In my cupboard is a little recipe box that belonged to my great-aunt, Katja, or Tante Katja, as we called her. Most of the recipes are written in German, and with my limited knowledge of the language it’s been a little difficult to decipher them. Since most of the recipes have no directions, I’ve taken a guess at the process, and altered the recipe a little. I managed to figure this one out, a fruit platz, one of the most common Mennonite foods that I grew up eating. It’s made up of a cake with fruit on top and sugary crumbs to top it off. I remember eating plum and apricot platz, but in the middle of winter I couldn’t find any of those fruits, so I used some canned cherries. Yum!
What you need for the cake layer:
1 &1/2 cups flour
2 &1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cold butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk or cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the crumbs:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
Plus fruit of your choice, a cup or two. In my family traditional choices are fresh plum or apricot, but I used canned cherry. Fresh is best, but if you’ve got some frozen fruits or canned, give them a try. Just make sure that you drain them well, and don’t use something like frozen strawberries or raspberries that would be too juicy.
What you do:
1. Combine the flour, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl. Cut the cold butter in using a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers.
2. Combine the egg, milk, vanilla and salt, then add it to the dry ingredients using a wooden spoon. If it’s too hard to get all the dry bits in, add a little more milk. You’ll need to get in there with your hands and knead the mixture to get it all combined.
3. Spread the thick batter into the bottom of a 9×9 inch pan.
4. Spread the fruit over the batter.
5. Combine the butter, sugar and flour for the crumb mixture, then sprinkle it on top of the fruit, using your fingers.
6. Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes. It will be golden on the top, and you can check for done-ness using a toothpick.
This one will cool in the pan, and you won’t remove it from the pan before cutting. The crumb topping is crunchy and it’s best the day you make it, but of course it would still be good the next day. It’s especially good served when it’s still a little warm.
That’s Tante Katja, standing on the highway