I want to sneak this recipe in before the strawberry season is over. This is an easy yeast dough coffee cake with fresh strawberries baked on top – a good starter recipe for anyone who is intimidated by yeast dough. The kuchen is best eaten soon after it comes out of the oven, because the strawberries on the warm dough are a particularly tasty combination. “Kuchen” is the German word for cake, but this recipe of my grandmother’s was more of a breakfast coffee cake or tea bread.
We had a big strawberry patch when I was growing up and there was a two-week season in June when we picked strawberries every day. It is hot, itchy, back-breaking work – the kind of labor that makes a person want to go to college so they never have to do such hard manual work again. During one particularly hot summer, a spark from a nearby rubbish burner drifted into the straw placed around the plants and the entire patch caught fire. I remember my brother and I cheering while it burned, which did not sit well with our father. We were sent for hoses, but it was a long way from the nearest water to the strawberry patch, and by the time we got there, the patch was gone. C’est la fraise.
Two quarts sliced strawberries
(Farmer’s market strawberries are the thing you want here – the sad greyish-red things that pass for strawberries in some grocery stores don’t have enough flavor to merit the effort of a kuchen.)
Prep time: thirty minutes plus one hour for yeast to rise
One kuchen serves 6
This recipe makes two nine-inch kuchens (Please note I used 2/3 of the dough to make one really big kuchen for the photo, just because I wanted to use the scalloped pie plate, and the other 1/4 of the dough to make a mini-me kuchen. Don’t want to create a false impression about the size of kuchen you’re going to get!)
- 1 cup lukewarm milk
- 1/4 cup sugar for proofing yeast and 1/4 cup sugar for dough mixture
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cakes of yeast
- 1/2 cup margarine
- 4 1/2 cups flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 and 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- Mix together milk and 1/4 cup sugar.
- Pour yeast into mixture and allow to become frothy (about five minutes).
- Mix together flour, salt and 1/4 cup sugar.
- Using a dough hook mixer attachment, stir in margarine, then eggs.
- As soon as ingredients are combined, turn dough out onto floured board and knead for less than a minute.
- Cover dough and let it rise in a warm spot for an hour (I usually use the top of the stove for the warm spot because the oven is preheating).
- After dough has risen, separate dough into two pieces and gently pat into greased 9-inch pie pans.
- Mix the strawberries with sugar and graham crackers and place on top of dough, leaving a two-inch crust around the outside.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.