Different regions and towns in Switzerland have their own sweet specialties. Switzerland is known for its unadulterated chocolate. But wouldn’t you know it, most of the traditional goodies don’t even have chocolate in them! Okay, the fact that chocolate appeared in Switzerland around the beginning of the 19th century might have something to do with it. Here is my totally bias opinion of some of the regional goodies.
(Basel in the Canton of Basel Stadt)
This honey and spice biscuit is from Basel and has a long tradition. It goes back to around the 11th century when oriental spices first made their way to Europe. “Läckerli” means “delicious” and is made of honey, hazelnuts, almonds and candied fruit peels. It is topped with a sugar glaze and cut into squares. They smell of ginger and have a consistence of a hard cheese. When they are not so fresh they can get really hard. The best way to eat them is fresh or when older to dunk them into tea to soften them up. If you don’t do that you might have to go to a dentist and get a broken tooth fixed.
Although you can buy these the whole year around, it seems to be a favorite gift during the holiday season.
I’m not a big fan of ginger so I stayed away from them for many years. Then at some point it happened; for a lack of anything else sweet in the house I ate one. And then two. And then three. They’re okay.
(Canton of Appenzell)
This soft gingerbread-like biscuit is filled with an almond or nut mixture. Biberlis had their origins in Eastern Switzerland around the 16th century.
I always thought this was a strange name for a food. “Biber” means “Beaver” what do these treats have to do with beavers? I mean, would you eat something called “Beaver”? It seems that the word is derived from Latin and means the spice clove. Ah-ha.
As I mentioned before I don’t really like ginger so Appenzeller Biberli do not make my top 10 list.
(Wilisau in the Canton of Lucerne)
What looks like a small ½ of a bagel or doughnut is a hard biscuit with a slight honey and lemon taste. The rings originated around 1850. I understand that the best way to eat them is to break them into 2 or 4 pieces. The people “in the know” crack them using their elbows. Then you let them melt in your mouth like chocolate.
I guess I’m just not a gourmet, I think the Wilisauer Ringli are hard and bland.
(Zug in the Canton of Zug)
The cherry cake from Zug was “invented” in 1921. It is layered with nut-meringue, sponge cake and butter cream and is pretty much soaked in cherry brandy. I’m okay with cherry brandy, but too much is too much.
Ben had relatives who lived very close to the city of Zug. Without fail, every time we visited them, out would come a cherry cake. They were lovely people who were proud of “their” regional tradition. So, of course I always ate some. It was good, albeit very alcoholic. I’m glad we never got pulled over while driving home though.
(Canton of Grison)
This is a caramelized nut-filling in a buttery pie pastry and stems from around the 1920s. How a nut dessert came to be a specialty of the Canton is up for debate. Nut trees are not indigenous to this region. That would be like saying the penguin is the nation bird of Switzerland. Wait, does Switzerland even have a national bird?
At any rate, this calorie bomb stays fresh for a nice long time. That, and because it is a covered pie makes it easy to send because the filling doesn’t leak out. I like the nut pie, but just not in big pieces. It is so filling.
(Lengnau, Canton of Berne)
It seems like every town in Switzerland no matter how big or small, has their own sweet specialty. Often times it’s called the name of the place plus an “er” and a “li”. A Lengnauer is a person who lives in Lengnau, “li” is the diminutive. A Lengnauerli is a dark or milk chocolate square filled with Cognac cream chocolate.
I tried these once, they weren’t bad. I didn’t even notice there was Cognac in it. My kind of chocolate.
Original Solothurner Torte
(Solothurn, Canton of Solothurn)
This cake is made with hazelnut-meringue and a cream filling. Best eaten within 3 days and tends to fall apart if left out too long. It’s terrific when eaten correctly; fresh and somewhat cooled.
About 10 years ago two bakeries in Solothurn made Solothurner cakes. Each claimed to be the best. To end the dispute they decided to let the public decide. A contest was announced in a local newspaper along with “official” voting ballots. Each voter could only enter once. A friend of mine, who lives in Solothurn sent us two ballots to fill out. Of course she told us which cake was the better. We tried both and voted. It turns out we voted for the same one our friend suggested, and you know what? They won! Now they can claim to not only be original but also the best. Still, both cakes were good so it must have been a close call. I can’t stop wondering if they won by two votes.