To continue our German food fest: after the potato salad and cheese dip, it’s just about time for a scrumptious German pastry! My favorite is mohnkuchen, a moist cake (kuchen) often rolled into a spiral and cut into slices, like a French bûche cake. The above photo shows a mohn-pastry with yummy streusel topping.
The mohn in mohnkuchen looks like chocolate, but you’d get a surprise if you bit into a piece. This lightly sweetened, pleasantly gritty filling is made out of a less conventional ingredient. A riddle may provide the answer: How is a lemon muffin like an everything bagel? If you answered that they both contain garlic, you would be wrong. If you guessed onion, you’re slightly more wrong. Sesame seeds?–getting warmer, but think cuter and more sprinkly. Ah yes, those things–poppy seeds!
As my riddle suggests, in the American baking tradition poppy seeds don’t seem to be good for much, apart from skewing urine test results and making toothpicks into honest working men. That’s because their slightly bitter, dusky, nutty and gritty complexities aren’t revealed in a mere sprinkling. To make their effect these granular little guys must arrive on the scene en masse and in full force, like a frenzied mob or a locust swarm. A touch of cream, a hint of vanilla, a swirl of honey, or a note of fleur d’oranger is a balancing accompaniment.
Always buy poppy seeds fresh from your favorite market, as like the most intriguing flavors they advance quickly past their prime. Ideally the seeds should be lightly crushed to release their fragrant oils, but this can prove to be a bit of a challenge. Repurposing a coffee grinder for the task might be your best bet–and a nice roast with poppy seed undertones afterwards to accompany your cake wouldn’t be unfair compensation. Poppy seed filling needs to be moist and does well when comfortably wrapped in cake layers or covered with streusel topping. Like elbows and knees, it is prone to dustiness and dry patches, so do not overbake. Powdery cake filling is no one’s friend.
The recipe below is for poppy seed pie made with the typical German mohn filling, streusel topping, and a spoony finishing glaze. To me this sounds like a most excellent way to eat mohnkuchen, but bakers may feel free to adapt the filling to any pastry dough of their preference.
Poppy Seed Pie (Mohnkuchen)
adapted from bakeclub.yolasite.com
- 1 1/2 cup (375 ml) milk or cream
- 1/4 cup (50 g) butter
- 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar or honey
- 9 0z. (250 g) poppy seeds, crushed
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla or fleur d’oranger
- 1 1/4 cup (250 g) flour
- 2/3 cup (125 g) cold butter, cut into cubes
- 1 egg
- 3 Tbsp (30 g) sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- a few teaspoons cold water, as needed
- 1/3 cup (100 g) cold butter, cut into cubes
- 7/8 cup (100 g) flour
- 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
- 2 Tbsp milk
- 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- pinch salt
- For the filling: mix the poppy seeds and egg in a bowl. Heat milk, butter, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan, stirring constantly, until butter is melted. Stir the hot mixture slowly into the dry ingredients and let cool.
- For the dough: mix flour, salt, sugar, then stir in the egg. Mix in cold butter cubes and incorporate with fingers until dough is smooth, even, and firm but moist. Add water if necessary to bring dough together.
- For the streusel: mix the flour and sugar. Blend in the butter with your fingers just until crumbly and refrigerate.
- Line the bottom of a springform with baking paper. Grease the sides well. Roll out the pie crust so that it goes about half way up the sides of the springform. Pour the filling in. Bake at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) for about 20 min. Then spread streusel topping evenly across the top and bake for another 20 -25 minutes, or until streusel is golden brown.
- For the glaze: pour milk into a small bowl. Stir in powdered sugar little by little, until smooth. Mix in the salt.
- Spoon immediately onto pie and let harden.