Kuchen

In the first chapter of Lies of Omission, protagonist Hanneke Bauer parts company with a traveling companion when their ship docks in Milwaukee. Her friend says, You must promise to accompany your husband if he brings crops to sell in the city. We’ll have coffee and kuchen while you tell me all about the farm.

Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) is a German tradition of long standing. The term suggests not just tasty food, but conversation and camaraderie as well.

There are, of course, many kinds of German cake. The first kuchen I learned to make called for a slightly-sweet yeasted dough with fresh fruit on top, formed in a skillet and baked in an antique cookstove.

Chopping rhubarb for kuchen at the Schottler house, Old World Wisconsin, 1981.

I recently baked a kuchen in Hanneke’s honor, using peaches and raspberries I had in the freezer.

I don’t have a copy of the recipe I used way back when, so I turned to the cookbook pictured below, compiled by the Pommerscher Verein Friestadt of Mequon, WI. (The Pomeranian Society of Friestadt is dedicated to preserving Pomeranian culture and history.)

Happily, I’m able to share the recipe with you!

Apple or Raspberry Kuchen

1/2 c. shortening
1-1/4 c. flour
1 T. sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
2 T. milk
3-4 cups of apples or raspberries
For Streusel: 1 c. sugar, 2 T. flour, 1 T butter, a little cinnamon (omit if using raspberries)
1/4 c. cream or evaporated milk

Mix the first five ingredients like pie crust, then add the beaten egg and milk. Pat in pan. Spread apples or raspberries over crust and spread streusel over the fruit.

Bake 375 for 30 to 45 minutes or until crust is light brown. About 10 minutes before it is done, pour the cream or evaporated milk over the top.

(Note: I omitted the cream and went very easy on the streusel.)

In Lies of Omission, Hanneke is offered a piece of kuchen at a very low moment:

Hanneke accepted it gratefully. Kuchen. She broke off a chunk, careful to catch the crumbs, and popped it into her mouth. The pastry was light with wheat flour, topped with crunchy crystals of sugar that perfectly complemented the tart goodness of diced rhubarb. She was poised to gobble the slice whole, but at the last moment she paused, broke what was left in two, and handed half back. “Why don’t we share.”

If you bake and perhaps share a kuchen, I hope the experience is equally satisfying!

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