I was thumbing through my favorite spice magazine. Okay. Let's get this out of the way - some people read gossip mags, some like the cerebral-sciency type of mags. If you're like The Hubster, perhaps you like fishing magazines. Personally, I find it extremely provocative to carefully peruse the free quarterly magazine sent to our home that houses all the gorgeous spices and seasonings, and all the published recipes sent in by "others" like me.
So I was thumbing through my favorite spice magazine, and I came across a picture that stopped me in my tracks. It was a warm photo showing layers of sliced apple, caramelized and formed into some sort of delicacy unlike any I had ever seen. I did one of those things we do to get an even closer look - you know, like when you fold the magazine in half and then hold it right up to your face, or tilt it from side-to-side as if to see around the item in the picture? I looked to the left of the photo and saw the title of the recipe: "Grandma's Apple Kuchen". (pronounced koo-ken)
I knew this recipe was meant for me and I knew I had to conquer it. I wasn't sure why, but I just knew. I made my shopping list right away. There were a few obstacles to overcome in order to make this happen. Hey, nothing good comes easy, right? It called for a very specific-sized glass pan I didn't have, nor had I ever heard of, and a few ingredients that were not easily found in a regular grocery store.
As fate would have it, I was in my local Goodwill spot and heard something calling my name. "I'm over here, She!" There, with what seemed to be a rainbow with confetti streaming down over it, was the odd-sized glass pan. $2.99?? I think I can handle that. Check. I perused Amazon to find the specific ingredients needed and found them. CHECK!! Sunday Supper was looking like the perfect time to make Grandma's Kuchen. In my mind, I could see the proud faces of my family and hear all the accolades I would be receiving. Oh yea. Meant to be. This was going to be PERFECT.
I carefully did exactly as the recipe said. I painstakingly sliced the apples so that they were uniform and lovely. I whisked with fury, and stirred with passion. I slowly placed each apple slice in layers to be ever-so-exact. And into the oven it went. And THE AROMA!! The smell of the vanilla, the cinnamon, the apples!! I cleaned the mess that is usually left on the path behind you when you work so hard to achieve greatness. The kitchen. But I wasn't bitter. Oh, no. Not with what was waiting on the other side of that oven door.
The timer went off. The potholders came out. The oven door was opened. And there, Ladies and Gentlemen, was THE KUCHEN.
I took it out of the oven with tears in my eyes. I breathed in the hard work I had seen come to fruition, and set it down on my granite counter. I stepped to the doorway and proudly announced, "The kuchen ...... is cooling." And the smiles of anticipation spread across the faces of The ManChild and The Hubster. I was in the clear. My artwork was complete. Now all we need do was eat it.
I walked back over to it to rest on my laurels. Of course I did. I couldn't help but stare at this incredible beauty as it cooled and brought us all closer to being one with its tasty morsels. And then, BOOM!
You may find what I'm about to say hard to believe. But every word is true. Out of nowhere, the kuchen exploded. I mean EX. PLO. DED. Glass hit my arms, my neck, my face, luckily missing my eyes. Kuchen hit the walls, the floor, the ceiling. The sound of it was deafening. Cameron and Adrian came running into the kitchen, only to see me standing there, eyes wide with shock and arms out in the air to my sides, as if I were attempting to fly. "WHAT HAPPENED?!?" I just stared at them. "WHAT HAPPENED, She?!?" And the tears began to flow. "Are you okay?? What happened?" I looked up at them, giant tears streaming now, and screamed at the top of my lungs (get ready for it)" "MY KUCHEN EXPLODED!!"
I wish you could have seen the pity-slash-comical-slash-confused looks on their faces. The "awwwwwwww"s coming out of their mouths, rolling from deep inside their souls for me as they both put their arms around me to console my broken spirit were so sincere. All that hard work. All that mountain climbing to get to the top, only to slide back down. Everything I had worked SO HARD FOR. Ruined.
Or was it? Those two went into action. They cautiously cleaned me up, and led me to the couch with a tall glass of wine. They cleaned up the kitchen. They loved on me. They offered me kuchen condolences all night. And I was reminded that life was good, even and especially in the moments we think it isn't.
I changed that recipe to morph it into my own and chose simple ingredients and more practical tools to do so. I make it often and think of that day every single time I do. I know it grew me and helped me stretch and climb. I know it taught me that there is almost always a mess left behind you when you work hard, not to rest on my laurels, and to understand that in all toil there is profit. I know it helped me see what's really important. All that because the kuchen hit the fan.
Sometimes the most beautiful things can explode in your face, even if you think you've conquered something after a long, arduous process, and it turns out incredible ...... you feel proud and think you're in the clear. And then, BOOM. What was once lovely artwork is in pieces everywhere, reminding you how truly delicate life can be.
Be careful and practical as you stretch and climb, but climb just the same. Know that when something goes wrong after you've worked so hard, it is only to show you what's really important so that you don't lose sight of it. And NEVER put a hot kuchen in a glass pan on a granite counter.
SHE'S CONDOLENCE KUCHEN
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 stick butter, cold and cut up
2 egg yolks
2 tsp milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 medium-sized green apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbs flour
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbs butter, cold and cut
Combine all streusel ingredients into small mixing bowl and blend with your fingers until the mixture resembles small crumbs. Set aside.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and butter. Use your fingers to blend all the kuchen ingredients to large-crumb consistency. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks then add the vanilla extract and milk. Pour milk mixture into the crumbled dry ingredients and mix until it is just blended. Press this dough into the bottom and up the sides of a prepared baking dish.
Arrange the apple slices in three lengthwise rows on top of the crust. Sprinkle the streusel mixture over the apples. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the apples look glazed and caramelized.