I have been missing for a month or so because I unexpectedly took a class, 4 credits in 6 weeks, which kicked my tush big time. I didn’t clean the house or cook for the majority of that time, and I am grateful to the Hubby for tolerating that! But, I hit this holiday weekend with a bang, and lots of cooking ideas, and lots of cleaning up to do. I made sauce and meatballs last week, some for the week, some for the father-in-law and some for freezing. The whole thing turned out delicious and reminds me of the sauce my mom used to make when we were kids.
This weekend though, I have been in baking mode. I made an easy and good foccaccia yesterday, for a little get together we went to last night (thanks to DeAnn for a lovely evening!) and today I am making something called a kuchen (coo-ken). It’s a German sweet bread, covered with fruit and an eggy glaze, then baked. Seriously good, and the dough is so beautiful and yellow, I just wanted to sit and look at it for a while! I grabbed this, once again from Nigella and added some twists for the American palate. Having said that, I can not resist a good blackberry in season. And they’re just coming in now. Usually I make this with blackberries and Granny Smith apples, really sour, but alas, I couldn’t find them at the market last night, so I went with pears, a favorite of my Hubby’s. They’re sweet, so I cut back on the sugar in the crumble and the recipe itself, but that makes no difference with the very sweet Anjou pears. There is a good deal of lemon peel, for freshness and lightness. All in all it’s a lovely bit of heaven in a yeasty sweet bread!
Pear and Blackberry Kuchen
For the base:
13 x 9 inch jellyroll style pan
- 2 1/4 to 2 1/3 c white all purpose flour (can use bread flour if you have it)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp rapid rise yeast (half a packet)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- grated zest of 1/2 an unwaxed lemon (*see note below)
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 c lukewarm milk
- 1/4 c butter, soft but not melted
For the topping:
- 1 egg beaten with a tablespoon of milk or cream and a pinch of ground cinnamon
- 1 small firm pear, cut into dice
- 1 pint of blackberries, picked through for leaves and clean
- grated zest of the remaining half of the lemon
- 1/3 c self raising flour (or 1/3 c regular flour with 1 1/2 tsp removed and replaced by 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt)
- 2 tablespoons ground almonds, or fine almond flour (you can make your own)
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 c unsalted butter, very cold, cut in small dice
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp Demerara or granulated brown sugar, for crunch
- 2 tablespoons sliced, peeled almonds
To start the base, put 2 1/4 cups flour in a stand mixer with the salt, sugar and yeast. In another smaller bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla extract, lemon zest and cinnamon together, then add the warm milk. with the dough hook of your mixer, add the liquid to the flour mixture and beat at low, gradually increasing to medium as everything is incorporated. Once everything is combined and starting to look like a dough, add in the softened butter in 2 or 3 additions, and beat well after each addition. To get all the butter into the dough, process for about 5 minutes, and I suggest flouring a board with the remaining 1/8 cup of flour and kneading by hand for another 5 – 10 minutes. The dough will suddenly become this lovely yellow springy dough, that is not really sticky and as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Lovely really! Cover the dough with a clean tea towel and let it rest and rise for an hour or so, it should double, but may even triple with all the sugar and yeast.
While you wait for the base to rise, you can put the crumble together. I use a food processor for the beginning of it, then fork in the almonds and brown sugar at the end. So, place the self raising flour, ground almonds and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 2 or 3 times to really combine, then add in the cubed butter and pulse until you have a mixture that is like wet, lumpy sand, there should be large chunks of butter and some well processed lumps. Turn this out into a bowl, and fork through the sugars and sliced almonds. Set this aside until you’re ready to assemble the final product for the oven. Then in another large bowl, combine the pears, blackberries and lemon zest, and toss with your hands to combine, it may stain your hands, but believe me it works. Set this aside as well
Once the base has rested and risen, punch it down and press it into the jelly roll pan. Go slowly, and press firmly with your hands. It will take some time, and you should let it rest several times until it covers the whole pan. It seems like it won’t but it will, and it will rise again after. Let it sit for 20 minutes or so, to rest and rise more. Then preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
After the rest, brush the entire surface of the dough with the egg wash mixture, this stops the fruit from sopping the bread with it’s juices. Leave a few spoons full of the egg wash for the edges. Tumble the pears and blackberries onto the dough, spreading it so it covers all of the dough, with a slight edge. Top this with the crumble mixture, start at the edges and work your way to the center. Then brush the edges one more time. Slide this into your preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees and cook for another 20 minutes. The dough will be browned and swelled up, and the fruit should be bubbling with the crumble set, it won’t be crunchy, more like a dry topping.
Allow it to cool for 10 minutes or so, then slice into it and eat! Yumm! Try this with the apples, and you can use raspberries or even strawberries. Or apricots, or peaches! Lots of options, the same process.
(* Note: If you are not sure if your lemons are waxed or not, wash them in warm water and baking soda, use it as a scrub. It will remove the wax, and leave the oils that you want in the lemon peel. Dry them well, and let them sit for a few minutes before you grate the zest. You can use a box grater on it’s finest setting, or a rasp.)