Monday, November 12, 2007

Sally Schmitt's Cranberry and Apple Küchen with Hot Cream Sauce

Before all you language experts and fluent German speakers email me to correct my umlaut usage, let me just say, “I KNOW.” I know there’s no umlaut over the “u” in “kuchen” – it’s just that I have a thing for umlauts in general (they crack me up; no clue why), so don’t be surprised when you see my nonsensical use of umlauts in this post. Hey, if Mötley Crüe, Motörhead and even The Onion can do it, so can I.

I’m not sure when the seeds were planted for my obsession with jokingly Germanicizing (Germanifying?) the English language. Was it from watching Hogan’s Heroes as a child? Growing up in Pennsylvania Dutch country? Listening to the Crüe as a teenager? I’m not sure. All I know is that at some point in college, my friend, Marisa, revealed that she, too, was a fan of speaking with a faux German accent. That was 20 years ago, and it continues today (we also still remember every tap dance step we did when we starred in our college production of “Anything Goes,” but that’s a story for another time, or maybe never). I know that somewhere along the line, we also became obsessed with Hans Zimmer, and every time a movie ended and we did not see his name in the credits, we would say in our fake German accents, “Yah, Hans Zimmer did not do zah muzik for zis movie.” We also add “hoffen” and “schlugen” throughout our sentences (especially when we’ve been drinking), because for some reason we STILL find it hilarious.

When I noted in a previous post that I'd be making this dish in Portland for Marisa and her family, she posted a comment asking if I needed any special equipment to make this dish, and our email exchange was this:

From: Carol
Sent: Monday, November 05, 2007 10:58 AM
To: Marisa
Subject: Kuchen

Yah Hans, zee only gatchit I vill need for mein kuchen is das 9"
rounden cake panen.

From: Marisa
Subject: Reply RE: Kuchen
Date: November 5, 2007 2:44:44 PM EST
To: Carol

Zas ees donen. Ve haf dat panen fur das kuchen shlughen.

I imagine when we’re in adjoining suites in the nursing home, the nurses will wonder who these crazy fake German ladies are. It’s just our thing. Don’t be a hätër. If I could find a way to add umlauts over consonants, I would. I’m that annöying. Some people prefer more cowbell; I say bring on the umlauts.

So, how apropos for one of the dishes in The French Laundry Cookbook to be a kuchen (German for "cake"), and that I knew I’d be visiting Marisa in Portland the weekend I wanted to make this dish. It’s not something that is served at The French Laundry, but in fact was created by The French Laundry’s previous owners, Don and Sally Schmitt, who are now transforming the Anderson Valley in Northern California.

The weather in Portland was cold and overcast, so it was the perfect time to make this dessert. It is perfect to make during that transition from fall to winter. And, when you have produce availability like Portlanders do, I can envision so many different varieties of this kuchen.

The first thing I did was to make the batter. I creamed the sugar, butter and eggs in a bowl, and in a separate bowl mixed together the flour, baking soda, freshly ground nutmeg, and salt.

I added the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little bit at a time, and also mixed in some light cream in between dry ingredient additions. I then put the batter in a buttered 9” cake pan:

Next, I peeled these gorgeous Golden Delicious apples:

After peeling them, I cored them and cut them into quarter-inch wedges. I put them core side down into the batter and attempted to make a ring, but instead took a slightly different approach, as you will see below. I rinsed the cranberries under cold water:

I added the cranberries to the center of the kuchen where there were no apples, and also sprinkled some around the outside along the ring of apples. I then sprinkled on some sugar and cinnamon:

This lovely little cake pan of goodness went into a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Here’s what it looked like as it was cooling on the countertop:

The kids came home from school, Marisa and her husband, Rön, came home from work, and I was so happy to have contributed to the family meal that night. We ate the most delicious Thai food for dinner and when we were done, Marisa’s daughter, “A,” and I started preparing the höt crëam säuce to pour over each serving of kuchen.

We put some sugar, heavy cream and room-temperature butter into a small saucepan and heated it over low heat until the butter had melted. Then, we cranked up the heat a bit to bring it to a boil. After it had come to a boil, we brought it down to a simmer for about 8 minutes, until it had thickened:

“A” was such a great helper in making the sauce. She poured in the cream, measured and dumped in the sugar, and let me know when the butter had melted. She kept an eye on the flame to let me know when she thought it might be too high because we didn’t want to burn the sauce. Even though she’s only five years old, she loves to help in the kitchen, and asked really good questions throughout the whole process. So thanks, “A” for your help. You’re going to be quite the cook someday, I can tell.

We sliced the kuchen and poured a bit of the hot cream sauce over the top and down the sides. Honestly, I would have been really happy to take a bäth in this stüff.

Wanna see the final product? Of course you do:

This dish was so easy to make, and really quite delicious. I love cranberries and I’m delighted that they’re in season right now. The apples were soft, but not mushy, and the cranberries were tart, but also finished sweet at the end of each bite. The cake part of the kuchen was spongy and delicious, and the addition of the hot cream sauce really tied everything together nicely.

If you have The French Laundry Cookbook and want to make something from it for your family’s Thanksgiving dinner, I highly suggest making this for dessert. It’s gorgeous, smells wonderful, and is something you’ll add to your repertoire and make for years to come. This is a dessert that makes people happy and makes time in the kitchen more fun than usual, as is seen in this photo of “A” cracking up when she noticed what word is spelled by using the first four letters of the word “butter”:

Portland is a very cool city, and thanks to all you Portlanders who emailed to tell me your favorite places to eat and shop. Our schedule was a little bit hectic, but we did get to Voodoo Doughnuts (maple-bacon doughnuts, yummmm) as well as Caprial’s Bistro. I also got to spend time in my favorite grocery store, New Seasons. I know; I’m such a nerd – who goes on vacation and admits to having a favorite grocery store in a city? I had to go there to buy my supply of Stumptown Coffee beans – my favorite is “Hair Bender.” I like me some rocket fuel coffee in the mornz.

Speaking of coffee, I had the great fortune to meet and spend some time with Michael Ruhlman over a cup of coffee while I was in Portland. He was promoting his new book, The Elements of Cooking, at Portland’s Wordstock Festival. I’ve been a big fan of his writing for many, many years, and it was a great honor and joy to finally meet him. If you haven’t read any of his books yet, I strongly urge you to do so. He’s a remarkable storyteller and a gifted writer who covers somewhat technical topics in the most approachable way I’ve ever read. And, for those of you who regularly read the posts and comments on Ruhlman’s blog, I can report that in Portland, his hair was indeed quite awesome.

Before I go, one last thing: if you were on Southwest flight #3882 on Sunday night, I apologize if my chair-dancing to Timbaland’s “The Way I Are” and Justin’s “LoveStoned (I Think She Knows)” was distracting in any way. I was too busy writing this entry to realize I was popping and locking all over the damn place until the guy on the aisle laughed as he asked me what I was listening to. He’s just lucky I didn’t start beatboxing, because that would have been awesome. And by awesome, I mean completely humiliating.

Up Next: Chestnut Agnolotti with Fontina and Celery Root Purée

Apples, cranberries, nutmeg, eggs and cream from New Seasons
Flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and baking soda from Marisa’s pantry

Music to Cook By:
Because I had the house to myself, I had the TV on in the background tuned to General Hospital while I was cooking, and can I just say that I even though I haven’t watched this show in years, I’m not at all surprised to find that the Quartermaines are still as zany as they’ve ever been. We listened to quite a bit of music while I was in Portland, but the one song that is stuck in my head is perhaps one of the most annoying ones, ever. Remember this jingle from the 70s? “You can roll a Rolo to your pal; it’s chocolate-covered caramel. You can roll a Rolo to your chum; it’s chocolate and it’s chewy and it’s lots of fun. You can roll a Rolo to your friend; it’s chocolate-covered caramel from end to end!” Marisa started singing it in the car FOR NO REASON OTHER THAN TO SONG-POISON ME, and I STILL can't get it out of my head. Thänks ä löt, yöü bïçh. Mwah!!!!! I mean Mwäh!!!!


Stephanie said...

My faux-accent friend and I do a mean *extremely* bastardized French accent. Like a couple of very giggly, very dramatic Inspectors Clousseau.

This is the friend with whom I staged what has come to be known as The Thanksgiving of Bacon, where every single thing that was not actively a dessert had bacon or a cured pork product involved in it somehow. This included the turkey, which was festooned with bacon strips partway through the roasting.

The cake sounds delicious!

michael, claudia and sierra said...

i for one totally loved this post. i may even try this kuchen as it appears to be the one recipe in 'that' book that wouldn't make me want to kill myself. like that last one you made. wowee zowee. multi steps in the biggest of ways...

kuchen... i'm in.

Anita (Married... with dinner) said...

So, really, this is "French Laundry on the Road", if you wanna get technical. (And being faux-Cherman, I know you dü.)

Peter M said...

Great job on the dessrt but it would have turned out even better had you been listening to Motörhead!

Kevin Kossowan said...

I say: more cowbell AND more umlauts. I also endorse being an overuse-of-hyphon-kinda-person.

Anonymous said...

It's common knowledge that adding an umlaut to any word increases it's heavy-metal-ness by 18-24%. Röck ön.

Great post as always.

Anonymous said...

Very lovely dessert, indeed. And very nice that you were able to meet up with Ruhlman. Nice!

tammy said...

Oh Lordy, I think I just soiled myself. The comic value of umlauts is highly underrated.

Kitt said...


Here's a little Rollo inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Your preparation of this recipe looks delicious . . . and I may have to try it (or talk someone else into making it) for a pre-Thanksgiving meal my friends and I are doing this weekend . . . but that's not why I'm writing.

I'm writing because your (ab)use of the umlaut leads me to believe you might appreciate this Web site:

Yes, punctuation can be highly entertaining!

Beanie said... I need a good German beer, ja!

Sarah said...

Oh god now it is stuck in my head!!!
Great post, loved the 'german' and the cake looks yummy :)

Anonymous said...

Yah, I sink der Kolonel Klink vud like zis kaken.

Anonymous said...

>snerk< DG, I think I may try that arrussipe, it looks completely fabulous. I'm glad you had a good trip. Marisa, your daughter is adorable.

And here is where I need to tell you that when Great Grandpa Klaus came over on the boat, the nice folks at Immigration snatched the umlaut from his name and forced his granddaughter to correct the pronounciation for years to come.

Anonymous said...


I am reading your great blog since many weeks and today I have to tell you I laughed soo much. BTW, besides Mr. Zimmer I found Arnold Schwarzenegger also quite funny to listen with his heavy austrian accent.

Mach weiter so.........translation: Keep up your good work.......

Liebe Grüße aus Berlin/Germany

Anonymous said...

P.S. as a guest-gift my recipy for "Apfelstrudel"

Anonymous said...

Umlaut lovers, unite! If you are ever in the California wine country, you should visit Göpfrich winery in Dry Creek. The winery has all kinds of whimsical umlaut art, and their wine club is called the Umlaut Society. Fun place, and the wine is pretty good too. :-)

I'm not associated with them in any way, just like the wine and the umlauts.

Denise said...

I still have dreams of "Anything Goes" tap routines, only mine was from high school in New Jersey.

"If you want to please St. Peter, take up the Heaven Hop. . ." :-)

THERE! Now you have THAT song in your head! :-P

Anonymous said...

New Seasons is my favorite grocery store on the planet and I make a point of going there every single time I'm in Portland. Also, can I just tell you how much I love the fact that your best friend is named Marisa (there aren't too many of us out there) and that she lives in Portland (my home town). Ah, the world. She is a crazy place!

Anonymous said...

Next time-

-Pok Pok for northern Thai cuisine
-Paley's Place for anything on the menu
-Screen Door for brunch
-Pix, Pastaworks and Powell's Books for Cooks on Hawthorne Blvd
-Elephant's Delicatessen
-Kenny and Zuke's

And I'll accompany you to New Seasons. It's a daily trip for me!!!!!!

Marilyn said...

Now I really can't wait until Santa brings my book for Christmas! Hmm, shouldn't you be getting proceeds from the sales of this book?

Carol Blymire said...

Klosekraft: A Thanksgiving of bacon? What time should I be there?

Claudia: Yes, the kuchen is easy and you'll love it.

FoodRockzMan: Thanks for that link, which led me to many similar links, and thus five hours of further procrastination because that shit was hilARious!

Yay! Martin from Germany also loves umlauts -- wooo-hoooo!!!! Thank you for the Apfelstrudel recipe; I'll be sure to try it someday.

Denise: You're fired. I had Heaven Hop in my head all day. That is the worst song from that show!!! :)

Marisa: I know!!! Way cool.

Page: We tried to get into Paley's Place, but they were booked. Next time.

Marilyn: Nah, Keller deserves all the proceeds he gets. This book rocks.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious. My friends and I do the same, with both German and French (for example, my friend Gerard becomes a French "Zhay-rard-DUH"). Somehow it never stops being funny... This cake looks awesome! (Totally jealous about your meeting Ruhlman, btw.)

The Boo said...

ok.. i dont know you at all but I am Marisa's cousin and I just wanted to say I laughed out loud at this umlaut

"..and her husband, Rön"

Anonymous said...

Next time in Portland you must go to Sahagun Chocolates! Handmade single-origin artisan truffles, hot chocolate that will change your life...

Anonymous said...

Also make sure to come July - Sept at the peak of the Portland Farmers' Mkt!

Unknown said...

I think I'll do the kuchen for Thanksgiving, swapping pears for apples.

Jane said...

Even though this post is way old, I had to tell you it made me laugh out loud and I don't do that very often when reading blog posts (laughing quietly, yeah, but snickering aloud and somewhat uncontrollably, no!). I found it by hunting for a photo of--you guessed it-- a kuchen, and I'm so glad I did. You must be related to my husband, who frequently poses as a fake German (if he calls me "meinen schatzi" one more time I can't be held responsble!). Too funny!! Love your blog!

Jane :)