Winter Fruit Kuchen
As awesome as it is to bake loads of holiday cookies, boil up sticky sugar syrups for Christmas candies, and otherwise revel in the creation of seasonal desserts and edible gifts for the entire month of December, I have a particular soft spot for Christmas morning baking. Just the thought of frosted windows, a glowing tree atop a mound of glossy wrapped presents, Bing Crosby on the stereo, the pitter-patter of cozy jammied feet scurrying down the stairs, and the smell of spicy-sweet breakfast treats wafting from the kitchen make all the holiday rush worth it. Oh, the joy of Christmas morning!
Granted, that moment lasts all of about six minutes until someone pulls someone else's hair, or trips over said cozy jammied feet landing square on the poor dog, or knocks a mug of coffee onto the carpet while tearing at wrapping paper like a clown on fire. But that's why God gave us coffee in the first place, and the allowance to eat all the pastries we want for breakfast on Christmas day. The promise of homemade baked goods, preferably something yeast-risen, will buoy us all through the madness.
So the trick to making Christmas morning baking work, of course, is pulling together as many elements as possible the night before. Here, the dough, streusel, and fruit can all be prepped in advance (however, if you are so #blessed to have a quiet, calm Christmas morning where you are, this baking project is still totally doable in one go without prepping ahead) . It also doesn't hurt if you use the best ingredients possible, like really great butter, vibrant organic fruit, high-quality unbleached flour and sugars, and some baking inspiration from your German ancestors. Because dang, if those folks don't know a good holiday breakfast sweet.
Although I do still use standard-issue white granulated sugar for baking from time to time, I get unnaturally excited over the difference made by using good organic granulated and powdered cane sugars in a recipe--without the extra refining and bleaching, cane sugars like those from Wholesome!™ have a fuller, almost cleaner flavor when compared to the norm. And perhaps I need to get out more often and stop pontificating so much about sugar, but I also find that powdered organic cane sugars have the same next-level quality, not only because they have that aforementioned organic cane sugar as the base, but contain tapioca starch instead of cornstarch as the secondary ingredient to create the "powdered" effect; to me, it just has a better mouthfeel in a frosting or glaze. I believe "much more general yumminess" is the technical term, here.
And when you require a lot of glaze (ahem, like me), you can definitely notice a difference when you're using the good stuff. Glaze it up Pollock style, girl!
With summer waaaayyyy in the rear view, we might not be thinking so much about seasonal fruits these days, but don't forget winter brings a few of its own gems--apples of all sorts, of course, but citrus, pears, persimmons, and pomegrantes, too. Really, any combination of those would be absolutely delicious here, especially swapping out the lemon zest in the dough for orange, or playing with the citrus even further by candying it. You could also incorporate some chunky preserves in whatever flavor you love, right below the fruit layer. With a perfectly golden, buttery, yeast-risen canvas as your base and a blanket of salty-sweet, nutty streusel to top things off, you really can't go wrong with whatever your holiday spirit desires for the filling. Ring the bells!
Winter Fruit Kuchen
Now, I get it--there are steps, more steps, and then a couple more steps, here. It seems like a lot to do. But let's break it down. First, Christmas morning only happens once a year; do it UP. Second, everything here can be prepped ahead of time.
For example, instead of letting the dough rise for 90 minutes at room temperature the day of baking, let it rise in the fridge overnight. The streusel can be made ahead and refrigerated, the fruit sliced and tossed with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent discoloration and chilled overnight as well. Then all that's left to do in the morning is patting out the dough, assemble, bake, glaze, and chow down with one hand while tearing open presents with the other.
For the dough:
2 3/4 cups (12 3/8 ounces/350 grams) unbleached bread flour 1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces/67 grams) Wholesome!™ Organic Cane Sugar 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (about half a packet) 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt 1/2 cup (4 ounces/113 grams) milk (low fat works fine) 2 large eggs, at room temperature 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 4 tablespoons (2 ounces/57 grams) unsalted butter, very soft
For the streusel:
1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces/65 grams) all-purpose flour 3/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt 1 1/2 tablespoons Wholesome!™ Organic Cane Sugar 1 1/2 tablespoons Wholesome!™ Organic Turbinado Raw Cane Sugar 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 4 tablespoons (2 ounces/57 grams) unsalted butter, very cold, diced 1/3 cup (1 ounce/28 grams) sliced almonds
For the fruit topping and assembly:
1 large egg 1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon Pinch of fine sea salt 1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices 2 medium Fuyu persimmons, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds 1/3 cup (2 5/8 ounces/75 grams) pomegranate seeds
For the glaze:
1 cup (4 1/4 oucnes/120 grams) Wholesome!™ Organic Powdered Sugar 2 tablespoons milk 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract Pinch of fine sea salt
Begin by making the dough: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg. With the mixer running on low speed, pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix to combine. Add the softened butter and mix until no traces of butter remain. The dough should be soft and somewhat sticky, but should come off the sides of the bowl--if it's any looser than that, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until the dough pulls off the sides of the bowl.
Switch from the paddle to the dough hook, and knead on medium speed for about 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the mixer and finish kneading by hand for a few minutes, until the dough is soft, plump, and slightly springy under your hands. (You shouldn't need to flour your kneading surface because of the butter in the dough).
Place the dough back in the mixing bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, which can take anywhere from 1 to 1 1/2 hours--the dough is ready when you can sink your finger into the surface and an indentation remains without springing back. (You can also allow the dough to rise overnight in the refrigerator.)
While the dough is rising, prepare the streusel: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the sugars, cinnamon, and nutmeg and stir to combine. Add the cold butter, and work into the dry ingredients until the mixture is uniformly crumbly. Add the sliced almonds and toss to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to 2 days ahead.
When you're ready to bake, position an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 400°F. Have ready an 8-by-12-inch quarter sheet pan or jelly roll pan of similar size. Turn the dough out onto the pan and pat it out evenly to fill the pan (if the dough is cold from the fridge, you may need to let it rest a few minutes here and there to make it more pliable). Cover the pan with a clean towel or plastic wrap and let rise for 15 minutes.
Whisk together the egg, milk, cinnamon, and salt until liquified and well-blended. Use a pastry brush to brush the egg wash all over the dough. Lay the sliced apple and persimmons over the dough, and scatter over the pomegranate seeds. Sprinkle the streusel evenly and generously over the top.
Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake until puffed and golden, 15 to 20 minutes more. Let cool for several minutes in the pan set over a wire rack.
In a small bowl, make the glaze by whisking together the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla extract, and pinch of salt until smooth. Remove the kuchen to a cutting board. Drizzle the glaze all over the kuchen, and let the glaze set for a few minutes before cutting into 12 equal pieces. Store any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days, reheating with a quick zap in the microwave.
This post is sponsored by the good people of Wholesome!™. Products and compensation provided by Wholesome!™; all opinions are my own. You can always trust that I'll only share information and products with you that I personally love and use in my own kitchen.