Kuchen can be just about anything sweet, delicious and cakey. Think of it as a coffee or a yeast cake. Common ingredients, no matter the cake style, are nuts, sugar and cinnamon.
“I think for every Jewish person, their mother set the standard” for the perfect kuchen, said Russ Lidman, an Olympia resident and member of Temple Beth Hatfiloh, which on Sunday will celebrate its 25th annual Blintzapalooza, a fundraiser at the temple that raises money for charitable organizations. For sale at the event will be books, blintzes and bagels with lox and cream cheese.
As part of the event, there will be a kuchen baking competition. Past competitions have been for bagels or challah. This year’s category is far-flung – just about any kind of cakey or yeasty dessert can be entered.
Kuchen, pronounced cookin’, is a German-Yiddish cake. It’s frequently baked with fruit. As the cake became popular in the United States, it adopted a familiar name for anyone of a certain age – coffee cake. That’s a spin on the word kaffeekuchen.
Lidman’s mother was known for her yeasty pull-apart kuchen and her sour cream kuchen – the styles are quite different, but both have one thing in common – they’re full of flavor and calories. “It’s real comfort food, not health food,” joked Lidman. His mother’s recipes, shared here, both have cinnamon.
When Lidman thinks of a traditional kuchen, he thinks of a yeast cake – something that takes three to four hours to rise. “Traditionally, all those hours, people let the yeast do the work. Now people don’t have that kind of time,” he said. A modern adaptation would be a quick bread or tart, something that takes minutes to assemble.
There’s another entire category of kuchen made with fruit. Temple member Camille Kettel’s creation is something like a fruit tart, a pastry base topped with peaches and then a creamy yogurt custard topping. She shares her recipe here. Temple member Edie Bean also shares a recipe that resembles a tart. She tops hers with plums or apples that are sauteed in butter and sugar.
Want to enter the kuchen baking competition at Blintzapalooza? Temple organizers say you should drop off your kuchen beginning around 10 a.m. Sunday. Judging will happen later in the afternoon. Give these recipes a try – they’re courtesy of temple members.