This is one of those recipes that has been handed down in my family forever, well at least 60 years. I remember my mother making the dough every December 23rd to bake on Christmas Eve morning. She learned it from my grandmother (her mother-in-law and the German ladies at church). Then twenty-five years ago my mother started teaching my wife how to make the kuchen. For as long as I can remember every Christmas Eve everyone would know my mother was making the kuchen and show up at our house for coffee, kuchen, and some to take home with them. She no longer makes the kuchen but the tradition has been passed on to us.
My mother wrote the directions down but they are hard to translate into writing. It is a feel with the dough. It sounds strange to say knead with melted butter until the dough is no longer sticky but when you are making it you will understand. How much cinnamon & sugar? It is up to you. Not too much but enough.
When we went to look for the sheet of paper this year we couldn’t find it for a bit so we decided we needed to get this down where we could keep it to pass on to our kids – who already help pour the butter, mix the cinnamon and sugar, and help deliver the Kuchen to our friends and neighbors on Christmas Eve. I hope you enjoy!
1 package dry yeast (in 1/4 cup warm – NOT hot water and 1 teaspoon sugar to proof. If it doesn’t bubble up your yeast is bad or your water too hot. Restart proofing.)
1 quart warmed milk
6 eggs, beaten
4 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 to 1 lb butter, melted
melted shortening, NOT butter
4-6 lbs. apples, (peeled, cored, and thinly sliced)
1 lb.+ butter, melted
Cinnamon & Sugar blended to taste – make a bit heavier on cinnamon than normal for best taste
In a large stock pot (with a cover) mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center and add all at once the proofed yeast, milk, beaten eggs, and vanilla.
Have 1/2 – 1 lb melted butter, slightly cooled, should be ready to go when mixing the dough. It is best to have a second person help by pouring the butter. Start kneading the dough and add butter in a slow stream a little at a time. Knead in between each addition of butter. You will know you have added enough butter when the dough is no longer sticky. It will take awhile to reach this stage but keep kneading and adding butter a bit at a time.
Cover the pot and find the warmest spot in your home (we place ours over a heating vent and turn the heat up to 70 for the night). Place the pot in the warmest spot then wrap the pot with 2-3 blankets to keep warm. If the dough gets too cold it will not raise enough. Let rise overnight or at least 8-10 hours.
Dough should have just about doubled in size by morning. When you remove the dough from the pot it will fall. Turn the dough out onto a floured board or table. Divide into pizza sized dough portions. Cover lightly with clean towels and let sit for one hour.
Grease large rimmed baking sheets with 1 tablespoon melted shortening for each pan. Stretch one portion of dough into the bottom of the pan forming a pizza like form. Slightly higher on edge.
Apply apples in straight lines across the dough, not overlapping but just touching. Leaving little space between each row. Top with a generous sprinkle of cinnamon & sugar blend. Then lightly spoon melted butter over the top of the kuchen. You want it to lightly cover but not puddle on the kuchen and not touch the edges as those spots will burn with the butter.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. The kuchen needs to rest for 60 minutes before baking.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until edges and bottom are golden brown. Remove kuchens from oven and allow to cool slightly before removing from pans. Allow to cool before cutting.