Friday, January 3, 2014

Christmas Dinner, Part 2: Nusskuchen in a Dutch Oven

Nusskuchen (pronounced like: NOOS-COO-khen) is a German nut cake.  In fact, it’s a direct translation. “Nuss” means “nut”, and “kuchen” means “cake”. In our family, my mother made it every Christmas time. It’s not for everyone, because it’s a very dry and heavy cake, not light and fluffy like most cakes we Americans are used to.  The glaze gives it a bit more moisture.  Still I love the nutty and cocoa laden taste.  When mom made it, she usually used walnuts, because we had them falling from the trees in our backyard every fall. Since my wife’s tongue gets sores from walnuts, I used hazelnuts.  Pecans or english walnuts would also work.

NussKuchen

8” Dutch oven

6-7 coals below
10-12 coals above

1/2 cups + 1 tbsp butter
1/2 cups + 1 tbsp sugar
2 Eggs

3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup corn starch
3 Tbsp cocoa

1/2 cup + ground or chopped hazelnuts or walnuts
1 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)


Before I start in on the instructions, let me say a few words about the ingredients.  First of all, my mom’s original recipe used the all-purpose flour and the corn starch.  I’m told that it’s actually a way of conveniently substituting for cake flour, so I think you could try this with 1 full cup of cake flour.  Second, the dark Chocolate Chips was my addition.  I like the dark chocolate because it seems to blend well with the flavors of the cocoa and the nuts.

Notice also that there is no leavening in the ingredients.  No yeast, no baking soda or baking powder.  That’s one of the things that makes it so dense.  Still, to make it a bit lighter, it’s important to start the ingredients at room temperature and cream the butter and the sugar a lot.  You want to get as much air into the mixture as possible.

So, I started with that process, using a slotted metal spoon back.  It took a very long time, and it was a real workout, but eventually it got to the point where it looked like a fluffy frosting.  Then, while continuing to beat the mix, I added the eggs in, one at a time.

Then, I took a break and mixed all of the powdered ingredients in another bowl.  I sifted the flour so as to get even a bit more aeration. Once that was done, I lit the coals.  In this case, I just went out and made sure that there were new fresh coals in the chimney, as I was cooking the bacon-turkey in the previous blog entry.  Then I prepared the Dutch oven.  I oiled and floured the interior. I would have put down a disc of parchment, but I couldn’t find it.  Oh, well.

With the Dutch oven ready, and the coals getting hot, I blended the wet and dry ingredients.  It wasn’t easy, but I beat them together with as much vigor as I could muster, again, to get as much air as possible into the batter. Finally, added in the nuts and the chocolate chips, mixing some more. I poured it into the Dutch oven and took that out onto the coals.

It did take a long time to bake, and it was kind of difficult to tell, since it’s a pretty dry mix.  Go easy on any replenishment, especially of the bottom coals, because it’s very easy for the bottom to burn. I Checked it at about 45 minutes, and it was done.  While was cooking I made the simple glaze.

1/2 cup powdered sugar
hot water or milk to texture

I simply measured out the powdered sugar into a bowl and added in bits of the hot liquid while stirring with a small whisk.  After a few additions of the liquid, it started to look like a drizzle, and I just dusted in a little more sugar to thicken it back up.

When the nusskuchen is done, take it off the coals and let it cool with lid off.  Upend the Dutch oven and use your hand to steady the cake out.  Slice it and serve it with the glaze.  It’s got tones of sweet and bitterness that combine nicely.  I really love it!


Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including MarkHansenMusic.com and his MoBoy blog.

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