Lost Art: Misadventures in Kuchen

Grandma always told me if dandelions were hard to grow, everyone would try to grow them.

I’ve been thinking about this wisdom a lot lately as I tend perennials transplanted from her yard. Hmm… is this a weed or did I plant this? Do I cut this back or let it go? Is this dead?

I can’t tell you what it would mean to me to have her here to tell me how this is done. Without her help, this stuff is hard to grow. Why did I wait until I lost her to truly appreciate her wisdom and be apprenticed in our unique family arts and traditions?

My biggest missed apprenticeship takes the form of an incredibly simple pastry that is so well loved by those of German heritage that a small serving at the grocery store can sell for upwards of $10. Every year, for decades, my grandma made kuchen for the Braddock Threshing Bee. Her kitchen transformed into an assembly line of dough balls and thick cream fillings. Temporary shelving throughout the house cooled the hundreds of pies filled with fruit and creamy cinnamon concoctions. What I wouldn’t give to have pictures of this to share with you.Grandpa supervises

I didn’t try to make kuchen till years after she died. I brought all the ingredients to my grandpa’s farm and my niece and I set to work. He shared his limited knowledge of grandma’s techniques with us, including using an ice cream pail cover to cut the perfect size crust.

The finished product looked nice but tasted nothing like grandma’s. Does this sound familiar? Just mix a little of this and a little of that and throw it in the oven. Mine isn’t the only grandma who didn’t follow recipe cards, making it difficult to replicate her culinary creations without her supervision.

For my family purists, below is exactly what was printed on grandma’s three recipe cards. But some lessons I learned…

  • “Enough flour to roll” really means “practice makes perfect.” It does not mean keep adding flour till the dough isn’t sticky anymore.
  • If your topping base is egg and cream, “sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon” does not a sweet kuchen make. Stick with the toppings that call for at least a cup of sugar for May Vetter-style flavor. Otherwise, you’ll end up with egg-flavored kuchen.
  • Grocery store cream does equal the cream grandma used on the farm. Opt for the thickest, least healthy option they carry for the most authentic result. If at all possible, make kuchen with your grandma and write your own recipe.

4 C. flour
2 eggs
1 ½ cup cream
½ C. milk
1/3 C. veg oil
½ tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 C. sugar

1 ½ cup cream
1 egg
1 c. sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

1 ½ cups cream
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
Enough flour to roll

1 box of prunes
2 large eggs
Little cream
1 c sugar

(Back of card)
4 eggs
2 c. sugar
2 c. cream
Sprinkle graham crackers

Sugar Kuchen
2 C. sour cream
6 eggs
1 c. sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt Flour to roll

1 C. cream
1 egg
Pour on top and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon

Bake 350°


About Yo Adrienne Olson

Yo Adrienne Olson is a Fargo girl, a blessed mom, a lucky wife, an innovative communications professional and a closet entrepreneur.
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2 Responses to Lost Art: Misadventures in Kuchen

  1. I wish that I had cooked with my grandmother, too. Thankfully, I’ve still got a chance with 2 of them.

    • In my head, Bret Michaels is wailing ‘don’t know what you got, til it’s gone’ and I couldn’t agree more. Enjoy your grandmas!! Just think… what if our grandmas left behind twitter feeds for us…


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