Vail baking: Try baking apple kuchen in your kitchen
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” Utter simplicity … that defines this apple kuchen in Vail, Colorado. A tender, pat-in-the-pan crust and apples in cinnamon-sugar are topped by a delicate, light egg custard. The whole thing comes together very quickly and requires little in the way of kitchen equipment … only a pie pan and a bowl or two. It is, truly, a minimalist’s dessert.
The recipe is an old one; the “kuchen” has been around for generations. Though the German word means “cake,” the resulting dessert is more like a thin pie or a pastry. It is an understated, subtle little thing … wholesome but not heavy, and easy on the tongue. A drizzle of caramel sauce complements it nicely.
The kuchen is best served on the day it is made. It’s still OK after a day in the refrigerator, but not quite as light and tender. Don’t attempt to heat left-overs; the crust gets soggy.
Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet
Make in a glass pie pan measuring 7 inches across the bottom and 9 inches across the top
1 cup of all purpose flour
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cold
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 small or 1 large Gala or Golden Delicious apple, peeled and cored
1/4 cup of half and half
1 egg yolk or 1/2 a large egg (Whisk yolk and white to blend; measure one and a half tablespoons of mixture. This equals half a large egg.)
Caramel sauce (commercial or home made), warmed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Lightly grease the pie pan.
Make the crust: Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl and whisk to blend well. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and, using your fingers or a pastry blender, work the butter into the dry ingredients until it is evenly moistened and forms large curds. Don’t form a smooth dough; stop when it is still shaggy. To make the crust in a food processor, combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of the processor and pulse to blend well. Cut the butter into 10 to 12 pieces, add them to the bowl of the processor, and pulse until the mixture forms large curds. DON’T let the dough form a ball or smooth out.
For both methods: Gently pat the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pie pan. It should be about 1/8-inch thick on the bottom and 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick on the sides. Make sure the sides are at least 3/4 of an inch high. Form an even lip around the top of the dough. Set the pan aside.
Make the filling: Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl and whisk until well blended. Cut the peeled and cored apple(s) into slices 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick and toss them in the bowl with the cinnamon-sugar until all are coated with it. Arrange the apples slices in a concentric circle over the crust, overlapping them slightly and putting smaller pieces in the middle. Sprinkle any remaining cinnamon-sugar evenly over the apples. Put the pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
During the last few minutes of this baking, whisk the half-and half with the egg yolk or half an egg until well combined. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Open the oven door and carefully pour the egg mixture over the apples. Be sure this mixture covers the apples but remains within the crust and doesn’t go above crust’s sides. You may not use all of it. Bake until the egg mixture is set. This takes about 10-14 minutes in my oven. Remove the kuchen and let it cool for at least an hour before serving. Serve it at room temperature or still slightly warm, with a drizzle of heated caramel sauce. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.
This is a variation of a recipe from Martha Stewart’s Living
Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at email@example.com.