Sometimes my Swiss friends ask me questions about North American baked goods like: "what's the difference between a cupcake and a muffin?"
"Most cupcakes have icing and you wouldn't (normally) eat one for breakfast," I answer.
(The long of it is that muffins are made using the quickbread method, mixing dry ingredients together in one bowl, then wet in another, then mixing the two together, sparingly. This gives you a bigger crumb. Cupcakes are, predictably, made with a cake method, normally creaming the butter and sugar, then adding eggs, then flour. Their crumb is generally finer. )
And I ask them questions like: "What's the difference between a Torte and a Kuchen?"
Torte vs Kuchen
But even better was my panel of Swiss experts:
Johanna of the discerning palate described the difference most succinctly:
Torte is usually round and elaborate, Kuchen is a block of something.
Monika, who knows a thing or two about cake, had this to say:
A Torte is usually round with different alternating layers. Only one part is baked and the rest is added afterwards (typical example: Black Forest Cake: you bake the batter part and add the cream in between later).
A Kuchen is more general. You put all the ingredients in one pan and bake it all together (e.g. marble cake)
Annina, who appreciates both in equal measure, said:
Here's the short version:
Torte is fancier and might have several layers (e.g. a wedding cake).
Kuchen is simpler and mostly homogeneous in texture (schoggichueche, meranercake). When we use the English word "cake" in German we mean a rectangular kuchen :-)
But then there are regional exceptions: some people in some regions call some sorts of chueche/cake "torte", e.g. "rüeblitorte", which isn't an actual torte. There are regions where they only use the words "wähe" and "torte", and then call all sorts of chueche either "wähe" or "torte".
Or they use the word Kuchen to describe something that to me resembles more of a tart or pie, like Zibelechueche, or this Mostkuchen.
Which leads to another question: what's the difference between a tart and a pie?
Regardless of what it's called, this kuchen is flaky, autumnal, easy to make, buttery, cinnamony and perfect with a cup of warm cider on a cool night.
This version was inspired by the Mostkuchen recipe in the cookbook Die grosse Schweizer Küche, which is full of Swiss classics, modernized.
200 g flour
1 tbsp sugar
100 g butter, cold
125 ml water
3 tbsp flour
5 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
200 ml süss- or suure- most (apple juice or cider)
30 g butter
For the dough
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt.
Add the cold butter in pieces and rub into the flour mixture with your fingers until you have small flakes.
Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the water. Mix this gently until a dough forms. Do not overwork the dough or it will become tough.
Press the dough into a disc, wrap with plastic, and let cool in the fridge for at least half an hour.
When you are ready to roll
Preheat the oven to 240 C / 475 F / gas mark 9
Roll out your dough and line a 28 cm (11 inch) round springform or tart pan. Poke the bottom all over with a fork.
Sprinkle the dough with flour.
Whisk together the sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle half on the dough.
Pour in the süss- or suure- most.
Sprinkle with butter and the rest of the sugar and cinnamon mixture.
Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the top is browned and the pastry around the sides is golden and crispy.
- For more on Süssmost or its alcoholic brother Suuremost, see this post. Either can be used in this pie.
- Always make sure you actually secure the top of the springform onto its base before moving a prepared and filled dough, otherwise...