Make this traditional treat – Grandma’s Peach Kuchen -topped with creamy homemade vanilla custard and fresh peaches. It’s the recipe made famous by my German grandma – and a small bakery in North Dakota!
In the middle-of-nowhere North Dakota, in the town of Ashley, the bakery Grandma’s Kuchen bakes up 350 homemade kuchens a day – in a garage. And apparently, Grandma’s bakes a peach kuchen that is as delicious as my own grandmother’s famous Peach Kuchen. Here’s how I know.
My parents drove through Ashley last week after hearing about Grandma’s Kuchen. They bought a peach kuchen and a raspberry one; and ate the peach one – all of it – while driving down the road. Luckily they were only a few miles away when they turned around and went back to Grandma’s Kuchen to get a raspberry-rhubarb kuchen, a cherry one, and another peach kuchen. They were that good.
My Mom called me from the car (when they again had cell reception in middle-of-nowhere North Dakota) and told me she had found THE perfect peach kuchen – and sent me these photos. And she reminded me of our shared quest to recreate my own grandma’s peach kuchen (her mom’s.)
Story behind the recipe
Years ago, I asked Mom for that peach kuchen recipe, but she said she’s thrown out Grandma’s Famous Peach Kuchen recipe! She said got frustrated with how inconsistent the recipe was; my grandma baked mainly from ‘look and feel and memory,’ not recipes.
So I’ve been trying to recreate my Grandma’s Peach Kuchen for almost 5 years. I’ve scoured hundreds of recipes. ‘Peach kuchen’ is literally translated as peach ‘cake’, so peach kuchen means something different to every baker. Traditional breakfast treat from my German grandmother: Grandma's Famous Peach Kuchen @TspCurry Click To Tweet
But the peach kuchen of my fond childhood memories had a thick, slightly-sweet yeast-bread ‘crust’ that was covered in about 1/2-inch of homemade vanilla custard (Grandma made it with fresh cream from the cow!) and fresh peaches, and then was baked. Other recipes I found had everything from cookie-like shortbread to poundcake to baking-powder-leavened quick bread for the ‘crust’. And it’s really tricky to get the custard to set up and get done in time before the yeast bread gets overdone and tough. Plus the custard soaks into the soft bread dough leaving a skimpy skim of custard – not the 1/2-inches of creamy thick custard.
But this year, I finally got it right!
Kuchen baking tips
That was thanks to a few tricks for baking a custard pie I learned from one of my favorite podcasts: Milk Street. I applied them to this kuchen:
- Pre-bake the ‘crust’ for a few minutes to keep the custard from soaking into the bread. (This is optional. I decided I liked the moist bread + custard center. So I did NOT pre-bake it – but if you do, I suggest baking for about 5 minutes.)
- Cook the custard on the stove to get it hot, and starting to thicken, before it goes into the oven. Then it will get done in time.
- Added the peaches at the end of the custard cooking time to warm. (I didn’t the first couple times and they cooled the custard down enough so it STILL didn’t get done.)
Here’s the recipe for Grandma’s Peach Kuchen – or you could drive the 534 miles from Billings, Montana like my parents did.Print