And Then Came the Cheese Pocket

Cheese pocket jpeg

I’ve been talking about bread and pastry all week so I figure I’d continue the trend.   I officially declare it German-American Pastry week!   Cincinnati is a region that has a rich baking tradition.   Nestled in that tradition is our love affair with coffee cakes.   Just looking at the offerings of coffee cake in a Buskens brochure there are 14 available during the week.  You’d be lucky to get more than a few in most cities, like St. Louis, which also has a strong German-American community and used to be the dominant player in bakeries nationally.  Even small neighborhood bakeries like Wyoming Pastries and Regina bakery offer 15-30 varieties, rotated through the week.

I remember my grandmother telling me that they had a bakery products salesman from St. Louis who would visit my grandparents at their bakery and promote new products or pastry fillings.  It was this salesman who introduced them to the gooey butter coffee cake, which is St. Louis’ signature pastry. My grandparents called their version the candied butter coffee cake.   (see my earlier blog “The Wrong Schmear Created the Gooey Butter Coffee Cake”)

While St. Louis has its gooey butter coffee cake,  Cincinnati has a coffee cake unique to the region, called the cheese pocket coffee cake.  The cheese pocket has been around awhile. One might easily assume that the cheese pocket coffee cake comes from an old German recipe.   There are other German cakes made with quark, which is a strained curd cheese,  sometimes translated as  cottage cheese or farmers cheese.  In Germany, quark and cottage cheese are considered different types of fresh cheese.  Some have compared our cheese pockets to the German schmierkuchen, which is a bit different.   The schmierkuchen uses quark cheese, with a more dense dough than our cheese cup, which is not folded over, and they sprinkle the top with raisins.

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A German Schmierkuchen

Polly Campbell, Food Critic for the Cincinnati Enquirer uncovered the origin of the Cheese pocket in Cincinnati :

“According to Gary Gottenbusch, owner of Servatii Bakery, the cheese pocket’s history in Cincinnati has a much more specific origin, going back about 50 years.  That  was when Gordon Nash of Priscilla Bakery in St. Bernard first made it.  Nash was president of the Retail Bakers Association at that time.”

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Priscilla Bakery in St. Bernard

” The local chapter used to do a show and sell event.  Each bakery would bring in their best item and share in a spirit of cooperation.  Nash-knock-off  cheese pockets quickly became a staple at most bakeries in the 1960s and a customer favorite.   This sort of sharing of recipes and ideas is characteristic of Cincinnati’s bakeries. There has been a very reciprocal attitude among the bakers in Greater Cincinnati.”

Heck, they used to sing, perform, and drink together back in pre-Prohibition days at Grammer’s in a Baecker’s Gesangverein or Baker’s Singing Club.  It’s just understood that they share, even though they still all have their signature specialties.

The many choices locally justify a cheese pocket road trip to those, like me, with a cheese-sweet-tooth.   I think a blueberry cheese crown needs to be made available immediately.

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