I don’t plan to turn this into a cooking blog, but in my September 27 post I promised the recipe for this tongue breaker of a cake: Zwetschgendatschi (click here for pronunciation), because it is one of the things that means fall to me. Plus I have no compunction about including recipes in my writing, so why not my blog?
First I’m sure you’re wondering what the hell this is. As some of you might know from my writing, I grew up in Bavaria, i.e. Southern Germany, and Zwetschgendatschi is a cake you will find served everywhere there in the fall, when the necessary prune plums are ripe.
“Zwetschge” means prune plum, but the origin of “Datschi” is unclear. I like the explanation that it comes from the Bavarian dialect word “datschen,” which means “to press flat.” This seems fitting as this cake is made of yeast dough that is spread out flat on a baking sheet and covered with a layer of prune plums, then sprinkled with streusel. The streusel are, however, a bone of contention: Many bake it without that topping, but for me it’s not complete without the streusel, and whenever I’m in Munich this time of year I hunt through the bakeries to find one with streusel.
This past week I found prune plumes at our local farmers market, so I bought them with the goal of making Zwetschgendatschi, and this weekend my daughter and I set about baking it. This was a team project because it was high time that I taught her how to make yeast dough. Following is the recipe with some how-to photos.
For the yeast dough:
4 cups flour
1 packet dry yeast
3/4 cup sugar
dash of salt
1 cup milk
1stick butter (unsalted)
grated rind of one lemon (important for flavor!)
Warm the milk until it’s lukewarm, sprinkle in the yeast, 1 tsp. sugar and 1 tsp. flour. Let this rise in a warm place (I heat my oven to 100F) for about 20 minutes until the top is frothy. In the meantime, cut 1/2 inch off the butter and place that on a baking sheet (You will need one with a rim.) for greasing, melt the rest of the butter. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl along with the lemon rind, then add the milk mixture, egg and melted butter. Work through the mixture with the kneading hooks of your handmixer until a solid ball of dough forms. Knead that with your hands for a few minutes, then place it back into the bowl and let it rise in a warm place for another 30 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare 2 pounds of prune plums: Wash, pat dry, then slice open on one side to remove the stone, then make two more incisions to flatten the prune into a fourfold, keeping the skin intact.
Next, prepare the streusel:
2 1/3 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter (unsalted)
Mix flour and sugar, then add melted butter using the kneading hooks of your hand mixer. This should result in coarse crumbs:
When the yeast dough has about doubled in size, scoop it out of the bowl with your hands and knead it through one more time before spreading it out on the greased baking sheet. This will take some pressing and pulling as the dough will be elastic and prone to “jumb back.”
Next, place the prunes on the dough in layered rows, with one fourfold prune overlapping another, as if you were laying shingles on a roof.
Then sprinkle the streusel over the prunes. We actually made a cake that was half Streuselkuchen, i.e. one half was only covered with streusel because my sons are not fond of the prune taste. For that half we mixed some raisins and chopped almonds into the streusel.
Then the whole cake is baked for 30 minutes at 350F. Below is what the final product looked like. In my husband’s opinion it tastes best fresh out of the oven, with a dollop of whipped cream, and that afternoon cup of coffee (see first photo).