Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Kouglof with Cherries & Saffron

This lovely recipe was sent to me by Christiane Macri, a SHB blog friend (in case you are wondering, SHB means "serious home baker" as I learned today in a mail from the Bread Bakers Guild of America). As I didn't have a kouglof pan, Christiane was kind enough to send me one as well. Merci mille fois, Christiane! The kouglof (also spelled kugelhof or Gugelhopf or kugelhopf, etc.) is a brioche of Germanic origin, very common in the Alsace region of France as well as in Germany, Austria and in the Czech Republic. It is usually made with baker's yeast, raisins, almonds and sometimes a few drops of kirsch. According to a local legend, the Three Kings stopped in the village of Ribeaupré (Alsace) on their way to Bethlehem and created the kouglof as a thank-you present to a pastry-shop owner who had offered them hospitality. To make it more distinctive, they gave it the shape of their turbans. Christiane's recipe uses white starter, raisins and almonds. I replaced the raisins by dried cherries and the almonds (which I didn't have) with toasted hazelnuts. I also replaced part of the all-purpose flour with white whole wheat flour. The original recipe called for 175 g of butter but Christiane reduced it to 150 g and I followed her lead. I had to adjust the flour and liquid amounts to take into account the difference between French and US flours. Finally I added saffron because I love the way it showcases the flavor of the cherries. A bundt cake pan can be used in lieu of a kouglof pan. Ingredients: 470 g unbleached all-purpose flour 120 g white whole wheat flour 150 g mature white starter 20 g water, lukewarm 4 eggs 5 g salt 100 g dried cherries (or raisins) 80 g ground hazelnuts (or almonds, sliced thin) 50 g sugar 30 g warm water (to soak the cherries or raisins) 150 g butter, at room temperature 100 g milk, scalded, then allowed to cool 1/2 tsp saffron threads, steeped in scalded milk for one hour
  1. Soak the cherries in the warm water
  2. Place flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of the mixer and mix (using the hook)
  3. Add starter, milk (with saffron threads inside)
  4. Mix for one minute
  5. Add eggs, one by one
  6. Mix for 5 minutes on medium speed
  7. Add softened butter, little by little
  8. Mix a bit faster for about 10 minutes
  9. Add the cherries and mix on first speed one minute
  10. Cover and let rise for 1 ½ hour
  11. Butter or oil the pan
  12. Sprinkle the sliced almonds or chopped hazelnuts at the bottom
  13. Knead the dough briefly and shape into a ball
  14. Make a hole in the center and stretch it until it is big enough to go over the central "chimney" in the pan
  15. Transfer to the pan and let rise again for one to one and a half hour
  16. Pre-heat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC
  17. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes (according to your oven)
  18. Unmold on a rack and allow to cool
  19. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar
Enjoy! Jan.3 update : Oops! I just realized I was showing you the kouglof slice lying down instead of standing up as it comes out when you cut it. Here is the "right" picture:
This kouglof goes to Susan, from Wild Yeast for Yeastpotting. For those of you who might be interested, here are a few snapshots taken a couple of years ago as we were crossing Alsace on our way to my in-laws (who live in Belgium):


  1. Wow! I love the addition of the saffron. Love the photos of Alsace too. Happy New Year, MC!

  2. What a beautiful entry...the whole page...
    the photos are stunning...
    they are inspiring and will make packing and learning French a little bit easier...

  3. Kugelhopf is one of my favorites. I saw your post at yeast spotting and decided to stop by. So glad I did! What lovely photos and a beautiful kouglof! Happy new Year!

  4. I love the substitutions you made in this. It looks fantastic!

  5. I made it too, minus the saffron, but I added Kirsch from my brother-inlaws cherry orchard!
    Seems a bit dense, but I guess the proof is in the pudding??
    Oh, yeah I also mixed the butter into the flour to fully incorporate it,an old bakers secret like when making cakes or tarts.


  6. P.S. I grew up in a town in Alsace and it's close to my heart, especially all the great patisserie!

  7. Bonjour Jeremy! You are absolutely right, the kouglof was very tasty but dense. But then I never had a kouglof that wasn't dense, even in Alsace... Do you mean to say that with your old baker's trick, it could be as light as a pan d'oro?

  8. @Susan, Happy New Year too and thank you for being such a gracious host week after week!
    @Judd, I am so happy for you! Think of all the new experiences lined up for you in 2010. Mind-boggling!
    @Katie, thank you for your visit. Have a very Happy New Year.
    @Joanne, saffron and cherries are one of my favorites (and the main reason why I love Persian rice so much). Best wishes for the New Year!

  9. And a again a delicious looking cake! I am fear that this one has to wait because today I am baking gâteau à l'orange :-D but I have the Gugelhupf (thats how I would spell it) on my to do list. I never baked a sourdough Gugelhupf so I am very curious about trying.

  10. Actually, mine was a brick!!! I am going to give my other recette I have a go, maybe the one in my book from Alsace, I bought it at the rail station in Colmar!
    Dense as in more cakey,I always found them more airy and a bit dryer maybe, but not like the lead weight I made,;) could be the lazy baker made a boo-boo!!

  11. Hi, Jeremy! Does your recipe use commercial yeast and all white flour? I'd be curious to see if it produces an airier kouglof. Which recipe did you use for the "brick"?

  12. Ummm, sorry the brick was this recipe! I halved it and it had promise and seemed responsive but definitely had no push at the bake time, I don't know if it was my levain, which by the way is really healthy as you may have seen from my last post. I will look up my recipe in my old recipe cards from my days working in a hotel pastry department and will pop it off to you in an e-mail!


  13. Wow, sorry! That's really too bad. Mine rose with no problem as you can see. It actually got more oven kick that I thought it would, looking at it going in. Did you let yours ferment long enough? Maybe it was too small for its pan if you halved it?

  14. P.S Yes it's an all white flour and yeasted product,haven't converted it to levain yet!

  15. I made this with chopped soft apricots and flaked almonds on the top and it was completely wonderful. As I handmixed it, I added all the liquid ingredients together, gently melting the butter in the microwave and mixed them with the eggs and added the mixture bit by bit to the flour and sourdough mix. It had a much longer second proof, about four hours in a warmish about 78 degrees cupboard and then when it was about an inch from the top of the tin, I baked it and it almost doubled in size! Not dense at all, soemething like a cross between a light scone and a brioche in texture. Thank you for this wonderful recipe!

  16. @Jeremy, keep me posted!
    @Zeb, I love your version. Next time, I will try your method as well. I'd love to get a kouglof that's not dense at all...

  17. Will give it another go for next week, I have a get together with some neighbors!

    Crossing my fingers?! Maybe I will use teff starter?

  18. Hi @MC, I suppose 'not dense at all' is a bit of an overstatement, it's not panettone! But it's nothing like stollen either , which is the sourdough sweet bread that I think of as 'dense'. So on a scale of 1 to 10 with panettone as the lightest at 10, I think this would be about a 7 or an 8. But it's all a bit subjective isn't it?

  19. A 7 or an 8 is good. I think mine may have been a 5 or a 6... And yes, it is subjective!

  20. What beautiful photography. Snap-shots I would say do not do them justice.

  21. Thank you, Ian! Alsace is such a photogenic part of France...



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