Thursday, June 21, 2012

Not all pies are created equal

I think pie is swell. I love making and eating all kinds of pie. Apple, pumpkin, key lime, pecan, and chocolate mousse are all delicious. Savory variations are also fabulous in my book: a good pizza pie is worth traveling for, and I do enjoy a good slice of quiche for brunch. But not all pies are created equal.

Now, I know tastes are a very personal thing. I know this as someone who does not particularly like cake. That being said, I give a lot of extra leway to pie-type foods. I even give what is blatantly a cake trying to go undercover, AKA Boston Creme Pie, a pass. But if there is one style of pie-like concoctions that I am just not ok with, it's the German kuchen.

Now, I don't know if anyone who is reading this grew up in a German family or perhaps is from Germany. My paternal great grandparents were German. I love hearty German breads, cheeses, and deli meats. I think Ritter Sport make a pretty tasty chocolate bar. And I think German cars are very cool. So please know this is my personal opinion and I mean no offense when I say that I. HATE. KUCHEN.

The internet tells me that kuchen is the German word for cake....which explains so much. The thing is, I grew up in Chile, and the first time I remember ever tasting a kuchen, someone tried to pass it off to me as PIE. It was shaped like a pie. It had apples on top, like pie. But the crust with this super dry cake-like crumbly mess that was definitely NOT pie-like. It was disappointing. And it made me a little angry. But I let it go. When I was offered kuchen again, I gave it another chance. This time it had a nutty struessel topping, and again, it looked promising. But once again, underneath the nice sweet nutty buttery topping, was this dry crumbly non-flavorful grossness.  I was disappointed, but it was supposed to be a pie, so I gave it another pass.

Over the years I've had kuchen made by old German nuns. I've had it made in high-end bakeries. I've had it from a supermarket. I've had it homemade. I've had it covered in fruit, with cheese, with nuts, and with a mixture of all those ingredients. I was either disappointed in or flatout disliked every single variety. And every time I would taste a piece, my anger toward this thing, this thing that people would continually tell me was a German pie when it was ever-so-clearly NOT, grew. It grew to the point where I feel the need to write a post about it, warning people against it.

But the thing is, it's not horrible, really. A lot of kuchen is very coffee cake-like, or a cross between a coffee cake and tarte. So if you like that kind of thing, by all means, go for it. I'm done with the stuff personally, but I know my bias owes a lot to false advertising. And to the fact that I don't really like cake.

Epicurious has this recipe for Streusel Küchen that has 4-fork user rating, 82% would make it again.  People like it. If you don't have a German bakery nearby, maybe you can try to make it, form your own opinion. Just don't ask me to have any, because I'm done with the stuff. But if you have some fresh key limes you want to unload, I will happily turn those puppies into one fine, honest-to-goodness pie. :)

Key Lime Pie = yes please
Pizza pie = yeah, I'll try it

Cherry kuchen. I'll pass.

Nut kuchen. May look good, but no.


  1. I totally get it; it's like my hatred of flan. I hate flan because of false advertising; I was told it was "pudding" and I expected something resembling the chocolatey custard stuff Dr Cosby was so fond of. Had I not been misled, I might have appreciated it more.

    I like kuchen fine...but I would never call it a pie. Coffee-cake, maybe. But not pie. Not even close. But then again, I also wouldn't call McDonalds' apple pie a pie. I don't know what it is (other than inedible), but it's not a pie.

    1. A lot of versions I've seen of kuchen look very pie-like, at least at first glance. None taste like it though. I wouldn't call a McD's applie pie a pie either, and I actually find them quite edible, they are one of the few things I can still eat from there.

      As for flan - so sorry you were duped by false advertising and hate it. A good homemade flan is one of my favorite desserts.