Breakfast Baking. Something I can rarely be bothered to do - I'd always rather plump for an extra half-hour in bed, and settle for a bowl of cereal. But last weekend was different. The weather was hot, really hot, and somehow as soon as I woke up and saw the sun shining outside, I couldn't stay in bed. On Saturday morning we ate breakfast in the garden, enjoying the sunshine before it got too warm (yes, I know it's hard to believe, but I am still in England!), and this set me thinking that breakfast in the sun is a great occasion and should be celebrated.
Finding some slightly out-of-date packets of dried yeast, plus feeling guilty about the rhubarb that was languishing in the bottom of the fridge spurred me on to search through How to Be a Domestic Goddess, my favourite Nigella book... I had a recollection of some kind of yeasted cake, or sweet bread, that used rhubarb - and there it was.
Kuchen is German for 'cake' but this is really a hybrid cake/bread recipe. I did as Nigella suggested and made up the rich dough recipe the night before, leaving it in the fridge to rise slowly overnight. I was a bit sceptical that this would work actually, but sure enough in the morning it had doubled in size. I brought it out of the fridge, pressed it into the tin and left it to come up to room temperature while I made the topping. The dough becomes easier to stretch as it warms up, so I didn't force it while it was fridge-cold.
I didn't have quite the required weight of rhubarb, so added some strawberries to make it up - rhubarb and strawberry are a great combination of flavours.
I also didn't want to make the crumble topping (just one step too far on a Sunday morning!) so sprinkled over some flaked almonds instead.
A mere hour or so after getting out of bed, this was baked and ready to eat. The dough was browned and puffy, and the fruits had oozed their sugary juices over the kuchen and into the pan.
And perfect with a cup of coffee in the garden (pyjamas obligatory!).
The recipe, if you don't have the book, is as follows:
Rhubarb Crumble Kuchen (serves 8)
350-400g strong white flour
½ teaspoon salt
50g caster sugar
3 ½g easy blend yeast (half a sachet), or 7g fresh yeast
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
grated zest of ½ a lemon (I omitted this, with no ill effects)
good grating of fresh nutmeg
125ml milk, warmed
50g unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 tablespoon cream
grating of fresh nutmeg
350g trimmed rhubarb, finely chopped (I had just less than 300g rhubarb and made up the weight with strawberries, also finely chopped)
75g caster sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
¼ teaspoon allspice (I omitted this)
30g unsalted butter, cold and diced
50g self raising flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon demerara sugar
Put 350g of the flour in a bowl with the salt, sugar and yeast. beat the eggs and add them, with the vanilla, lemon zest and nutmeg, to the lukewarm milk. Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients to make a medium soft dough, being prepared to add more flour as necessary. Nigella says she generally uses 400g but advises you start off with the smaller amount and just add extra as needed. Work in the soft butter and knead by hand for about 10 minutes (or using the dough-hook in the KitchenAid for about 5 minutes as I did).
When the dough is ready it will appear smoother and springier – it suddenly seems to 'plump up to glossy life' as Nigella puts it so eloquently.
Cover with a tea towel and leave until it doubles (1-1¼ hours) or leave to rise slowly in a cold place (the fridge is fine) overnight if you want to have this for breakfast (let the dough come back to room temperature before using it).
Punch down and stretch to line a swiss-roll tin (c30cm x 20cm) which you have lined with greaseproof paper. if you are struggling to get it stretch to fill the tin, leave it to rest for 10 minutes mid-stretch. Leave to prove for 15-20 minutes while you preheat the oven to 200c.
When the dough is ready, beat the egg and cream together, grate in some nutmeg and brush the mixture over the dough. This gives a gloriously glossy topping to the Kuchen.
Stir the rhubarb together with the sugar and allspice but don’t do this until the last minute as the sugar makes the rhubarb release its water. Sprinkle the rhubarb-sugar mix over the egg-washed dough.
To make the crumble topping (although flaked almonds are just fine!), rub the cold diced butter into the flour until becomes like sand and then stir in the sugars with a fork. Top the fruit with the crumble.
Put in the oven for 15 minutes then turn down to 180c and cook for a further 15-20 minutes, until the dough is swelling and golden at the edges and cooked within.
Remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 15 minutes. Slice and eat, still warm. In your pyjamas.
I can't wait to try this with other fruits! I think it could work well with many other toppings. I have a bag of foraged blackberries in the freezer, so I think that will be my next Kuchen, perhaps also with apple as Nigella suggests in this alternative Kuchen recipe.