South Dakota’s cookie is a mini pie version of apple kuchen, a traditional German dessert. It has a bread-like crust, tart spiced apple pie filling, and a creamy vanilla custard on top.
- Apple filling: “Fresh Apple Pie Filling II,” Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen. Page 298).
- Kuchen Cookie Cups: https://www.bobsredmill.com/recipes/how-to-make/kuchen-cookie-cups/
My Oma is German and I’ve never to my knowledge had kuchen. She’s made fruit cakes of course but nothing with custard like this. Like a few other recipes in the Bob’s Red Mill United States of Cookies, this isn’t really a cookie as much as a mini pie, or really a mini apfelkuchen
Kuchen is German for cake, and usually refers to a sweet yeast dough coffee cake, often containing fruit and nuts. Kuchen was designated as the Official Dessert of South Dakota in 2000.
So that explains why this is South Dakota’s cookie, and why the dough for the crust is essentially an enriched yeast dough. Something like a baguette or Italian bread is a lean yeast dough: pretty much just flour, water, yeast and salt. An enriched yeast dough adds fat like eggs and butter, and sugar.
The recipe said to either used canned filling or make your own. Luckily I am a classically trained pastry chef with access to my old textbook, which is great for basics like this, so I definitely was going to make my own.
If you don’t want a pie that’s runny, if you want your slices to keep their shape, do like the pros do and cooking and thicken the filling ahead of time. You can probably use the same recipe you are currently using the “old-fashioned method” with, only instead of combining, filling, and hoping, you can add more cornstarch slurry if it’s not thick enough for you. Saute the apples with a little butter and some of the sugar the recipe calls for, make a slurry of cornstarch and water, add it to the apples once they are slightly tender and stir while it comes to a boil and the liquid is clear again instead of cloudy, and the mixture thickens. Stir in the rest of the filling ingredients (usually the rest of the sugar and spices, sometimes lemon juice). Let it cool before filling your pie shell. Presto! No more soggy bottom crust either this way.
I was under the impression I was going to be using mini muffin tins for these to make them bite size, but the photos seemed to show regular size, and that would allow more filling in relation to the dough, so I went with that.
This recipe is yet another that committed the sin of imprecision: I didn’t know how much dough was supposed to go in each muffin well. The yield was somewhere between 24 and 36, so I weighed the dough and divided it by 24 to get about 1.6 oz per ball, and then used my bench scraper to divide and weigh each ball. They were each about the size of a golf ball.
Now it’s time to make the custard, or rather the pastry cream. Unlike my usual recipe, this uses flour as the thickener (I’m assuming more of the gluten-free mix, otherwise what was the point? This is also why you should “flour” your pans with cocoa powder when you make a “flourless” chocolate cake, people, otherwise your gluten-free friends aren’t really going to have a good time after all).
The procedure told me to add the egg gradually to the hot milk, but I did it the way I was trained and gradually tempered the hot milk into the egg before returning the whole mixture to the pan to whisk and thicken.
They’re not the prettiest, but are they tasty? After all, it seems a little weird. Bread dough with fruit filling and custard on top, who even thought of this?
Overall impressions: These are really tasty! They’re total comfort dessert: soft and slightly sweet cakelike bread for the crust, sweet-tart apple filling with a nice juiciness and spice, and sweet, creamy, eggy custard on top. I know I compared them to mini pies before, but I really get the cake qualities when I eat them. I still don’t think they’re quite a “cookie” (my son said, “Mama, I thought these were going to be cookies,”) but I’m definitely a fan. I feel like they could count as a breakfast pastry, or something for your afternoon “coffee and kuchen” which is a practice I wish would catch on in the US.
Tips and suggestions: Next time, divide the dough into balls and roll out into circles with a rolling pin. They really should have been much thinner instead of dominating like it did.
Next time: Tennessee Moon Pies. I’ve never had a moon pie (I know, right?) but these look like just my thing. It looks like I make my own marshmallow for the filling too, which I’ve done before and I’m psyched about.