Plum Kuchen

Plum Kuchen

Kuchen means cake in German. There are as many different kinds of kuchen as there are kinds of cake.

I saw this recipe for upside-down plum kuchen in the latest issue of Gourmet Magazine, and I just had veganize it. I’m glad I did, because the cake base of this kuchen might now be my favorite coffee cake base ever. It’s light and fluffy, and like my Slow Rise Pancakes, it uses yeast instead of baking powder or baking soda for leavening. I really love the clean, rich flavor of yeast-raised goods, so when I looked at this particular recipe I knew I had to make an animal-friendly version.

They used plums in the Gourmet version, so when I found tiny, sweet organic plums at the Copley Farmers Market here in Boston, it was kismet. However, I’m not sure I’d recommend you use plums in yours.

Organic Plums

Here’s the thing. The plums themselves are very sweet, but I noticed a mild bitterness in the skins, even when I ate them fresh. After baking, the bitterness intensified. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s similar to the bitterness of marmalade. If you really love the combination of sweet and bitter in a fruit, then go for the plums. If you’re not sure, choose another stone fruit; peaches or cherries would be completely divine in this. On second thought, I think nearly any bake-able fruit would be great.

Because this is a yeast-risen cake, it does take a while. Two hours for the first rise and ninety minutes for the second rise means this isn’t a fast dessert. If you’re looking for a quick coffee cake, try this crumb cake instead. But the flavor and texture of this kuchen really make all the time worthwhile.

Plum Kuchen (adapted from Gourmet Magazine, Aug 2009)
Makes One 9×9 Cake

1 Packet Active-Dry Yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/4 Cup Warm Water (105-110º F)
2 Cups plus 2 Tbs All-Purpose Flour, divided
1 Cup Sugar, divided
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 Cup plus 1 Tbs Tofutti Sour Cream (or plain vegan yogurt)
2 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer Powder mixed with 3 Tbs Hot Water
1 1/2 tsp Fresh Lemon Zest
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs Earth Balance Margarine, divided
3/4 lbs Firm-Ripe Plums or other Stone Fruit, halved and pitted

Combine the yeast with the warm water and set aside to proof until foamy.

In a mixing bowl (one that fits in a stand mixer, if you have one), combine the yeast with 2 cups flour, 2/3 cup sugar, salt, sour cream, egg replacer, lemon zest, and vanilla extract.

Lemon Zest

Beat at low speed to combine the ingredients, then mix at medium speed for 5 minutes while adding in 1/2 cup of Earth Balance, one tablespoon at a time. Beat the batter for five minutes at medium speed until smooth and shiny, and very sticky.


After five minutes, remove the bowl from the mixer and top with the remaining 2 Tbs of flour. Do not mix it in. Cover the bowl with a non-terry cloth kitchen towel and set aside to rise for 90 minutes to 2 hours.

After the first rise, mix the the dough to combine the flour on the top.

With the remaining 2 tablespoons of Earth Balance, grease a 9×9 cake pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup sugar in the bottom of the pan.

Halve and pit the plums. It may be easier to cut around the pits, rather than to pull them out, if your fruit is very ripe.

Organic Plums

Slice the pitted plum halves into five or six slices. I left mine whole because they were very small. Place cut-side down into the sugar, covering the bottom of the pan.

Plum Kuchen, plums

Pour the dough over the plums and let raise for another 90 minutes, covered with oiled plastic wrap.

Plum Kuchen, batter

Preheat oven to 375º F.

Bake the kuchen for 35 minutes, until evenly golden and slightly cracked.

Plum Kuchen

Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Loosen edges with a knife and turn out onto a rack to cool completely before serving.

Plum Kuchen

BLT Salad

BLT Salad

This salad isn’t exactly… healthy. What it is, exactly, is delicious. And it has a surprise. There’s no lettuce. The greens are baby spinach, and raw kale.

Stay with me, here!

Yes, I said raw kale. I know you are thinking that I have finally gone off the vegan deep end. But I swear, the water is nice!

You can eat raw kale, too, if you pay attention to these three things: the kind, the cut, and the preparation. Follow these three steps and I swear you’ll be eating your kale raw and loving it.

The first step is finding the right kind of kale. Lacinato kale is perfectly suited to eating raw. I find that it’s thinner and more tender than the other varieties, but sadly, it’s not nearly as common. Look for long, thin, flat leaves that are slightly dimpled.

Lacinato Kale

It’s not always obvious what the best cut is for a certain dish. Small, thin strips of kale is integral for this salad, or any meal where the kale is served raw or lightly cooked. When the kale is cut this way, the dressing has a much easier time tenderizing the kale without having to cook it. Larger pieces of kale would be much harder to eat.

With regular lettuce, you wait to add the dressing until just before serving. Otherwise the salt and acid in the dressing starts to break down the fresh, crisp greens, leaving you with a soggy mess. With a kale salad, this is to your advantage! Dress the salad ahead of time and refrigerate it for a bit. The dressing will soften up the kale just the right amount. Plus, the addition of a creamy dressing compliments kale’s flavors nicely.

BLT Salad

There are many fake bacon products out there. My favorite is what I’ve used in this recipe, Lightlife’s Smoky Tempeh Strips. While the package says “Fakin’ Bacon” I find that it’s not at all like what I remember of the real thing, but I still like it. It’s smoky and salty and tangy, and it’s AWESOME in this salad (or on sandwiches). But as awesome as it is, bacon it is not. If you’re looking for something that more closely approximates the texture and flavor of bacon, there are probably other brands out there, but I haven’t found one that I like.

One last note: due to the sturdy nature of kale, this is the perfect picnic and pot luck salad. You can throw it together ahead of time and it’ll be perky and crisp when you get around to serving it. If you’re looking for a side dish that can stand up to summer entertaining, this recipe is a good bet.

BLT Salad
4-6 Side Salads

1 Head Lacinato Kale (aka Tuscan or Dinosaur Kale)*
1 Package Lightelife Organic Smoky Tempeh Strips**
2 Tbs Peanut Oil, divided
1 to 1 1/2 Cups Baby Spinach, Packed
1 to 1 1/2 Cups Sweet Cherry Tomatoes (about 25)

1/4 Cup Vegenaise Mayo
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/4 tsp Salt
1 tsp Lemon Juice
2 tsp Agave Nectar
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

*You can also use regular lettuce if you like, just make sure not to add the dressing until just before serving.

**Sub baked tofu, another mock bacon, or my Smoky Miso Tofu.

Wash and dry kale. Using kitchen shears (or a knife, or your fingers), remove and discard the center stem from each leaf. I find scissors makes the job quick and easy:

Deveining Kale

Stack the kale leaves on top of each other and slice into thin strips with a sharp knife:

Chopping Kale

Place the cut kale into a large bowl. Whisk the dressing together and toss with the kale until evenly coated. If you are using regular lettuce, keep the dressing separate until just before serving. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, longer is no problem.

Meanwhile, prepare the “bacon.” Slice the tempeh strips into thin, small pieces, and pan-fry in 1 Tbs peanut oil for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp on the edges. Drain on a paper towel and set aside:

Fakin' Bacon (tempeh)

Next, add another tablespoon of peanut oil to the same pan you cooked the bacon in (don’t wash it out!). Cook the tomatoes with 1/4 tsp salt for 3 minutes over high heat, or until beginning to soften and the juices are starting to come out. Remove to a bowl, with juices, and set aside.

Assembling the salad

Once you are ready to serve the salad, chop up the baby spinach and toss it with the kale, making sure everything is now covered in dressing. If you are using regular lettuce, mix in the dressing now. Add 3/4 of the bacon and the tomatoes and toss again. Plate, topping the salad with the rest of the bacon and some freshly cracked black pepper. Serve.

BLT Salad