Kuchen. Kuchen (pronounced KOO-gehn), means “cake” in German. This is a special, special treat in our family. If you noticed, it’s on a Christmas plate.
Yup, that’s how behind I am. Dumb, big ol’, mean school, life, job. Life has been busy! I stick my tongue out at you.
BUT, the good news is – it’s perfect for Valentine’s Day! Mardi Gras, whatev.
(Which, by the way, I have some gorgeous Mardi Gras cookies to share with you soon….)
Every culture seems to have a sweet like this. Down here in Texas, we’ve got kolaches ’round these parts(that’s Czech). Next door, my neighbor makes a meeeeaan buchta (also Czech, pronounced BOOT-ka) which I’m hoping someday she’ll show me how, but so far, she only makes them for a special few!
So this is a pastry of the German variety; it’s a yeast bread dough, with a custard and fruit filling. Waaaaay back before I was even a glimmer in my mother’s eye, my parents and grandparents were treated to these Kuchens every Christmas Eve. Out west in Sacramento, California, on a little Sitton Way, Mrs. Brown would make a kuchen or 3 special for my Grandpa every Christmas. Being the good-hearted man he was, of course he shared with the family.
Now Mrs. Brown made plenty of flavors: poppyseed, cottage cheese, prune, peach…. and then there was apricot. That was Grandpa’s favorite. Finally after a few years, a little birdie made her way to Mrs. Brown’s ear; she got the word, and 3 apricot kuchens it was from then on, every Christmas Eve.
Grandpa is since gone, and Grandma has gotten older now, so it’s my mom that tells me the tradition of her in-laws. My parents were newlyweds, at the young (REALLY young) age of 18, … Mom tells me the tradition.
They would first spend the evening supper with my great grandparents, then they’d come home late to open a few family presents at home. Mrs. Brown would stop by with her warm kuchens, and they’d all have a piece before bed.
This was before Saran wrap, mind you, so Mrs. Brown would lay a piece of wax paper over the top of the pastry baked in those little foil pans, so nothing would fall in. That wax paper would stick to the warm custard, and they’d peel it back as they all took in the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg on those freshly baked apricots. The bread was soft, and warm. A little sweet, and just enough chew to carry that warm custard ….
I’ll be honest, this recipe does take a little time. But it’s all about the memories, and this one will be sure to become tradition. …..
Cooking the custard is the hardest part. You’ll want it to coat the back of a spoon, like so.
And yes, don’t be lazy (like I usually am). Take the time to pass the custard through a sieve to get out any last minute lumps.
Then be sure to cover it with Saran wrap to avoid a skin forming on top.
Look at that gorgeous yeast dough.
Blood, sweat, and tears y’all. Well, maybe minus the blood. And tears. That’s no bueno.
Prepare the dough into the pans.
Line with peaches, or fruit of your choice.
Layer with custard. Oh my GOODNESS.
Grate some fresh nutmeg! (jarred is fine too)
Thar she be.
Dad was looking excited for his Kuchen.
Totally worth it. Any time of the year.
~Peace, Love, and Custard Y’all.
Ms. Brown's Kuchen
Yield: five 9" custard pies
5 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, cold
1/2 cup sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons yeast
3 eggs beaten room temperature
1 cup warm milk, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups whipping cream, unwrapped
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 large jars of peaches
Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm milk (120 degrees). Liquid should get foamy, add pinch of sugar, sit ten minutes. Add eggs and remaining milk to yeast mixture after ten minutes. Mix flour, salt, sugar, shortening as you would pie crust. Looks like small peas. Make well in flour, pour in yeast mixture, using a mixer, mix only until dough forms shiny ball, dough hook. Cover and let rise until doubled, 60-90 minutes. warm oven. draft free. WHile this is rising, make custard.
Mix all ingredients in mixer. Cook in double boiler or carefully over low heat until thickened, about 10 minutes. Pour through a strainer into a bowl. Lay saran wrap on surface of custard to avoid forming skin. Let sit until ready to assemble.
When dough has doubled, punch down, form into a ball, let rest for five minutes. Get 5 pie plates ready, spread Crisco on your hands, divide dough into 5 portions.
Pat dough into pie pans, spreading out along the bottom and up along the sides. Layer fruit in pie pan, sliced and arranged. Cover with custard, bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes; sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.