Eureka Women Churn out State Dessert

Holland, Deb. "Eureka Women Churn out State Dessert." Rapid City Journal, 17 August 2003, sec. 1C.

What's a New Yorker of Filipino descent doing in Eureka, S.D.?

Making kuchen, of course.

Maria Luz Alandy came to Eureka in 1991 with her husband, the town's doctor. She moved to the small community permanently in 1998. It was then that Maria joined with two other local women who wanted to open a bakery to produce quality kuchen.

Hulda Opp and Donna Mehlhaff were Maria's partners. The women named their enterprise "HDL, the good KUCHEN."

For those of you still stuck in the second paragraph, kuchen (pronounced 'kü-kin) is derived from an Old German word for "cake." The word originated in the 1800s, and it describes various types of coffeecakes made from a sweet dough and a wide variety of fillings.

In 2000, kuchen was made the state dessert of South Dakota. It wouldn't have taken much to convince my family to vote for the designation. Kuchen was a staple in our home while I was growing up. My sister even e-mailed me last week because she saw a booth set up at the Sioux
Empire Fair in Sioux Falls this year. "South Dakota's State Dessert," the booth's banner heralded. Our grandma Bartel would be so moved.

The women in Eureka spent three years baking and trying many recipes before finally establishing Eureka Kuchen Factory in May 2001. Unfortunately, by that time, one of the original founders, Donna Mehlhaff, had passed away.

Eureka Kuchen Factory opened its doors under the management of Maria and Hulda. Today, they have some other employees, Cindy Gab, Ardella Klein, Debra Mehlhaff, Luceil Opp and Jeanne Serr. And in addition to kuchen, they make plachendas, cheese buttons and strudels.

Maria realized that the plachendas -a German-Russian turnover made of light pastry dough with sweet pumpkin or fruit (apple) filling –were somewhat familiar to her. "They are much like empanadas," she said.

According to, empanada is a Spanish word coming from "empanar," meaning to bread, or to bake in pastry. It is basically an individual turnover (although there are family-sized versions) with a pastry crust and filled with chicken, meat, seafood, vegetables or fruit.
They are popular in Spain, Mexico and South America, especially in Argentina and Chile. They are believed to have originated in Galicia, in northwest Spain and were originally made with bread dough.

But kuchen is still the mainstay of the factory.

"We can make as many as 200 a day," Maria said, "On an average day, we make between 80 and 90, and on a slow day, we make 45 to 50."

Eureka Kuchen Factory offers an array of flavors, including peach, apricot, apple, prune, blueberry, cherry, raisin, strawberry, raspberry, cottage cheese, sugar, custard, rhubarb, cranberry, pumpkin and some gourmet flavors, including chocolate chip, cinnamon chip, peanut-butter chip, double chocolate, Heath toffee, chocolate, chocolate chip with peanut-butter streusel, chocolate and peanut -butter chip (sort of a Reese's peanut-butter cup, I would imagine), And they offer low-sugar flavors of apple, peach and apricot with only a third of the calories. But, then again, when you're eating kuchen, who's counting?

People in Eureka gravitate to the prune and cottage- cheese kuchen. What's Maria's favorite?

"I think I like chocolate chip and peach," she says.

When people stop by to buy kuchen at the factory, they are often taken aback by Maria's appearance.

'They will say, 'You don't look German.' Then I tell them, I may not look German, but I'm German at heart," she said.

In the Black Hills, you can get Eureka Kuchen Factory kuchen at Lynn's Dakotamart in Sturgis and Pierre. The German-Russian dessert is also available at Ken's in Eureka, Ipswich and Aberdeen, HRS, RG's Restaurant and Wimpy's in Aberdeen, Sax's Restaurant in Redfield, Calicos in Mound City, D & M Cafe in Leola, Dan's Supermarket in Bismarck, N.D. and Stan's Supervalue Store in Wishek, N.D. Or to order products directly, call the factory at 284-2838. Prices range from $1.50 or $18 for a baker's dozen of 4-ounce personal-pan-sized kuchen to $5 and $6 for a 10-inch kuchen. Shipping is by UPS second-day air.

Reprinted with permission of the Rapid City Journal.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller