A sweet Alsation favourite filled with dark raisins and chopped almonds, and often dusted with icing or confectioner’s sugar. This light, yeasty bread is scrumptious when toasted, buttered or spread with jam, or when eaten plain and dipped into black coffee.
The first time I saw a kugelhopf, I thought to myself, “I absolutely have to make this one day.”. And my unshakeable desire to bake this Alsatian bread became that much greater after chancing upon a kugelhopf recipe in a cake book a few months ago. Kugelhopf is a sweet bread that’s really not at all that sweet, just mildly so. It’s flavour is influenced by the baker’s choice of dried or candied fruit, and in some variations, liquor as well, that are mixed in with the yeasty dough. But a sweet bread it is considered nonetheless.
The classic kugelhopf (pronounced as koo-guh l-hawpf) is a light, sweet, yeasty bread dough that is filled with raisins and almonds, and baked in a ring-shaped mould such as a fluted tin or bundt pan. It is often dusted with icing or confectioner’s sugar and enjoyed plain, but also delicious when toasted and buttered lavishly, or spread with jam or fruit preserves.
This is more often thought of as a breakfast bread, though I can’t imagine why you couldn’t enjoy kugelhopf whenever you want to have it – breakfast, tea or otherwise. Like any other bread, I think kugelhopf would make excellent sandwich slices with your favourite sweet or savoury fillings, ingredients or spreads.
You really don’t need a kugelhopf pan to bake this bread, as it is essentially a bundt pan, though somewhat taller. Hence, a bundt pan that you would normally use to bake cakes should work brilliantly. But if you’ve seen a kugelhopf pan, you’ll understand why I simply had to have one to add to my over-burgeoning collection of bakeware!
The kugelhopf pan has a uniquely identifiable and elegant design. It is essentially a taller, fluted ring mould or bundt pan with angled flutings around the sides of the pan, creating a swirl effect and impression. The top or rim of the pan is also typically more pronounced or intricate. Some designs are much more elaborate, with wavy as well as geometrical indentations around the sides and rim of the pan.
Dusting the kugelhopf with generous amounts of icing sugar, besides hinting of the bread’s mildly sweet flavour, also serves an aesthetic purpose, as the powder-fine sugar makes the flutings and design impressions more pronounced.
Kugelhopf pans, in my humble opinion, represent some of the most beautiful and exquisitely designed cake moulds you can find. Most designs reflect Scandinavian or Central European influences (think Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Bavaria, etc.), and look gorgeously festive. Just google ‘kugelhopf pan designs’ and you’ll be blown away by the range and choice of designs you can buy online. I so wanted to have them all!
Most cakes, with the exception of a few types, can also be baked in a kugelhopf pan. And I can assure you, they will turn out very pretty! With breads baked in a kugelhopf pan, the designs are less obvious, but still eye-catching. Just imagine having a kugelhopf standing tall and proud right in the centre of your tea table! It’s an intriguing conversational starter, to say the least!
Alright, I’ve probably said more than enough about the pan, but more importantly now, about the bread itself. Historically, kugelhopf or gugelhupf (in German) while believed to have originated in Germany (‘gugel‘ in German means hood), is widely acknowledged to have been created in the Alsace region of France, near the German border. Specifically, its birthplace is said to be in the village of Ribeauville in the Alsace province about three centuries go.
In present day Ribeauville, the locals host a summer festival every year in celebration of the kugelhopf. It is eaten as an everyday bread, and the custom is to dip at least a day-old kugelhopf slices into strong black coffee (apparently, kugelhopf tastes better the day after, and even more so when a few days old). I think it’s as habitual as Singaporeans having kaya butter toast with their favourite hot beverage.
Kugelhopf is fairly easy to make. However, unlike other bread doughs, the kugelhopf dough is extremely sticky. If you do your kneading by hand, you will be tempted to flour and shape it to look more like a conventional dough, but you must resist all temptation to do so, as it will make the kugelhopf tough.
At first, you might think or feel like something’s not quite right with the dough (that crossed my mind the entire time I was kneading it!) but just carry on with the task. I kneaded it entirely in the bowl, so choose a larger-sized mixing bowl that is less likely to restrict or limit your kneading action. Trust me, you’ll be rewarded for getting your hands all sticky and gooey! Or, just do it entirely in your electric mixer with a dough hook.
I truly hope you’ll enjoy this unique European bread as much as I do! And why not enjoy this the Singaporean way, toasted and spread with kaya, butter or both!