Amateur Hour Baking: Zwiebelkuchen

Subtitle: Day 10 of the May Writing Challenge* 😉

This was my first attempt at a savory cake from Classic German Baking, and perhaps a surprising choice for someone who isn’t always the most fond of onions. However, raw onions chopped up in a salad are a far cry from Zwiebelkuchen’s piles of onions sauteed in bacon and oil to tasty perfection. Good thing too, because you need a lot of them for this recipe. It is, after all, literally onion cake.

Before we get to the onions though, dry ingredients are mixed together, and since this recipe is for a yeasted dough, left to rise.

The crust is then pushed into the tin. My dough didn’t seem to rise much (more on that later), and I had a hell of a time trying to stretch out the dough well enough to fill the tin. I managed to cover the whole bottom in the end, despite all the sliding around of the baking paper.

Think this looks odd? Just wait.

Then it was on to prepping the onion mixture. I somehow managed to buy not exactly the right kind of Speck, but bacon is bacon is bacon, right? Plus with my eyes watering so much thanks to the onions, I can pretend the package says Speck.

Into the oven it went, and into the bathroom I went to give my eyes a good, thorough rinsing. It was all worth it though, when the house really began to smell like dinner.

The Zwiebelkuchen came out of the oven looking crisply browned, but when we removed it from the tin, we found that it was pretty darn flat. Really, it looked more like an onion pizza than anything else. Observe.

Pizza?

Nevertheless, we were hungry and sliced it up for dinner. The onion part of the cake was good, rich with onions, bacon, and egg, but the crust was crap.

It was dense, chewy, definitely not right. I’d used the normal dry Backhefe, or baking yeast, that we have in the house, and it was clearly not the correct choice. I’ve had problems with it before, mostly when we’ve tried doing our own pizza crust. It has worked fairly well when I’ve made focaccia breads, but that has been the only success. This was the last straw.

I did a bit of hunting and discovered that duh, the dry baking yeast found on the shelf here is not like the dry shelf yeast in the U.S. Why you gotta confuse me, Germany? In short, the next week’s trip to the supermarket had me combing the refrigerated section for Würfelhefe, or fresh yeast. A second attempt was at hand.

I’m still not 100% convinced that I’m using the yeast correctly, but there was definite improvement. It’s hard to judge rise in pictures, but here’s the post-rising time difference from the first cake to the second.

The dough on the second try was much easier to stretch out into the tin, and didn’t seem to have such odd coloration to it. I was encouraged. And when it came out of the oven? Well…

We have rise!

It’s not crazy-thick, but I’m not sure how much it should have risen. It looks fairly comparable to the photo in the book, I think, but I’ll see how this develops as I try more yeasty things.

And I should really pay more attention to replicating angles correctly, but here are some slices for comparison…

So we’re learning. And after all, isn’t that the point of this whole exercise?

Have you made Zwiebelkuchen? Can you help me with my yeast problem?** Leave a comment and do so!

 

 

*not trying to overwhelm anyone’s reader feed here. Let’s not get out of hand.

**It’s only gross if you think about it too much. Stop thinking about it, weirdo.

18 thoughts on “Amateur Hour Baking: Zwiebelkuchen

  1. As someone who set fire to the oven baking a (frozen) pretzel last weekend, I admire your baking skills, patience and determination. I totally can’t help with your yeast problem*, but will share this on my FB page and see if someone else can.

    **nope, still gross.

    • Thank you! And how in the world did you manage that one? 😂
      That’d be great if you asked FB… I got some good suggestions on twitter already but I’ll take all the help I can get!

  2. Haha! I am a German who is now living in the US, and I had the same issues – just the other way round. I was so used to fresh yeast, and my first attempts with American dry yeast didn’t turn out so well.
    When you use fresh yeast, mix it with a teaspoon of sugar and luke-warm water, stir until the yeast has dissolved. Give the flour and salt into a bowl and make a hole in the middle. Pour your yeast/water mix into the hole. You have a puddle in the middle, surrounded by flour. With a fork you can carefully stir some flour from the edge into the puddle. Cover the bowl, place it at a warm spot and let this “Vorteig” rise for about 15 to 20 minutes.
    Afterwards, you knead the flour and the puddle together to an elastic dough. Let it rest (and hopefully rise) for about one and a half hour.
    Good luck!

    • So funny! I only made things with yeast a *few* times in the US, so my experience is limited there, too. I just assumed (1st problem right there) that the German packages were the same. 🙈
      Thanks for the tips! A few people have said similar things now so I’ve got some new methods to try, yay! Now I just have to figure out why they don’t put these things on the packaging….

      • You’re welcome.
        How to make a warm place for dough:
        – Heat your baking oven up to 50C, turn it off
        – Wait 10min
        – Cover the dough bowl with a towel and put it in for 30min
        – Make this twice (Dämpferl= “Vorteig”, see above) and triple the volume of your dough

  3. when my mom came to visit us in Norway and wanted just a little bit of butter, she bought the cute little cube next to the butter in the store’s refrigerator, and had a delightful surprise when she tried to spread yeast on her toast the next morning.

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