Here in Forchheim there are fruiting trees everywhere you look. Almost every yard has an apple tree and a walk down the street is a parade of cherries, pears, apples, walnuts and plums. Zwetschgen are small plums about the size of a plum tomato with the shape and color of a grape.
What’s funny about this season is that for the most part there seems to be only one acceptable use for Zwetschgen:
I have actually seen two other culturally relevant items made with Zwetschgen: Schapps and Jam but I’m not exaggerating when I report that even with Jam and schnapps competing for the spotlight, Zwetschgenkuchen reigns supreme as queen of the season.
It’s a type of Plum cobbler. It has a cakey crust and is then topped with the Zwetschgen. God help someone who is allergic because everyone is baking it and anyone who invites you for coffee and cake (an every day occurrence around 3pm) will offer you Zwetschgenkuchen until they run out. For example, Jola’s brother (Onkel Conrad) drops off two baskets full of Zwetschgen every Thursday and she bakes the cakes until the next week when he brings more! Additionally it’s remarkable to note that the interest in baking, distilling or canning Zwetschgen is not limited to senior citizens. It seems to include all age groups–Zwetschgen is literally trending on Facebook over here.
There are recipe variations of course. Tante (Aunt) Sonya sprinkles the Zwetschgen on top of the crust and then adds a crumbly streusel topping before baking. Jola’s version has the Zwetschgen lined up like little soldiers and sprinkled with cinnamon. It’s tasty both ways and it’s notable that the sweetness changes as the season progresses. Jola showed me how to make the cake part on our most recent cooking day. I was mystified by form of one ingredient, the Hefe (yeast.)
Here you buy the yeast in cubes in the dairy section for about 9 Euro cents a piece. It’s crumbled and then mixed with the other ingredients and given time to rise. I have yet to roll out the dough, line up the Zwetschgen and bake them, but today I’m headed to Heinz and Jola’s house for coffee and week two of Zwetschgenkuchen season. Guten Appetit!
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