I have returned from an absolutely phenomenal vacation in Switzerland and Italy.  My good friend, Kristy, and I thoroughly photographed and ate our way from Zurich to Rome.

There are far too many pictures to share here, but through a few installments, I hope to feature some of the trip’s highlights through photography and recipes.

Without further ado, let’s start in Switzerland.

Words escape me when I think of Switzerland.  Despite it’s small size, the country overflowing with charm, breathtaking scenery, and hospitality.

My great-great grandmother immigrated to America from Switzerland and many years ago my own grandmother tracked down our family that remained in Switzerland.  Ever since, our families have been in contact.  We have visited them in Switzerland and they will come and see us if they are in the States.  It is very special to have this connection and, of course, Kristy and I were excited to visit the Swiss family during our brief stay in Switzerland.

Our first day in Switzerland, we roamed around Zurich with one of my cousins, soaking in our new surroundings, the gorgeous architecture, and brisk weather.

The following day, we traveled to Elm, a small village nestled in the Alps where the majority of the family lives or grew up.  Our time was spent visiting with family, hiking up a mountain (where I got to see the cottage my great-great grandma once lived – pictured below on the left), and eating scrumptious Swiss food.

One of my favorite moments in Switzerland was our dinner with the family in Elm.  We feasted on raclette (it was interesting to compare how served this traditional dish compared to the way my family prepares it) and got our fill of cheeses, potatoes, an array of pickled condiments, wine, and were introduced to a soft, pungent, cheese, specific to the canton of Glarus, called Zieger.

For dessert, we were served another regional delicacy called Glarner Pastete, two rounds of puff pastry filled with a plum or almond creams (or a little of both).  Everyone seemed to have a favorite filling, but I loved both.

The next morning we were, once again, greeted with a smörgåsbord of Swiss cheeses, boiled eggs, croissants, breads, jams, muesli, yogurt, coffee, and leftover Glarner Pastete. Hands down, the best breakfast of the trip (and we could hardly fit anymore food in our bellies the rest of the day)!

Needless to say, we were spoiled and were sad to leave my wonderful Swiss family, but there was still much to be seen…

Glarner Pastete

Makes one 9 to 10-inch pastry

Note:  This is my interpretation of this pastry, so who knows how traditional this preparation is.  I have written this recipe to be filled with half almond cream and half prune/plum cream.  You may have a little leftover almond cream, but should use all of the plum filling.

For plum filling:

6 ounces dried, pitted, prunes

2 cups boiling water

1 tablespoon Kirsch

2 tablespoons sugar

For almond filling:

4 ounces blanched almonds

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon flour

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

1 egg

1 tablespoon almond extract

1 pound frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 egg beaten (for egg wash)

Make plum filling: In a medium bowl, combine dried prunes and boiling water.  Let sit for one hour.  Drain water and place prunes, Kirsch, and sugar in a food processor.  Process until a smooth paste forms.

Make almond filling:  Combine almonds, sugar, and flour in food processor.  Pulse until well combined and almonds are finely ground.  While processor is on, add butter, one piece at a time, until well combined.  Add egg and almond extract.  Process for about 10 seconds more.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  On a lightly floured surface, gently roll out one piece of puff pastry just until you can cut out a 10-inch circle.  Transfer round to prepared baking sheet.  Spread plum filling over half of puff pastry round leaving a 1-inch border along edge.  Repeat on other half with almond filling.  Roll and cut another 10-inch round circle using second piece of puff pastry.  Brush border of the first round of dough with water and place second piece of dough on top.  Gently press down on the edges of the dough to seal.  Using a paring knife, cut a few air vents on the top of the pastry.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°F.  Remove pastry from refrigerator, brush entire surface with eggs wash, and bake for 40 minutes, until pastry has risen and is golden brown.  Let cool completely and dust with powdered sugar (optional).