No matter what the recipe, any baker can do wonders in the kitchen with some good ingredients and an upbeat attitude!
State 14: South Dakota - September 4, 2017
We woke up in Walmart in Sioux Falls, SD well rested and ready for a jam packed day. First on the agenda was a 77 mile drive South to Scotland, SD for the Cross Country Couple's “Made in the USA Factory Tour” for South Dakota; Pietz’s Kuchen Kitchen & Specialties LLC. Kuchen is a dessert traditionally of Russian and German heritage, and in fact kuchen is the German word for cake. A traditional German Kuchen is a thick cake-like crust topped with a custard based filling. I was very excited to learn how kuchen was made. My German Grandmother; Anna used to make a mean kuchen. She has since passed away, and I haven’t had one in decades. When I discovered kuchen is the official dessert of South Dakota, I made it my personal mission to find the absolute best kuchen in the state. No matter the cost! No matter the distance!
After a week long search, one name kept coming up as the best kuchen South Dakota had to offer: Pietz’s Kuchen Kitchen & Specialties LLP. However, don’t take my word for it. Pietz’s Kuchen Kitchen has been featured in local publications such as the Yankton Daily Press, the Daily Journal, River City Newspaper, and on the front page of the food section of the Sioux City Journal. Recently, this Scotland, SD business made front page news! American Idol season 5 winner and host of the national TV show; State Plate, Taylor Hicks selected Pietz’s Kuchen Kitchen & Specialties to be featured on his show. The episode will air on INSP Network at 7 pm of September 29, 2017.
Roger and Lori Pietz, owners of Pietz’s Kuchen Kitchen & Specialties have been in business since 2008, but their passion for baking and eating traditional ethnic food goes back much farther. Lori is German and Czech, and has been making kuchen for over 20 years. Roger, who is also German, enjoys making kuchen alongside his wife. How cute! At first, they gave their homemade kuchen away as gifts, and always received compliments about how delicious they were. In 2008, they converted the basement of their home into a commercial kitchen, and began selling kuchen to the public at fairs and festivals. However, the public kept coming back for more kuchen, so they began to sell wholesale to over 60 locations throughout South Dakota. Yet again, the public still wanted more kuchen, so in 2011 the Pietz's opened up their first retail location in their hometown of Scotland, SD,. This is where we met Lori and Roger Pietz for our tour. Please see the pictures below.
We arrived at the Pietz’s Kuchen Kitchen Retail Store on Labor Day. While most Americans were at the beach or enjoying a BBQ in celebration of summer's last hurrah, Lori and Roger were hard at work baking their very hearts out. As soon as we opened the front door to their Kuchen Kitchen, the sweet aroma of baked homemade excellence immediately overwhelmed our senses. I instantly knew we were in store for a real South Dakotan treat! Lori Pietz greeted us at the door. Roger continued hard at work in the kitchen, and waved to us from around the corner!
Roger Pietz invited us back to his commercial kitchen, and we were excited to see where all the magic happens. He was hard at work, making dozens of kolache's, which is a czech pastry made with a sweet dough with a center indentation filled with fruit or cheese. The Scotland bakery makes 8 delicious varieties. Upon entering the kitchen, I expected to see large commercial baking equipment pumping out thousands of baked goods. What we actually saw was Roger hard at work hand forming and filling every kolache. He said to us, “We make everything by hand and with love”. Roger not only bakes, he makes deliveries to over 60 wholesale locations as far as the South Dakota Black Hills 6 hours away. Please see the pictures below.
Next, we were led back out to the retail space. Lori Pietz worked most of her life as a Registered Nurse, and the baking business was something they were planning to do in their retirement. “I never imagined how successful the business would become” Lori Pietz said. She pointed out her baked goods for sale within a series of chest freezers. There they finally were! The famous kuchen I have read about for over a week! The reason Nate and I had driven hundreds of miles straight across the South Dakota prairies. Long at last, I had arrived! I soon realized I now had a bigger problem. With over 16 varieties available, how was I to choose between: apple, apricot, blueberry, cherry,chocolate chip with peanut butter streusel, cottage cheese, peach, poppy seed, prune, pumpkin, raspberry, rhubarb, strawberry, strawberry rhubarb, sweet raisin, and very berry? Lori Pietz shared her best seller was the peach kuchen, so we decided to take her recommendation.
Roger and Lori asked to see our van, so we took the opportunity to show Rosie off. They expressed interest traveling cross country themselves when they retire for real. We shared a little bit about van life, purchased our kuchen, and said goodbye. Lori and Roger were gracious hosts, and just awesome people. I was very sad when it was time to leave. I felt as if I had known them for years, and it felt as if I was leaving two good friends behind.
It is moments such as the aforementioned which exemplify why Nate and I are on this year long cross country trip. Discovering America can’t be done while: flying on an airplane, driving on the interstate, sleeping in a Hilton, eating at Olive Garden, and visiting Disney World. That is commercialism, and that’s not discovering America! To discover America, you need to travel slow, and get lost on the back roads of our country. You need to eat at the small town diner, and attend their town's festival. You need to talk to the locals, learn about their way of life, and immerse yourself in their culture. Once we have done all of that, it is time to move on the next state, and do it all over again. One week per state is enough time to give us a glimpse of a state. We are not on vacation. We are on a journey of exploration to find a new home! If I was on a vacation, I would at least have air conditioning! And now back to the peach kuchen!
The peach kuchen was the best dessert I have ever had in my entire life. The crust was soft, flaky and appeared to be a quick bread. The peaches were plump, juicy and firm. The custard is ….well all I can say is wow! Please see the before and after pictures which were taken 5 minutes apart.
Sometimes a certain song, the scent of a particular perfume or the taste of a delectable food possesses the power to transport you back to another place and time. When I tasted Pietz’s peach kuchen, I was instantly transported back to my childhood dining room table surrounded by my family with sweet aroma of Grandma’s fresh baked kuchen filling the air! My Grandma’s kuchen will always hold a special place in my heart, because she baked it with love for her oldest Granddaughter! I love and miss you Grandma.
If you are currently anywhere near South Dakota right now, hop in a car and drive
directly to Pietz’s Kuchen Kitchen & Specialties in Scotland, SD for a culinary treat you will never forget. If you don’t live near South Dakota, Kuchen Kitchen ships nationwide, and I may just need to further indulge myself somewhere down the road. If you have never had, or never heard of kuchen before, do yourself a favor, and treat yourself to the best. Their kuchen is not a dessert; It is an experience! We would like to thank Lori and Roger; owners of Pietz Kuchen Kitchen & Specialties for allowing us to visit their bakery, and for best dessert we have ever tasted.
Upon departing Scotland, we drove 33 Miles south to the town of Yankton located on the far southeastern corner of South Dakota right on the border with Nebraska. Yankton is our last stop in South Dakota, and has a very interesting history. In the 19th century, North and South Dakota were one, and known as the Dakota Territory. In 1861, Abraham Lincoln established the Dakota Territory as a part of the United States. Three years later, in an extremely controversial move, the capitol of the Dakota Territory was moved to Bismarck. The Dakota Territory was a primarily republican, and congress worried that admitting it as a state would affect the balance of power within congress. The decision was made to split the territory into North Dakota, and South Dakota. North Dakota at the time was a Democrat state, and South Dakota was a Republican state. Soon thereafter, North Dakota became the 29th state with Bismarck as its capitol, and South Dakota became the 30th state with Pierre as the capitol.
When we entered the Town of Yankton, SD the welcome sign stated their town's motto as Yankton: The Mother City of the Dakota's. Yankton is the oldest city in the Dakotas, and has worked hard to preserve it's legacy. In 1988 in a quaint park along the banks of the Missouri River, the town built an exact replica of the Dakota Territory Capitol. The capitol building resembles a 2 story farmhouse verses what one would expect a capitol building to be. However, we commend the town of Yankton, SD for proudly preserving their legacy. Please see the pictures below.
I personally loved the town of Yankton, and suggested to Lori we consider it as a candidate for our new home. The town's centralized location in Southeastern SD, places it in close proximity to Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota. The town has a population of approx. 15,000 people, and is located right on the Missouri River. Yankton has both a huge hospital, and a college. Best of all, South Dakota has no state income tax. However, Lori was just not feeling Yankton for some unknown reason, so voting on this state will be interesting indeed!
Visiting the former capitol of the Dakota Territory was a fitting finish to our two weeks exploring the Dakotas. However, tomorrow we drive South into the America heartland, and enter the 15th state on our cross country journey. We found a Walmart in Vermillion, SD, and enjoyed a restful night slept for our last night in South Dakota.