I’ve been asked for my mother’s Kuchen recipe. Kuchen is the German word for cake. But it isn’t cake as I think of it. More of a pie. Yet not pie in that it has a bread crust. I wrote about it previously in my Cousin Reunion post.
Originally, at our house, Kuchen had a sweet crust. But I think my mom figured out pretty quick that she didn’t want to make that sweet bread from scratch each time. Eventually, she substituted frozen Rhodes bread dough. I really prefer that as I don’t like it as sweet. Don’t get me wrong, I like my sweets. Just in their place. I have cousins that still use the sweet dough recipe.
Mom had a couple of fruit flavors. By far, my favorites are prune and cheese. Don’t let the prune scare you off. It is truly amazing.
One of the considerations in these recipes is that back in the day they didn’t use recipes. So, what I had to do was follow my mom around and write stuff down. Of course, every time she made it a little different. So, between prune and cheese Kuchen, I have six different recipes in my recipe box. And not a single one spells it out exactly how to do it. But I figure it gives me a lot of leeway for errors.
Basically, these recipes call for the dough, the custard, and the filling. The filling might be the prune or cheese flavor. I also remember her making peach Kuchen, but I don’t have that recipe.
I’ve included two different versions for you to experiment with.
Crust: Rhodes or other frozen bread dough, thawed. Let it raise, then roll it thin. Once it’s rolled, fill it quickly so it doesn’t rise again. Out of one loaf of frozen bread dough, you can make anywhere from 2-4 crusts, depending on how thin you like it. It’s like pizza crust. Do you like regular, thin or thick. I think mom made 3 each 8-9” pies per loaf.
Custard: This is supposed to make about 2 cups of liquid, enough for 3 small pies. Small meaning that it doesn’t fill the pie to the top, but maybe half full.
¾ c. sour or sweet cream
3 eggs, beaten
¾ c. sugar (reserve some to sprinkle on top)
Or, another recipe calls for:
1 pint of cream
1 c. of milk (half and half or cream OK)
1 c. sugar
4 eggs, beaten
2 Tbl cornstarch to thicken (add with sugar to avoid lumping)
This would make 5 small pies or maybe 3 fuller pies.
Either of these could be slow cooked until thickened, stirring constantly. This would speed up baking time.
Add 3-4 Tbl egg mix in each pie
1 c. cottage cheese
½ c. egg mixture on top
Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Bake right away in greased pie pan. 350 degrees, 25-30 minutes or until edges are brown. You need to sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon on the pies before baking. It can leave an unpleasant gritty texture on the pie if you do it afterwards.
Cooked prunes: Pit prunes and cut in half. Put in saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover. Cook about 20 minutes, until prunes swell. Drain.
Add 3-4 Tbl egg mixture in each pie
Add about 1 c. of prune mixture on top
Top it with another ½ c. of egg mixture
Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar to taste.
All of that was just interpreting my ‘almost’ recipes. Then my daughter and I got together and decided to actually make kuchen. The funny story about this is that my daughter kept claiming she’d never had it before and I was very sure I had made it for both my girls while they were growing up. We were texting to make plans. Apparently she had never seen the word in print. While I was typing kuchen (kook ‘en), she was reading kuchen (kutch ‘en). We had a good chuckle when we figured it out.
After combining recipes, this is the recipe used during the actual Kuchen making event (this was a birthday party event for a couple members of the family):
2 c. heavy whipping cream
1 c. sour cream
¾ c. sugar
½ tsp vanilla
When shopping for the bread dough, I could not find loaves. I could only find rolls. So my intention was to thaw the dough so it would grow together and become a large amount of dough and not individual rolls. The dough was sitting in store packaging on the counter. I planned to thaw it overnight and we would cook it the next morning. My sister was up overnight and saw that it had thawed and risen and threatened to explode from the bag. She ended up poking holes in the bags so they wouldn’t explode. (My niece at one time had that wonderful experience).
When I got to my daughter’s house, we cut open one bag at a time and made one large loaf out of it. My thrusters must not have all been working at the same time, because I knew a bag of bread dough had more than one loaf in it, but it just didn’t occur to me. So, reading the directions, we divided the loaf into 3 parts for 3 pies, rolled it out and put it in the pie pans.
The recipe calls for greasing the pans. However, having done that, the dough would not stick to the sides of the pie pan. It kept collapsing/shrinking back into the bottom of the dish. At one point I was actually punching it as if I were wearing a boxing glove. I remember thinking maybe I could beat it into submission.
We finally worked out a plan to ‘beat it down’ and then as quickly as possible add the filling. Well, at least it was in the pan!
After placing pies in the oven, we noticed they kept growing. There was A LOT OF DOUGH. We finally realized that there was a problem with her oven at that temperature and it wasn’t cooking the pies fast enough. It was acting like a huge warming oven raising the dough! THERE WAS A LOT OF DOUGH!!! We finally figured out to turn the oven up.
I ended up not cooking the custard, so it took quite a bit longer to cook.
Well, it all turned out well. At the birthday event, every one ate until they were stuffed. Some of the comments made at the time:
“I’m kuchening” (going back for 3rds)
They suggested the title of this post be: It takes a village to bake a Kuchen
“Cook the custard”
Concerning the last piece of kucken in the pan, “I was going to cut it in half, and then thought, that’s stupid”.
“The yeast is not done rising. It’s growing in my stomach.”
“Thank God I’m wearing my elastic waist skirt.” Two of the girls changed into elastic waist skirts during the event to feel more comfortable. One just wore a long dress to begin with in anticipation of the eating.
After eating more than one piece, I felt thirsty, but was scared to drink because I thought it would make the bread in my stomach expand.
In spite of it all, it tasted wonderful. Some foods bring back the memories of comfort foods from home and this is one of them for us. That is what I meant by a lot of room for errors.
The final joke for this story happened months later. I happened to be grocery shopping and found frozen Rhodes bread loaves in the freezer. They came FIVE loaves to a bag. We are still laughing over that one.
As a bonus, I will also share the very simple fleishkuchen recipe with you. It is basically a meat cake (pie). Chunks of meat including generous portions of fat are fried well and then baked on the bread crust.
Since I didn’t have a piece of meat, I just bought a ham slice and cut it up and fried it.
I was told by my siblings that mom’s chunks of meat were larger and fattier.
It was all delicious!
If you decide to give this a try, let me know how it turned out for you.
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Check out these great German baking ideas!
Check out these great German cooking ideas!