu or at a bakery. None of these were even close, tasting instead just like a good piece of chocolate cake.
For Tim Foley, who is up to his elbows in sugar and flour every day, the Sacher torte made at Bit of Swiss is his favorite of all their offerings and he shared Hans Kottman’s recipe here.
Recipe provided by Bit of Swiss
5 1/2 ounces almond paste
2 ounces sugar
1 1/2 ounces eggs
3 1/2 ounces egg yolks
1 3/4 ounces melted butter unsalted
2 5/8 ounces pastry flour
2 5/8 ounces cocoa powder
5 1/8 ounces egg white
2 ounces sugar
DIRECTIONS: Line or spray 8 inch cake pan. Sift flour and cocoa powder. Warm almond paste slightly in microwave. With a paddle in a KitchenAid mixer, mix the almond paste and the first sugar. Add yolks slowly, mix well and scrape. Add egg slowly and scrape sides of the bowl. Add the cooled melted butter, then the flour and cocoa mixture. In clean mixing bowl, whip egg whites, when they start to get frothy slowly add the sugar, continue to whip to soft peaks but do not over mix. Fold into cake batter, and pour into buttered cake pan. Bake in preheated oven at 335 degrees for approximately 30-35 minutes until set.
Sacher Cake Apricot Rum
12 ounces apricot preserves
1 ounce rum
Combine rum and apricot preserves. Note: If the preserves are very thick, slightly pulse in a food processor.
12 ounces high quality chocolate, chopped
2 ounces honey
10 ounces cream
2 ounces butter
Add honey on to chocolate. Boil cream and butter. Add cream to chocolate. Stir to combine. Be careful not to whip too much air into it.
4 ounces sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 1/2 ounces egg yolks
9 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, softened
In a sauce pan heat the sugar and water. In a mixing bowl whip the eggs to lighten. When the sugar reaches 244 degrees, slowly and carefully pour into the yolks. Whip until cool. Add softened butter little at a time. Have ganache at room temperature and add butter cream one third at a time until blended well.
Have all ingredients ready including a ladle and spatula. Cut cake into three layers. Spread layer of buttercream on bottom layer, then spread 1/2 of the apricot mixture on top. Top with cake and repeat steps. Spread buttercream on top and sides until smooth. Refrigerate overnight or at least 3 hours. Warm ganache in microwave until smooth and is slightly pourable. Using a large ladle pour warmed ganache over cold cake, using your spatula. Spread it over the top and be sure the sides are all covered. When slightly set take spatula and lift cake to serving platter. Serve at room temperature. FYI: Bit of Swiss, 4333 Ridge Road Stevensville, MI, (269) 429-1661, www.bitofswiss.com.