Baking Through History: Great Grandma’s Kuchen

Nearly every holiday season, I go back to my roots and make my great-grandma’s kuchen!

Kuchen (ko͞okən), as defined by dictionary.com, is a cake, especially one eaten with coffee.

Every family of German heritage has their own version of kuchen – including mine. It is a very popular holiday treat in North Dakota and South Dakota. It has gotten so popular, there are now a few companies that make it in large quantities and sell/ship them all over the country.

Kuchen – to my family – is like a pie and cake combined. It has a very tasty yeast dough that is baked in a pie pan with a cream and egg custard on top. The most common way to top the custard before baking it is with cinnamon and sugar, but you can add fruit like strawberries, blueberries, plums, peaches, figs, cherries, etc.

My family’s recipe has been passed down for generations. My great grandma, Laura Berreth, who lived to be 95 years old, used to make it every Christmas. Our large, extended family, who always gathered at her home in Herreid, S.D., ate every bite of her kuchen.

When I was around 7 or 8, my grandma, Carol, and my aunt, Laurie, started to teach me how to make this delicious dish – and I’ve made it almost every year since.

I’ve tweaked the recipe, modernized a few of her methods and added my own twists, but it is still the same family recipe that’s been used for decades. This dish takes about one day to make – and I haven’t yet figured out how to cut down on that time.

I enjoy giving them as Christmas gifts, so right now they’re not on my menu. Perhaps one day, they’ll be added – but for now, they transport me to Christmas Day at my great grandma’s house… Including to that one year when there was a blizzard, everyone had to sleep on the floor because there weren’t enough beds – and the next day we had a family snowball fight and my cousins made the largest snowman I’d ever seen.

Kuchen
By Laura Berreth

Makes 10-12 kuchen

Kuchen Filling: (can be made the night before baking)

  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar

Mix all three ingredients into a sauce pan and heat over medium heat, stirring consistently, until thickened.
Let the filling cool on the stove top. If making the night before, put filling into container and refrigerate overnight.
*The filling can be doubled or tripled

Kuchen Dough:

  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
  • 2 packets active dry yeast
  • 1 cup milk, scalded and then cooled to 105 degrees
  • 2/3 cup cooking oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 7-8 cups of flour

Scald milk in sauce pan on stove top. Cool to 105 degrees so it doesn’t kill the yeast.
Dissolve yeast in warm water (110 degrees) until blooming (about 5 minutes).
Add milk, yeast water, oil, sugar, salt, eggs and nutmeg into a bowl or into a stand mixer with dough hook.
Slowly add in flour until the dough mixed and the dough is not sticky and feels elastic.
Place dough into lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise 60-90 minutes until double in size. Punch down and let rise again 60-90 minutes.
Slice off pieces of dough to fit the bottom of a pie plate, roll out and place in pie plate. (The dough does not go up the sides like a pie)
Top with filling to cover bottom of dough, sprinkle with topping (recipe below).
Bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes until sides of dough are browned slightly.

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 stick butter
  • Optional fruit like strawberries, apples, plums, peaches or blueberries can be added, if desired

Mix together non-fruit items together with fingers until crumbly. If adding fruit, spread fruit onto filling first and then add topping.

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Baking Through History: Casserole Cookies

Cookies…baked in a casserole dish. I have never heard of such a thing. And…I likely won’t try them again.

In the “Wyoming Centennial Cookbook (1890-1990)” published by the Johnson County Extension Homemakers Council, there is a recipe for Casserole Cookies. This book is also where I got the Fudge Nut Cookies recipe.

Johnson County, Wyoming has quite the history. According to its county website, it is a “place of sheep herders and cattle barons, renegades and rustlers. Where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid holed up after their outlaw exploits. Where miners consumed with gold rush fever passed through on the Bozeman Trail. Where some of the most famous Indian battles in American history occurred. And where the Johnson County Cattle War, a rangeland dispute which historians often deem one of the most notorious events in our history, left its mark here in the late 1880s … and that Owen Wister wrote about in his epic American novel, The Virginian. One of Johnson County’s biggest attractions is the magnificent Bighorn Mountains.”

This recipe was submitted by Mildred Ann (Weber) Anderson, I couldn’t find much on her life in Wyoming. She might still be living (which would be awesome) because there is no obituary for woman by that name that matches a time in Wyoming. I hope, somehow, this video and blog post finds her and I can ask her about this recipe.

In all my recipe reading, I’ve never seen casserole cookies. And, after baking it, I think I know why…

Casserole cookies
Recipe from Mildred Ann (Weber) Anderson 

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup dates chopped
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ tsp almond extract

Beat eggs in buttered 2 quart casserole dish. Add sugar, mix well. Add dates, coconut, nuts, vanilla, almond extract.

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, stirring 4 or 5 times while baking. Cool and stir occasionally. When cold, form into balls, roll in powdered sugar and flatten with fork

This recipe is not my favorite. I did halve it, which I really should not have done. They did not have enough moisture to eventually make them into cookies. It made more of a crumbly granola (which my husband liked) rather than a cookie you could bring together and roll in powdered sugar.

If you happen to make these – and they turn out – please let me know! I want to see what they look like.

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Baking Through History: Great Grandma’s Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

If you remember my second video about Ginger Cookies, you’ll remember how much my great grandma Laura loved to bake. Read more on those cookies – HERE.

Here again is another recipe from her given to me by her daughter, my great aunt, Betty.

Betty wrote about this recipe in the email to me and said, “I love the taste of this dough because of the nutmeg in it. I loved helping so I could eat the dough. I liked my mother-in-laws caramel syrup better than mom’s, so I don’t have mom’s recipe for the syrup. Mom also used this dough recipe to make her kuchen. Hope this helps. I haven’t made these in years!” – – Betty

I love these kinds of recipes – ones passed down from mother to daughter and down the line. 

Caramel Rolls

It is interesting to me that there is shortening in the dough. I did quite a bit of research on this because I expected butter.

Shortening, according to King Arthur Flour, adds a tenderness to dough and cakes. It can also help if your all-butter cookies are spreading too much in the oven. Shortening can be substituted in any recipe 1-to-1 for butter. The reason so many recipes call for butter over shortening…flavor. Butter has more flavor than shortening. In this recipe, however, there is butter in the filling, which I am sure will make these delicious.

You can make them as regular cinnamon rolls and add your own favorite frosting recipe or you can make caramel rolls as listed below.
I tried both – baking half and half in different pans.
This can make 15 large rolls or 24 medium size rolls.
You’ll need multiple pans and an instant read thermometer.

Here is the recipe as sent to me by Betty:
Cinnamon Rolls
Betty Goetz from her mom, Laura Berreth

Step One:

  • 1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
  • 2 packages active dry yeast

Dissolve yeast in warm water.

Step Two:

  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 1 cup milk, scalded

Heat milk to 180 degrees. Mix shortening into the milk to melt. Milk will need to cool to below 110 degrees before adding to mixing bowl for dough, so it doesn’t kill the yeast.

Step Three:

  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs (beat them first before adding)
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 T. lemon juice (if desired)
  • 7- 8 cups bread flour
  • Mix all ingredients (including yeast mixture and milk mixture) into stand mixer or bowl. Slowly add in flour and knead dough until it can be handled without sticking to your hands.

Transfer dough to lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise 60-90 minutes, punch down, and then rise again for 60 minutes.

Step Four:

  • 1/2 stick of butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup brown sugar (depending on size of rectangle)
  • 2 T. Cinnamon

Roll dough into large rectangle; spread with soft butter, sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon.
Roll up, beginning at wide side.
Cut into 1 and 1/2 inch pieces.
Place in pan or pans and let rise until puffy.
Add optional caramel syrup (recipe below) after they have risen but before baking.
Bake 20-30 minutes at 325 degrees.

Step Five (if making rolls with frosting):

  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tblspn milk

Mix together to create cream cheese frosting.
Spread over cooled buns.

Caramel Syrup for Cinnamon Rolls
Betty Goetz from Stella Goetz (Dwight’s mom):

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • ½ cup margarine or butter
  • 4 T. water
  • 4 T. white corn syrup
  • 1 T. vinegar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup whipping cream

Mix together first 6 ingredients in a sauce pan, stirring constantly.
Bring to a boil.
Boil 1 minute and then, off the heat, add 1 cup cream.
Cool before pouring over unbaked, risen rolls.
Bake rolls as noted above.
**Caramel rolls might take a few minutes longer.

My great grandma’s recipe is absolutely delicious. The rolls come out tender and soft. I used bread flour in it, though the original recipe didn’t note which kind to use. I also added the measurements for the filling since those were not listed in the original.
I will definitely bake these on a cookie sheet with them separated rather than smooshed into a square pan. I think the air circulation will be better and they will brown more.

If you bake this recipe, let me know! I’d love to hear from you on how it went.

I have two more recipes from my great grandma that I’m going to bake up for you. One is called Peppernut Cookies and the other is a Christmas favorite in my family. Kuchen. I’ll be baking up the kuchen on Dec. 14, so stay tuned for that episode!

I have also come across a recipe for potato chip cookies and one for cookies baked in a casserole dish… I am too intrigued to not make those for you. Thanks for watching!

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Baking Through History: A Series of Stories From Vintage Recipes

Vintage is all the rage right now. Whether vintage to you means the 90s or the 60s, bringing back what was once old is in.

First Baptist Church in Glenburn, N.D. Cookbook

From butterfly clips and bell bottom pants to your grandma’s Pyrex and bake ware, vintage is here to stay.

But what about vintage recipes? You know, the ones found in the church cookbooks that someone’s great aunt or grandma made.

What about those cookies, cakes and pies that bring a sense of nostalgia?

The Great Big Cookie Book by Hilaire Walden

I’m bringing those back. And, I’m going to document it all with video and blog posts.

I love to read old recipes. Cookies, cakes, pies … you name it. I read them not only to see if I’m interested in baking it – or tweaking it to sell in my home-based bakery, but also for fun.

I have quite a few old cookbooks already – ones from church groups, ones found at antique shops and old recipes passed down from my great-grandma and grandma. I’ll be pulling from those and from the books my mother-in-law, who also likes to bake and cook, has in her library and from friends who have volunteered their old books.

Favorite Recipes from Lutheran Brotherhood

Those old family recipes shared in simple books are stories. Stories that tell not only of the time in which they were created, but of the place they were created and of the people enjoying them.

So, in addition to baking and blogging, I’ll be researching to find the origin of those recipes to honor them and tell the story. Of course, you’ll get to see the book where I found the recipes – and get the recipe itself as well.

I hope to post one video/blog post per week as I make my way through vintage recipes. And I’d love to hear from you and share some of your old family recipes and the stories behind them. You can share them with me via email at pigdogfarms@gmail.com. You can send pictures of the recipe and then tell me of the memories you have with that recipe.

My first video and blog post is here! READ HERE

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Pre-order your holiday cookie box!

Ultimate Cookie Box

ORDERS OPENING SOON FOR 2022

It is time to start planning for the holidays! This year, I’ll be offering holiday cookie boxes that are perfect to give as a gift or to enjoy with family and friends.

These boxes feature some of my best-selling items. You can put in your order now and pick a date for delivery or pickup. For custom orders, text Heather at 843-957-1195.

For $22, you can choose between two boxes. (See photos of cookies below)

The Ultimate Cookie Box: ($22) ORDER HERE

  • 4 cinnamon roll cookies with cream cheese frosting
  • 4 peanut butter cookies
  • 4 french vanilla madeleines
  • 4 lemon cream cheese cookies
  • 2 pecan meltaways

The Traditional Cookie Box: ($22) ORDER HERE

  • 4 chocolate chip cookies
  • 4 glazed pumpkin cookies (with chocolate chip or plain)
  • 4 monster cookies
  • 4 peanut butter cookies
  • 2 pecan meltaways

ORDER HERE

If you have a favorite cookie that isn’t listed in the box, let me know! We can add them to the box for just a little extra.
If you’d like to create a special order, please reach out and we can come up with the perfect box for you. My email is heather@pigdogfarms.com or you can text me at 843-957-1195. *Payment types accepted include: cash, check, Paypal and Venmo.

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