Kugelhopf (also Gugelhupf, Guglhupf, Gugelhopf, kougelhopf, kouglof, etc.) is a baked, sweet bread similar to brioche that has taken on a life of its own in my mind -- just like French Canelés did last year. And as with the Canelés, I had never eaten one, but was obsessed with the thought of baking a picture-perfect Kugelhopf.
Kugelhopf originated in the Alsace, but Germany, Austria, and Switzerland also lay claim to this yeasty coffee cake. There are also many variations to the dough. The recipe I used is from André Lerch: Pâtisserie-Boulangerie Alsacienne, in Paris' 5e. This Kugelhopf is made with milk and brandy, but many use just water. It is advised that the cake is left wrapped and uneaten for a day or two after baking. There is a general agreement Kugelhopf is at its best when slightly dry -- making the coffee cake all the better when dipped into your morning Café au Lait!
In my plans to make a Kugelhopf, I became obsessed with finding a true, earthenware Kugelhopf mold (which, as you can see, I did not). They are traditionally baked in a tall, ceramic tube mold with angled ribs that resemble a Turk's turban. Whole, blanched almonds are placed at the base of each "rib" before the yeast dough is added, resulting in an almond-studded crown when the cake is unmolded. I ended up using a decorative copper tube pan from the late 1800s that my sister loaned to me and has since given me upon seeing the photos of the coffee cake (with the stipulation that I bake and send one to her). So, yes... substitute a Bundt pan if you are unable to find the traditional Kugelhopf mold.
When in Paris, you will see Kugelhopfs in many pâtisseries; often the smaller, individual-sized cakes. I was always fascinated by them, and although I photographed Kugelhopfs, I never purchased one to eat. Crazy... I know. On one visit to Pierre Hermés I purchased a salted caramel macaron, but it was my sister that left the pâtisserie with a Kugelhopf to snack on!
The recipe below will give you enough dough to make two Kugelhopfs. I halved the recipe and made one cake (thinking... I only have one mold). Had I known this cake would be so good, I would have made enough dough for two Kugelhopfs and kept half of the dough refrigerated until needed. That is certainly what I will do the next time.
Also, while kneading the dough, additional flour will probably be necessary. I was working with a very wet dough for some reason and needed much more flour. Add the flour, a generous tablespoon at a time, until the dough begins to clean the sides of the mixer bowl and you hear a slapping sound. You want a smooth, shiny dough that is still a bit sticky upon completion.
+ This recipe will make enough dough for two 2-quart Kugelhopf molds or Bundt pans. Halve the ingredients if you only want to make one Kugelhopf.
• 1 cup golden raisins
• 1/4 cup kirsch or brandy
• 2 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
• 5 teaspoons (2 packages) dry yeast
• 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, or more as needed
• Softened butter for molds
• 1/2 cup whole blanched almonds
• 3/4 cup plus two tablespoons granulated sugar
• 4 teaspoons salt
• 2 large eggs
• Confectioners' sugar for dusting
1. Place the raisins in a small bowl and cover with the brandy. Let soak while preparing the starter.
2. STARTER: In a small saucepan combine 3/4 cup of the milk with 4 tablespoons of the butter. Heat, using a low temperature, until lukewarm. Transfer to a mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast over the milk mixture; stir in 1 cup of the flour until almost fully incorporated. Place a piece of plastic wrap loosely over the bowl and set bowl aside to rise until almost double, about 1 hour.
3. Generously butter two 2-quart Kugelhopf molds or Bundt pans. Press almonds into the buttered grooves at the bottom of each mold.
4. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric stand mixer with a dough hook, combine the remaining lukewarm milk and butter; add the flour, granulated sugar, salt, and eggs. Mix well. Pour in the yeast starter and mix well until thoroughly combined. Knead by hand on a lightly floured work surface, or using a stand mixer at medium-high speed, for about 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and shiny and feel soft and slightly sticky. As you knead, add more flour or milk if necessary to adjust the consistency. (I ended up adding quite a bit more flour to my dough. Add it slowly, if needed. The dough should be slightly sticky when you are finished kneading.)
5. Drain the raisins and reserve the liquid. Knead the raisins into the dough by hand, while in the bowl, until well distributed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise to 1 1/2 times its size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
6. PREHEAT OVEN to 375˚F. Place oven rack about one-third distance from the oven floor. Gently divide the dough in half and form into two balls. Using your thumbs, stretch a small opening in the center of each ball. Place the ring of dough over the center tube of the mold. Ideally, the dough should fill 3/4 of the mold. Cover mold with a sheet of plastic wrap and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
7. Place the molds on the rack of the preheated over and bake for 45-50 minutes. The Kugelhopfs should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Cover Kugelhopfs with foil toward the end of baking if browning too quickly. Remove from oven and cool Kugelhopfs on a rack for several minutes before unmolding. They should release nicely if the molds were well buttered. Cool thoroughly on racks, then dust generously with Confectioners' sugar. Wrap tightly in plastic for 1 to 2 days before eating. Dust with Confectioners' sugar again before slicing.
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