Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Great cooking

I made grape kuchen and I’m so puffed up with pride that I nearly floated off over the ridge behind our house.


The recipe involved eggs, sour cream, lemon, and grapes. I measured and mixed next to a large pile of daffodils that Sweetsie had deposited on my red concrete counter top. (She said she was going to set them afloat again, but I think she forgot.)


The bright colors and tangy-tart smells made my heart race. Forget lovin’ on me, babe. Just give me some deep purple and sunny yellow against a backdrop of red. Mm, mm, mm. Does me in every single time.


This is the first time I’ve made kuchen (pronounced “kü-ken”—see, it really was my first time—I didn’t even know how to pronounce it!) and I’m completely enamored. There’s something deeply satisfying about the rich yeasty bread dimpled with fruity sauce and a tangy-sweet glaze drizzled over all.


I’ve been searching for a way to use up some of my frozen grape preserves. Last summer when I was processing grapes (pinching off the skins, cooking and straining the seedy innards, adding the peels back in and cooking the whole thing up into a royal purple pulp fit for the Queen herself), I set aside some of the precious filling to freeze instead of can. My canned grapes have a tendency to unseal and send me plummeting to the depths of despair, so I needed to try something different. It was a wise move on my part. The frozen grape puree tastes cleaner and brighter and it’s a snap to turn it into pie filling—simply thicken with sugar and flour (or cornstarch or Therm Flow) and it’s ready to go.

But still, I wanted a new way to serve my grapes besides in a pie, so I scoured the web. This grape kuchen was my reward.


This morning I told the kids they could have some grape kuchen after they finished their granola, and clueless Miss Beccaboo, bless her ditzy heart, said, “Huh? Great cooking?”

She said it, not me!


I need to know two things please. They’re very important. First, have you made kuchen before, and if so, how do you make it? And second, do you have any other suggestions for how to use up my frozen grape preserves?

Thank you, m'darlings. I’m much obliged.


Grape Kuchen with Lemon Glaze
Adapted from a recipe I found on ifood

Don’t be put off by the different stages and steps. This kuchen is really quite simple to make.

I imagine the variations are endless:
*Instead of a grape sauce, try blueberry, apricot, sour cherry, or rhubarb. Oo000!—what about red raspberry-rhubarb!
*Add some lemon or orange zest to the dough (I’m definitely doing this next time).
*Add nuts to the streusel.
*Use a plain vanilla glaze, or flavor it with almond extract or orange juice. Maybe add some cream cheese, too?
*There’s also the option of using a sourdough base instead of the commercial yeast. I want to look into this next.

About the grape puree: I won’t lie to you. Processing grapes is a time-consuming affair. It goes something like this:
1. Pick the grapes.
2. Pick the grapes off the stems.
3. Wash the grapes.
4. Squeeze out the grape innards (clear, seedy, eyeball-like blobs).
5. Put the eyeballs in a kettle and reserve the grape skins.
6. Cook the eyeballs till they melt.
7. Smoosh the melted eyeballs through a sieve, thus removing the seeds.
8. Put the melted, seedless eyeball mush back in the kettle and add the grape skins.
9. Cook till heated through.
10. Can (hot pack them), or cool and freeze.

I will understand if you’d rather use blueberries.

For the grape filling:
2 cups grape puree (see headnote)
1/3 cup sugar
1 ½ tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Put the grape puree in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Stir together the sugar and flour and add it to the grapes. Cook the grapes over medium-high heat till bubbly and slightly thickened (though they will still be saucy). Stir in the lemon juice and set aside.

For the dough:
2 teaspoons yeast
½ cup warm water
½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup milk
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup sour cream

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.

Scald the milk and add the butter.

Stir together the flour, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the milk (once the butter has melted) and stir well. Check with your finger to make sure the mixture isn’t too hot, and then add the dissolved yeast. Stir in the beaten eggs and sour cream. Spread the mixture in a greased 9 x 13 inch pan, cover, and let rise for twenty minutes.

For the streusel:
½ cup flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with your fingers till crumbly.

For the lemon glaze:
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
juice of one lemon (about 2-3 tablespoons)
a little milk, if needed

Combine the sugar and lemon juice, adding milk as necessary to make a drizzle-able glaze.

To assemble:
Once the twenty minute rise is finished, sprinkle half of the streusel over the dough. Pour the grape puree over top, using the back of a spoon to spread it out evenly-ish. Top with the rest of the streusel.

Using a skewer (or a knife) poke holes—eight to twelve, perhaps—in the batter to allow the grape filling to seep down through and infiltrate the whole cake with its fruity richness. (It won’t look like any infiltrating is happening, but it is.)

Cover the kuchen with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for another 45 minutes.

Bake the kuchen at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake is pulling away from the edges. Don’t over bake—dry kuchen isn’t so hotsy-totsy.

Allow the kuchen to cool for at least 30 minutes before glazing and serving. It’s best served warm, but the cake is still mighty tasty the following day.

About one year ago: Flaunting My Ignorance.

16 comments:

  1. I make Kuchen often but mine is nothing like yours. I make the Peach Kuchen in MWL p 280. I don't know anything else about Kuchen. What I do know is that the kids love it.

    Aunt V.

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  2. A couple of things -

    Yes! I've made kuchen before, I believe More-with-Less has a recipe, which I've used with pears and peaches. The recipe goes into a pie plate, not a pan. It also doesn't use yeast, and comes out a whole lot more like a custard, from what I can remember.

    As for grape puree, we got some capital stuff as a bi-product of making grape juice last year. After boiling down the grapes, we often put the grape pulp, seeds and all, into a conical strainer with a pestle to get the last bit of juice out. Turns out, with a more strenuous application of the pestle, some great cooked pulp without seeds also comes through. It takes a bit of arm-work, but for a bonus by-product of grape juice, the stuff is fairly ambrosial.

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  3. My husband had an elderly aunt whose "specialty" was grape kuchen. But she always made it with the SEEDS STILL IN THE GRAPES! The kuchen actually had a wonderful flavor but if anyone dared to even mention the undesirability of the seeds, she'd say something to the effect of, "Oh for heaven's sake, just swallow them. They'll go right through you!"

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    Replies
    1. Yes that's the way my Aunt Anna Made hers too and I just loved it. If I can find that recipe, I'll let you know. I love concord grapes seeds and all.

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  4. The kuchen I'm familiar with is really not a cake at all. It's kind of a pie: peach (or pear) halves arranged on a crumbly crust in a pie dish, then covered with a sour-cream-egg-sugar custard and baked. We often eat it hot with milk for supper. I suppose if the crust were a bit thicker, it would be more like your kuchen, which looks splendid! Kuchen cousins, I guess.

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  5. I have this old back issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine that talks about the differences between crisps, cobblers, crumbles, brown bettys, Buckles, grunts and pandowdys. Can you believe they don't include kuchen? I thought for sure there would be a recipe there for kuchen that I could tell you about.

    I end always end up making pie with my grapes- it's a hit at potlucks.

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  6. Mama Pea, That's hilarious.

    Aunt V, Greta, and Rosanna, Apparently us Mennonites have our own brand of kuchen, no? I've tried that recipe before and didn't like it. Is something wrong with me?

    Mavis, No. We're on a spending freeze, remember?

    ThyHand, You take your GRAPE pie to POTLUCKS? Are you KIDDING me? Lady, that's above and beyond the call of Christian duty!

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  7. While living in Germany, plum kuchen was the most popular... and by far my favorite. From what I remember, you would make it very much the same way as you did here; simply line the bottom of the pan with sliced plums and replace any lemon with cinnamon. Fabulous!

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  8. We like to freeze our grape puree too - same juicing party Greta was at, purple hands and all. I am fond of slathering the puree between layers of buttered buckwheat pancakes. Kirk stirs it into yogurt with granola. It's downright heavenly on vanilla ice cream.

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  9. I'm a Mennonite who only knows the pie variety, although "kuchen" means cake in German.

    I just use grapes to make grape juice - not so fond of grape pie.

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  10. I became familiar with küchen when we lived in Germany. To really pronounce it properly, you say "Queue" with your lips really puckered up, clear your throat, and tack on "en."

    It tastes much better than it sounds.

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  11. Never thought to use grapes for kuchen, but it looks grand!

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  12. Holy moly! Just made this with blackberry puree (we are in the same boat as you, but with blackberries) and it is fabulous! I admit that I made a few tweaks (white whole wheat flour, yogurt instead of sour cream, no glaze because I'm LAZY), but still very, very tasty!

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  13. Mama Pea, my great grandmother made her grape kuchen with concords out of her backyard and left the seeds in too. They got toasty and nutty and I would just eat them. I thought they were good! lol most of the family spit them out though. It is one of my favorite childhood memories. Supper after church at her house with the entire family. Chicken and dumplings in mass quanity and delicious Grape kuchen or a strudel.

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  14. Ericka R - Omigosh! Aunt Jo's were made with Concord grapes, too. She was Bohemian through and through . . . ancestors from Czechoslovakia. What nationality was your great grandmother?

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