My cousin Marion asked me to help with kuchen for her daughter's wedding more than a few years ago. Most German-Russian weddings serve kuchen. Somehow, I remember kuchen being a spring dessert prepared especially for Easter; and one year, my birthday.
It's spring. Here's hoping everyone is home safe and baking for Easter dinner. Of course, if we are in the middle of a blizzard this week – oh well, we need the moisture. So let's talk about the ultimate spring dessert – kuchen.
Kuchen seems to be a famous mystery to most folks. They love it and want to learn how to make it or, better yet, have someone make it for them. It's not that difficult. Of course, the folks on The Great British Baking show do talk about the difficulties of Crème Pat. I experimented with puff pastry during Covid lockdown and realized that I have been making Crème Pat since birth (almost). Kuchen custard is the same recipe except for vanilla. Oh, and, so we are on the same page, my kuchen recipe is Protestant, the raised kind. If you are German, you know what I mean.
Kuchen is for spring. I imagine that after a long winter, the cows freshen, the chickens begin laying with the longer daylight hours, and everyone is ready for Easter. I was born on a Good Friday, so my birthday was close to Easter for many years. And, I loved kuchen.
One year my mother asked me what I would like for my birthday. I must have been around six or 7-years old. "I want my very own prune kuchen," I said; and received my wish.
Prune? That's correct. If you are a true German-Russian lover of kuchen, you know that prune kuchen is the original flavor. Most people wrinkle their noses at prunes and associate them with, well, you know what. However, prunes are merely dried plums, sweet and delicious and the perfect non-juicy topping for kuchen.
Every year about this time, I make kuchen. It freezes well, but I genuinely love it right out of the oven. My recipe makes 12 kuchen. If we are not hosting Easter dinner, I drive around and drop them off at all the children's houses and this year, I donated some to the church bake sale, so I wouldn't have to eat it all myself.
I saved one prune for Sunday dinner. My kuchen has always been a source of pride, and I have heard some comments from German ladies such as, "this is the best kuchen I have ever eaten." My grandfather even told my mom that my kuchen was good. Coming from German-Russians, those are quite the compliments. Mainly because it is my Mom's Mom's recipe. When I teach kuchen classes, I include my grandmother's name, Gramma Emma, in the title.
It used to be that I would not share my grandmother's recipe with anyone. One day, I realized that she might be disappointed in my selfishness. So to honor her, I submitted it to the Ewiger Saatz and Gutes Essen cookbooks, which wasn't hard since I wrote the copy and edited both. And, yes, I would share it here, but I am out of room for this week. If you ask, I will email it to you. Now, it's off to the kitchen to make my traditional "kase knephla" in preparation for Easter dinner. I'm so happy to be hosting this year for the first time in years. So, in addition to the kuchen, we must have traditional German-Russian foods.
I do hope you have a blessed Easter with your family.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.