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.

Other posts from Baking Through History:

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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

Baking through History series:

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