When I decided that I wanted to learn to make kuchen, I texted Hunter, who loves to eat kuchen. He responded with, "Kuchen? You German woman!"
And therein lies the joke.
I am not a German woman, but I have been German on my husband's side for a good many years. My children and grandchildren think kuchen is delicious and I decided to try to make it.
In some of the authentic cookbooks containing kuchen recipes, there are secrets included. Lard in the dough, farm cream in the custard or only traditional fruits were suggested. I wanted an Americanized recipe, that would be straight forward for a woman who had never been in a kuchen making kitchen before.
The Ritzy Rhubarb Cookbook provided a recipe that I was willing to try. I have never had a failure with a recipe from this book.
I have eaten enough kuchen to know that the best kuchen sits on a delicately sweet yeast dough. The recipe on page 70 looked promising.
This was a rhubarb recipe, of course, to make rhubarb kuchen. It provided leeway to use more or less fruit according to taste and other fruit if desired.
I made two batches of dough. That would yield 14 kuchens, but how many does one need to make before one really learns how to do it?
Quite a few, I suppose.
I made the dough, and let it rise a couple of times before rolling it out to fit the pans. I am very experienced with dough, but had not rolled and stretched it into a round in this way before. I fought with the dough more than I needed to. I eventually learned to roll it out thin, moving the rolling pin around the edge. Make it bigger than you think it needs to be. When it was picked up off the counter, the elastic dough snapped back a little to a smaller size. The dough softens as it rises and is easy to stretch after a bit of resting in the pan. Be sure that the dough is firmly against the bottom of the pan. An air bubble will show in the finished product.
Creating fruit fillings was my favorite step: Peaches and raspberries both came from the freezer as did the rhubarb. I was careful to thaw it and remove the excess juice before placing the fruit on the dough. I also made some with fresh blueberries.
I decided to try one with mandarin oranges, because they are a family favorite. If you like the oranges, it seemed likely to be good.
I also made one with mandarin oranges and rhubarb, because my family enjoys rhubarb sauce with the oranges added. I avoided the traditional kuchen fruits of prune and apricot, which are both delicious when made by a real German kuchen baker.
The next layer is custard. Flour, salt, sugar, eggs, and cream are whisked together and heated until the mixture begins to thicken. Each recipe of custard fills two kuchens.
This is topped with a Tablespoon of cinnamon sugar.
I baked two at a time in my oven, preparing the custard for the next duo as the first pair baked.
And so it went for a while, until I had made 14 kuchens.
I had a couple of kuchens where an air bubble under the dough at the bottom of the pan expanded into a bubble on the surface as you can see in the upper right of the one pictured above. Otherwise, things went well.
I was serving coffee at church on Sunday and decided that these would make a fine treat with coffee. I told Farmer Fred that the church goers could be my focus group and analyze the kuchen. He laughed and wisely reminded me that these folks are more of a fan club than a focus group.
But the reviews were good.
No one seemed to mind that it was made by an American without a drop of German heritage, except on her husband's side.
The recipe follows. And my grandchildren are proud of me in GriggsDakota.
Ritzy Rhubarb Kuchen Recipe
originally contributed by Dianna Formo
1 1/2 Cups Water
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 pkg Yeast
Mix ingredients and let stand 1/2 hour.
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
4 1/2 Cups Flour
Add these ingredients to yeast mixture. Mix well. Place in greased bowl, cover and let rise in warm place. Knead dough, return to greased bowl, cover and let rise again in warm place. Roll dough for seven 9 inch greased pans.
1 1/2 Cups rhubarb cut in 1/2" pieces
Put rhubarb and 1/2 custard recipe on dough in each pan. Preferences on how much custard and rhubarb vary. You may wish to use other fruit for some of the kuchens. Mix 1 Tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon together and sprinke over top. Bake in 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 25-30 minutes. Cool. Makes 7 kuchens which freeze well.
for two Kuchens
2 Cup Cream
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Flour
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
Cook all ingredients except vanilla until custard starts to thicken. Stir in vanilla, pour over fruit.
Note from Jane: I cooked the custard in the microwave, stirring it every minute just until it was heated and coating the spoon. I used less than 1-1/2 cups of fruit, just enough to sparsely cover the dough, but 1/2 batch of custard went on top of the fruit in each kuchen.