Sunday, July 29, 2012

Snacking State-by-State: South Dakota II - If you can't stand the cake, get into the kuchen

South Dakota is one of the few states with its own official state dessert, cake.  Or should I say kuchen, which is German for "cake".  With its large German American population, South Dakota's specifically German cake should be of little surprise as an official dessert.

Official Name: State of South Dakota
State Nickname: The Mount Rushmore State
Admission to the US: November 2, 1889 (#40)
Capital: Pierre (8th largest)
Other Important Cities: Sioux Falls (largest), Rapid City (2nd largest), Aberdeen (3rd largest)
Region: Midwest, Great Plains; West North Central (US Census)
RAFT Nations: BisonPinyon Nut
Bordered by: North Dakota (north), Minnesota (east), Nebraska (south), Wyoming & Montana (west)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: fry bread (bread), honey bee (insect, for the honey), kuchen (dessert), milk (drink), ring-necked pheasant (bird), walleye (fish), Western wheat grass (grass, though I imagine few people drink the wheat grass concoctions popular with health nuts elsewhere in the country),
Some Famous and Typical Foods: Native American foods, especially those of the Great Plains (wojapi, fry bread, Bannock bread, and so on, as well as traditional foods such as pemmican and wahuwapa wasna); German and Eastern European foods, including kuchen & chislic 

South Dakota officially made kuchen the official state dessert in 2000, after a hard fought (okay, maybe not that hard, but quite delicious) struggle the previous legislative session.  In his article "Cookin' Kuchen", Trevor Guthmiller - as referenced by the North Dakota State University Library's "Germans from Russia Heritage Collection" - points out that kuchen was an important part of South Dakota culture long before that.

German immigrants brought kuchen to South Dakota in the 1880s. Homesteaders often brought very little with them besides their clothes, basic tools, self- sufficiency and a determination to face the challenges that a rough and unsettled South Dakota threw at them...Many came directly from Germany, others most recently from Russia. Their hard work and agricultural prowess turned McPherson County [where many settled] into one of the largest wheat- producing areas in the country... 
To understand why kuchen is such a staple in McPherson County, you must understand the heritage of the people who live there. In 1990, 2,758 residents [the single largest ethnic group in the county] listed their primary ancestry as German... Eureka holds a Schmeckfest every fall, and Leola celebrates Rhubarb Day every other July, and kuchen is prominently featured in those events. There aren’t many lutefisk feeds in this part of the state; it’s a kuchen- eatin’ crowd if there ever was one. [Guthmiller 2004]
There are many different varieties of kuchen: those based on fruits, on cottage cheese, on cream cheese, on a streussel-type filling, and so on.  So it must have been a difficult choice to pick one to be the state's official dessert.  The one that was put in place: the apple and cream cheese kuchen.  The South Dakota state government [South Dakota Secretary of State Office 2007: 14] even prints the complete "official state recipe" in a government publication.  Good luck getting them to do that in Annapolis for Smith Island cake.

The recipe I interpret below is the official kuchen recipe of the state of South Dakota, on page 14 of the 2007 South Dakota Legislative Manual.  Since this is a government publication, I could copy and quote the recipe word for word, but you can look it up yourself.

The Recipe: Kuchen

For the official South Dakota kuchen recipe assemble the following:

For the crust, you will need:

* regular flour (have it)
* sugar (same)
* salt (yup, have that, too)
* vanilla (got it)
* butter (this I would have had, were it not for that wretched derecho that knocked out power in my neighborhood - and many neighborhoods throughout the Mid-Atlantic - for at least five whole days.  Another $2 for some new butter.  This should be cold but it worked fine at room temperature for me),

For the cream cheese filling that goes on top of the crust, you will need:

* more vanilla and sugar
* cream cheese (a pound, or two blocks, each about $2 at Harris Teeter)
* an egg (at room temperature - this also had to be replaced thanks to that damn storm)

And for the apple topping, you will also need

* still more sugar
* cinnamon (had it)
* and, of course, apples (I got three Granny Smiths for about $2 total)

Mix together the dry ingredients for your crust.  Use a mixer or just a spoon.

Cut in the butter and add the vanilla.

And press the dough into a lightly greased 9" x 13" pan.  Put in a preheated 450°F oven for about 15 minutes.  When done, take out and cool it down, also reducing your oven to 400°F.

While the crust is baking, peel, core and thinly slice your apples and set aside.

Mix together your filling ingredients, apart from the egg, again with a mixer or a spoon.

Add the egg...

...and mix thoroughly.

Pour the filling over the baked crust and spread out evenly.

Next, mix together your sugar and cinnamon.

Arrange the apple slices over the filling as tightly as possible.  Although I cut up three apples, I could barely fit half of the slices on top.

 Cover with the cinnamon and sugar, and bake for 20 minutes.

With as many components as this recipe has, it is easier than it seems.  It's best served cold I find, and easier to cut for that matter.  The apples are still a little crunchy and the cream cheese is a nice, sweet complement to them.  Now just imagine all the other recipes for kuchen I could have done!

- - - - -

Now we're done with South Dakota, and it's time to head southward to the home of of bluegrass, Memphis BBQ and the one and only Miss Dolly Parton!  We are ringing the bell(e)s of Tennessee next week!


Globetrotter ( user).  "Chislic (South Dakota Treat)".  Posted January 21, 2011.  © Copyright 2006-2012, The Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond). All rights reserved.

Guthmiller, Trevor T. "Cookin’ Kuchen: Naming a German Pastry the State Dessert Adds Spice to Life in McPherson County".  South Dakota Magazine, February 2004, 58-61.  Posted on the "Germans from Russia Heritage Collection" website (North Dakota State University Library).

Johnson, Laura. "Viborg's Pancake Balls".  South Dakota  Posted June 21, 2012.  Copyright 2012 South Dakota Magazine.  All rights reserved.

McSpaden, Cheri. "There’s not much to chislic".  The Holland (Michigan) Sentinel website ( Posted December 1, 2008.  Copyright 2012 The Holland Sentinel.  All rights reserved.

Preheim, Rich.  "The Chislic Circle".  South Dakota  Originally printed in the July/August 2005 issue of the print issue of the Magazine.  Copyright 2012 South Dakota Magazine.  All rights reserved.

South Dakota Magazine.  "What We Eat.  How We Eat.  Who We Are."  South Dakota (posted on the magazine's blog).  Posted August 26, 2010.  Copyright 2012 South Dakota Magazine.  All rights reserved.

State of South Dakota. "Chapter 1" of the 2007 South Dakota Legislative Manual.  Copyright 2007, State of South Dakota.

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "South Dakota" page and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "South Dakota".