Many years ago, when I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a friend of mine introduced me to her mother—an elegant woman named Julia Kronhill, who told me her amazing story. She and her husband, Jacob, had left their home in Lublin, Poland, and crossed the border to Lithuania on September 6, 1939, just after WWII started. They lived in Vilna until January 1941 when, courtesy of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara and his life-saving transit visas, they were able to travel across Russia to Vladivostok and then to Kobe, Japan. In September 1941, the Japanese transferred all nonresident aliens to Shanghai, where the two lived until the war ended. Then, with the help of the Joint Distribution Committee, they moved to Melbourne, Australia, where Julia raised two children—including my friend Irene Pletka, who was living in Brookline, Massachusetts when I met her, shortly before Julia passed away.
As Julia told me her personal history, she also described to me a luscious raspberry tart that she remembered from growing up in Lublin. I wanted to taste it—immediately. A few days later, I watched Julia carefully crafting the crust with her hands, patting a long, thin strand of dough around the sides and filling it with pints of raspberries, and then, with a pastry dough cutter, weaving a lattice crust on top.
A few years later, when I moved into my first house in Chevy Chase, Maryland, I inherited from the previous owner an entire backyard filled with wild raspberry bushes. Often anticipating the intense flavor of this dessert, I gently and patiently picked the raspberries, taking care not to bruise them as I put them one by one into a basket, collecting them for the filling, sweetened by the berries cooked down to their essence.
Whenever I make this amazing tart for family and friends, I like to tell of the luck of two people from Poland and the memory of a flavor that followed them halfway around the world.
Polish Raspberry Tart
1 stick unsalted butter or 4 ounces coconut oil
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 to 3 tablespoons good-quality raspberry jam
2 to 3 pints fresh raspberries
Confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling
1. Using a food processor with a steel blade, pulse to cream the butter or coconut oil with the sugar, salt, grated lemon rind, lemon juice, and vanilla.
2. Gradually add the flour and the baking powder and process until a ball forms. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.
3. When you remove the chilled dough, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and press one-third of the dough into the bottom of a 9-inch spring-form pan. Bake for 15 minutes and remove from the oven.
4. Press another third of the dough on the sides of the pan and spoon the bottom with the raspberry jam. Then spread all the raspberries on top of the raspberry-smeared crust.
5. Roll out the remaining third of the crust and, using a dull knife or pie liner, roll out 1/2-inch strips and make a lattice crust and then, with the remaining dough, make a snake around the edge, attaching the lattice top to the sides. Return to the oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. When cool, remove from the pan and serve with vanilla ice cream.
Serves 6 to 8.
By Joan Nathan/
(printed with permission)