Waiting for Kugelhopf

22 Dec

The first time I made kugelhopf, it was like reenacting a scene from Little Shop of Horrors. I mixed everything, kneaded, let it rise the first time, and then placed the dough in my makeshift kugelhopf mold ( a 12-cup bundt pan). I thought I was doing well and had some time to spare for the second rise since the first took so long. So I went out, did an errand, and when I came back…“Suddenly Seymour!!!” This is what confronted me:

It was Audrey II alright. Begging me to feed it.Or maybe, as in A Fish Called Wanda, it was K-K-K-Kugelhopf c-c-c-coming to k-k-k-ill meeeeeeeeeeee! In the end, this first try wasn’t picture perfect, but it sure did taste good. It certainly looked a bit like a turban or a crown, which is part of the wide-ranging mythology of the kugelhopf.

The origin of the kugelhopf is fascinating. But first, what is a kugelhopf?  Kugelhopf is classified as viennoiserie, which are baked goods that are yeast-raised and enriched (with eggs, butter, and/or sugar). Texturally, it is somewhat like a brioche, but more delicate and flavorful because of the use of either fruit zest, raisins, eau-de-vie and nuts, or savory ingredients, such a bacon and onions. As I learned from Sharon Hudgins’s very thoughtful and informative article in the fall volume of Gastronomica, it is also “a cake for all seasons.” You name it, and  kugelhopf is there for every occasion–weddings, births, Easter, Christmas, receptions, breakfast time, tea time, dessert, just to name a few. Kugelhopf, in other words, is a little like Sam-I-am’s green eggs and ham.

Because I was so enthralled with the backstory of the kugelhopf, I decided to try out Sharon Hudgins’s recipe for Alsatian kugelhopf with a few modifications. First, the recipe called for active dry yeast, which I never use; so I converted to the appropriate amount of instant yeast. I did not have whole milk in my refrigerator, so instead, I used mostly 2% milk, topped off with some heavy whipping cream. The more fat the better, I say! For lemon zest, I substituted orange zest, because I am partial to that flavor. And finally, the recipe called for whole blanched almonds to decorate the top of the cake. I was somewhat nervous about people biting into whole almonds, so instead, I used sliced almonds.

First, I started with raisins and Kirsch. You can use Cognac instead, but I happened to have a bottle of the cherry brandy on hand that was begging for use. Kirsch is one of those things that will put hair on your chest–don’t let the “cherry” fool you! I like the Trimbach brand, and it is available in fine liquor stores.

So that they plump and fully absorb the flavor, macerate your raisins a day before you plan to make your kugelhopf. The advance planning is well worth it in this case.

Preferment Foaming

On the day of the main event, you are approaching the kugelhopf as part cake and part bread. You will see from my photographs what I mean. First, you make a very wet preferment by combining your yeast, a small amount of sugar, room temperature milk, and 1 cup of flour. You let this double in size before you proceed. You will see it foaming at you like a mad dog and that is your cue. Looks like you are making bread, right?

But then the dual, yin and yang nature of the kugelhopf becomes apparent at this point in the recipe. When your preferment is ready, you are going to take softened butter and cream it with sugar using a paddle attachment. Once creamed, you will gradually add your four eggs, waiting until each one is fully incorporated. You are going to have a nice golden-colored battered at this point.

Once your batter is mixed, you will add the preferment, and salt to the mix and incorporate. All of a sudden, you will notice that the batter will have a little “bounce” to it. Incorporate the remainder of the flour gradually, and then either knead the dough by hand or with your dough hook. I know kneading by hand is more romantic, but the dough hook is a lot more efficient. Your cue that the dough is ready is that you want it to begin to pull away from the sides. You don’t want a dry hard dough, however. The dough is going to be sticky and very extensible or stretchy. You can see from my photo that it this is not a “firm” dough; rather, it is a dough that grasps the dough hook and looks as if it is pouring off of it, but has the strength to stay put because it easily stretches. The wet preferment is what gives the dough this property.

Now, you are ready for some TLC. Fold in the raisins/Kirsch and orange zest by hand. You don’t want to use a mixer and pulverize the raisins, nor do you want to overmix your dough and toughen it. Once these flavor enhancements are added, you are ready to let the dough double in size. This is where the waiting part comes in. It will likely take about two hours, unless you have a really warm abode. But don’t go too far, lest a creature awaits your return as above!

Once your dough has doubled in size, you are going to gently deflate it, briefly and gently knead it, and transfer it to your buttered and bedecked kugelhopf pan. As I explained, I chose to use sliced almonds. The dough transfers fairly easily and you can carefully pinch a hole in the center (do not “tear” the dough when doing this).  Once in the pan and covered, you are waiting for kugelhopf again. And preheating your oven to 350 Farenheit. My dough took about an hour to double. It did not quite reach the top of the mold, as my bundt pan is actually a 12 cup capacity and larger than what is called for, but it did get close.

Kugelhopf After Second Rise

Now put your darling in the oven for approximately 45 minutes and check on it. If it looks like the top, which will later be the bottom, is getting too brown, you can cover it with foil toward the end of baking. When a tester or skewer is inserted and comes out clean, it is ready. Wait about 5 minutes before unmolding the ‘hopf and it should slip out very easily.


Once it is cooled, and you slice it, you will find the inside is butter-colored. The texture is more breadlike than cakelike, but very tender. You taste the essence of the cherry brandy without feeling as if you are eating “alcohol” as in the case of something potent like a rum ball.  I sliced the ‘hopf for easier distribution to my husband’s coworkers, and added small bags of powdered sugar, tied with green ribbon.

Sliced Kugelhopf Dolled Up

I think the only thing I would do differently next time is to add more raisins!

What follows is the Alsatian Kuglehopf recipe that I adapted from Sharon Hudgins as featured in Gastronomica, with the modifications I mentioned above and additional raisins.

Alsatian Kugelhopf

1 cup seedless dark or golden raisins

5 tablespoons Kirsch

3 1/4 teaspons instant yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

7 ounces 2% milk plus 1 ounce heavy whipping cream

4 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, divided

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon salt

Finely grated zest from one orange

Unsalted butter for the mold

Sliced almonds for decorating the top grooves of the kugelhopf mold

Confectioner’s sugar for serving

To do in advance:

1. Macerate the raisins in Kirsch for 24 hours.

2. Before mixing the kugelhopf, make sure that your butter, eggs, and milk are at room temperature. You can put the whole eggs in shell in a bowl of warm water to quickly get them to the right temperature. If you haven’t put the butter out well in advance, just cut it up into smaller slices, or you can throw it in the mixer with a paddle attachment and get it soft before proceeding with the recipe. You don’t want your milk ice-cold because it will kill or retard the yeast. Just let it sit out, or nuke it on LOW for a few seconds.

Mixing and Preparing the Kugelhopf Dough:

1. Make the Preferment. Add the room temperature milk to a medium size bowl, and stir in the yeast and one teaspoon of sugar. Add 1 cup of the flour from above and mix until incorporated. Cover the preferment with plastic wrap and place in a part of the house that isn’t drafty. You don’t want the dough to get “hot,” but because my apartment is a little drafty, I usually turn the oven on low, and let it sit on the counter next to stove.

2. Cream the Batter. In an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, on no more than medium speed, cream the butter and 3/4 cup of sugar together until it begins to look lighter in color and “whipped” in texture. This should only take a few minutes. Add one egg at a time, waiting until each is fully incorporated before adding the next.

3. Incorporate the Preferment. Sprinkle the salt into the batter and mix on low briefly. Then add the preferment and mix on low just until incorporated. Add the remaining 3 1/2 cups of flour about a cup at a time on low to medium-low speed, just as you did in adding the egg. You may want to save a small amount of the flour (about 1/2  cup) to make sure that you do not get too dry of a dough, and add it in the kneading stage, as it is always easier to add flour than to take it away. If you take my suggestion, just add 3 cups of the flour initially, then use your dough hook on medium speed to knead the dough until it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl but is still sticky in consistency. If after about 5 minutes of kneading with the hook, the dough is still sticking to the side of the bowl, add the additional 1/2 cup of flour and that should probably do it. If the dough is the proper consistency already after kneading, then you don’t need the additional flour.

5. Fold in the Fun. Now use a spatula to fold in your raisins, residual Kirsch and the orange zest. The dough is very aromatic at this point.

6. First Rise.  Place the dough in a large bowl in the same warm place, lightly oil the top of the dough and cover with plastic wrap. You are looking for the dough to double in size. This will likely take close to 2 hours, but keep an eye on it. A slower rise means better flavor in the end, so don’t get impatient and crank up the heat!

7. Prepare the Mold. Use some additional softened butter to grease the mold of your choice. Make sure that it is about 10-12 cups in capacity. Cover the inside and edges of the mold, including any crevices. If you have a real Kugelhopf mold, make certain that it has been seasoned beforehand. Place your sliced almonds carefully in a decorative pattern at the bottom of the mold, as this will end up being the top of the kugelhopf when it is unmolded.

Preparing the Mold

8. Second Rise. Once the kugelhopf has doubled in size, gently deflate it, and give it a quick gentle knead with your hand to bring it together (just for about a minute). Pick up the dough and use your fingers to pinch an opening in the middle so that you can place the dough into the mold with the tube sticking out. The mold will be about half way full. Give the dough a light spray of oil on the top, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise again until it has almost reached the top of your mold. This may take about an hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 F.  I put a baking sheet in the middle rack of the oven as well, so that it is already warm and waiting for the kugelhopf.

9. Bake the ‘hopf. When the ‘hopf is appropriately perky, place it on the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for approximately 45 to 50 minutes, but check in occasionally because every oven is different. If you think the top of the kugelhopf is getting too much color, place a piece of foil over it in the last 10 minutes of baking. The kugelhopf is done when a skewer comes out clean from the center.

10. Unmold and Cool the Kugelhopf. Set the kugelhopf mold on a cooling rack and allow it to sit for 5 minutes before unmolding. The kugelhopf should come out of the mold very easily. After you have inverted it from the mold onto the rack, let it cool fully before slicing. If you have the time before serving it, you can wrap the cooled ‘hopf in plastic and let it rest for 24 hours. If you don’t have a day, it will still taste good.

11. Serve the Kugelhopf. Slice the kugelhopf with a serrated knife and dust with some confectioner’s sugar. Drink with a nice glass of citrus tea or hot chocolate or coffee or riesling And enjoy!

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One Response to “Waiting for Kugelhopf”

  1. Ofoe December 24, 2010 at 3:30 am #

    Wow. Baking this seems like a complicated science experiment with tasty results.

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