Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fresh Cranberry Kuchen . . . a Coffeecake that's Worth the Wait!

They're unimposing little berries, firm and shiny. We find them fresh on market shelves only in the fall, for a couple of months. Kind of easy to forget about them the rest of the year. Oh, they pop up now and then in dried form, in salads or maybe in something like biscotti, but that's not quite the same. I think absence probably makes the heart grow fonder with an elusive fruit like this one. They play hard to get, not through any fault of their own, but just by their very nature, quite literally.

Why do we seem to suddenly care for them so much in autumn? Is it just a superficial attachment? Or is it that their mere presence reminds us of those elaborate and boisterous Thanksgiving dinners that were such an integral part of the holiday mosaic when we were kids? Perhaps. I don't recall my mother ever cooking with them, though. Oddly, we always had the jellied cranberry sauce from a can, the kind that would wobble out onto a plate like a toddler losing his footing on a patch of ice. I say "oddly," because just about every other item on the table would have been prepared from scratch, without a doubt. Why not homemade cranberry sauce too? Hmmm . . . another one of life's great mysteries that must go unsolved.

Well, getting to the point of this post, I've been on the hunt lately for a really good cranberry coffeecake recipe. As you may know, I made one last weekend that didn't work out well at all, so I tried a new one yesterday. This kuchen is a German coffeecake that I found on I like this particular site a lot because of its format (easy on the eyes, not too crowded with extraneous junk, simple to navigate so there's no frustration factor) and the fact that there are usually several really constructive readers' comments associated with each promising recipe (they're not all promising, but many are). This recipe is credited within AllRecipes to a contributor named Linda Bright and she notes, "This German coffee cake has been served at family breakfasts for more than five generations. There is no recipe requested more by our large family." So, I figured if five generations craved it, that's a strong enough recommendation for me.

It's made with a yeast dough, but one that's not in the least intimidating. You don't have to knead it, you don't have to roll it out, you don't even have to pray or curse or throw anything. Isn't that great? Yeah, I know. Basically, no panicking involved whatsoever. My kind of yeast recipe.

It's not all that attractive in the assembly stage, and when it came out of the oven my first thought was, "Gosh, that looks like the top of a cheese pizza . . . is that how it's supposed to look?" I wondered this because the top doesn't brown especially evenly, like a regular cake would. It was fine though, and tastes very good.

I plan to continue the quest for interesting cranberry recipes this fall. They're incredibly good for you, you know, and I love their sweet-tartness. Those babies are stuffed with antioxidants, and it's no wives' tale that they help prevent UTI's (that would be the dreaded urinary tract infection, ladies). Plus, there are only 46 calories in a cup of raw, fresh berries (not that you'd want to eat them raw--way too tart!). Researchers even believe there's a component in cranberries that can help prevent cavities! Who knew? Crazy, isn't it? But in a good way.

The only thing I didn't like about this recipe was that it made a truckload of dirty bowls and utensils. (It's the kind of recipe that makes you want to write a love poem to your high-capacity dishwasher.) The only thing of any real substance that I've changed about the recipe is to cut it in half. The version on AllRecipes makes two 9" x 13" pans, and unless you've got about 14 kids, I don't recommend having two pans of this stuff at your disposable--too dangerous, because it's too good.

Cranberry Kuchen

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" x 13" x 2" pan.

1 package active dry yeast (2 and 1/4 tsp.)
1/8 cup warm water (105 degrees to 115 degrees)
1/2 cup warm milk (110 to 115 degrees F)
1/8 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/8 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 of one large beaten egg
1 and 3/4 cups All-Purpose flour

1 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (I used fresh)

4 eggs, large
6 Tbsp. evaporated milk
6 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1 cup All-Purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Add the warm milk, butter, sugar, salt, egg and 1 cup of flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Do not knead. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

For the cranberry sauce, in a saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil. Add cranberries. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat; set aside. (I put mine in the fridge for a while, in a clean bowl, to help it cool a bit.)

For the egg mixture, in a medium bowl combine the eggs, evaporated milk, and sugar; beat well.

Pour half of the egg mixture into your greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking pan. Set the remaining egg mixture aside.

Punch the dough down, and dump it into your pan, right on top of the egg mixture. Pat the dough out over the whole length and width of the pan. It will look kind of messy and gross (see the photo below).

Spoon the cranberry sauce evenly over the dough. Drizzle with the remaining egg mixture.

For the topping, combine the flour and sugar in a bowl. Cut in the cold butter until crumbly. (You can always do this step when the dough is rising, to get it out of the way, if you'd rather not do it at the end). Sprinkle mixture evenly over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. (See, it kinda looks like a pizza, doesn't it?)

Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or cold.

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, just click on the purple COMMENTS below!)

If you liked this, you might also like . . .
-- Cherry Streusel Coffeecake
-- Cinnamon Streusel Cake

Coffee Cake on Foodista


La Table De Nana said...

I bet it is good:)

The eggs make the cheesy looking top:) But I find it pretty..I halve many recipes:) you made mes mile..You write very well!

natalie said...

oh yum, that does look good!! but man- all those dishes! i wonder if i can convince someone else to make this for me! ;)

Susan said...

This looks so good I can't wait to make it. I notice you didn't comment on it at Allrecipes. It would be a nice gesture to do so. and maybe upload a picture if you're feeling generous. Just a thought!

Jane said...

Hi La Table,
Thanks so much for such nice comments! I sincerely appreciate them. I'm glad you find the cake pretty! (I think it was prettier dished up than in the pan, and I guess that's what really counts the most.)


Hello Natalie,
You know, I think the more I bake and cook, the less dirty dishes bother me. It's like the old saying, "If you want to make an omelette, you've got to break some eggs." Well, I guess I break a lot of symbolic eggs, on a regular basis!

:) Thanks for visiting!

Hi Susan--
That's a very good idea! Thank you for suggesting it. I will make a point of doing that very soon (I'd better put it on my to-do list right now!).

Happy baking,

Theresa said...

Holy cow, that looks so good! I love cranberries but I never thought to make coffeecake with them. It would be great to make with Thanksgiving leftovers. I'm definitely bookmarking this one. Yum!

Sara said...

Mmmm, this looks so tasty! Love all the layers...makes it so pretty! :)

Erika from The Pastry Chef At Home said...

Alas you are right. Cranberries do not get the respect they deserve! I think people are just put off by their tartness so they tend to only shine at Thanksgiving table!

This coffee cake looks beautiful and tasty!

Irene said...

YUMMY!!! Just the recipe I was looking for.