A great thing about kuchen is that it comes in so many styles and flavors. While this is good, it sometimes led to divisions at the dinner table. Adults preferred rhubarb and prune kuchen, while children favored apple, peach or strawberry. To get around this, my mother often made a sugar kuchen, which she knew everyone would like. Her recipe is flexible enough to make kuchen with or without fruit.
When cooks made kuchen to feed men working in the field, they didn’t make just one; they made several, and extras to freeze. Great-aunt Edna’s original recipe makes about eight kuchen. To make fewer, adjust the ingredients. Or make eight, some plain and some with fruit.
Soak the yeast in the 2/3 cup water with the one tablespoon sugar. Let set 10 minutes. In a large bowl, mix the shortening, sugar and eggs with a mixer. Add in the salt and scalded milk. Add in the yeast mixture.
Mix in 3 cups flour. Add remaining flour a little at a time to make a soft dough. Grease a large bowl as you usually do for rising dough and place dough in bowl, flip the dough over to grease the top. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled--at least 1-2 hours.
While dough is rising, combine all ingredients for custard topping in 2 quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick. Be sure to stir it constantly as it will burn. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Once dough has risen, punch down dough and make into kuchens. I divide the dough in half and then divide each half into fourths. Grease 8 9-inch pie pans. I use non-stick spray. Form each piece of dough into ball and then press dough out and up sides of greased pans.
Add fruit filling to each kuchen. I use any of the following: cherry pie filling, cooked prunes, fresh sliced peaches or peach pie filling as well as cottage cheese filling. Top each kuchen with a few spoons full of the now cooled custard filling and spread across fruit. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Let kuchen rise 10 minutes.
Bake about 20 minutes at 350 or until edges are a light golden brown. Remove from pan and let cool on wire rack. As soon as you remove the kuchen from the oven, brush the edges with melted butter to keep them soft. You can leave them in the pans to cool. If I bake these in foil pans, then I just let them cool in the pan. Cover and store in refrigerator or place in ziplock bag and freeze. These freeze well and will taste great reheated in the oven or microwave.