WE KNEAD TO BAKE #7 : A Savoury Kugelhopf
AKugelhopf (also spelt as Kugelhupf, Gugelhupf, Gougelhof, Kugelhoph, Kugloff Kuelopf, Kouklouf, Köjlhopf, Koejelhopf, Koïlopf, Köjhupf!) is a yeasted sweet cake well known in the Alsace region of France, as well as in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, and variations of this are also found in some countries of Eastern Europe.
Though this yeasted cake is really thought to be Austrian in origin, it is more known as Alsatian. The most commonly told story about the Kugelhopf is that Marie Antoinette (the same lady of the “let them eat cake” fame!) brought it from her home country Austria, to France upon her marriage to King Louis XVI.
There are others who think that the Kugelhopf was brough over from Poland to France by the Polish king Stanisław Leszczyn´ski when he came to live in Alsace in the early 1700s.
There are always stories, some believable, others not so believable and some true, about a lot of food and it’s the same with the Kugelhopf. Here’s one.
There used to be a potter called Kugel who lived in a village in Alsace (France). One morning at work, he created a deep round and fluted ceramic cake mould with curving sides and a tube in the middle. That evening, three strangers knocked on his door looking for a place to stay the night. Kugel shared whatever little food he had, and gave them some place to sleep.
Apparently, the three guests were actually the Three Magi on their way from paying homage to bay Jesus at Bethlehem! To thank him for his generosity to them, the three men baked him a cake in his new mould and left before he got up. That tall golden cake is said to have become the Kugelhopf that the Alsace region of France is famous for.
Here’s another story. This one contends that the turban-shaped cakes signify the turbans that Ottomans wore, and were ﬁrst baked by Viennese bakers to celebrate victory in 1683 over the Ottoman Turks at the gates of Vienna.
And then there the one that suggests that the first Kugelhopf was made when Monsieur Eugene the chef of the Austrian Ambassador Prince Schwartzenberg, gave to the well-known French pastry chef Carême.
And why is this yeasted cake called a Kugelhopf? Is there a story there too? No one seems to know for sure but some say the name comes from the German word “Kugel” for ball referring to its round shape, and “Hopfen” meaning “to brew up/ up or rise up under the influence of yeast.” Another thought is that it is from the Alsatian (German) word Gugelhut/Gugehüet, which refers to a kind of medieval round formal hat worn by members of the Strasbourg Sénat that governed that city.
Whether the origins of the name or the recipe/ dish are true or not, it makes for interesting reading and also tells you that the people to whom this yeasted cake is traditional, are pretty passionate about it.
The Kugelhopf is baked not just as an everyday food but also for special occasions and festivities and the shape of the mould and the Kugelhopf is decided by what the occasion is.
As mentioned in the story of Kugel the potter, the Kugelhopf is typically baked in a special pan that that is round with a hole in the centre, somewhat like a bundt pan but heavier. Since it is a yeasted cake, the Kugelhopf has a dense bread-like texture and is made from a somewhat enriched dough like brioche but is not as rich. It is considered similar to a coffee cake that might be eaten for or with breakfast, or could be part of an afternoon snack with coffee.
A lesser known version of the Kugelhopf is its savoury Alsatian version called the Kugelhopf aux Lardons. “Lardons” is the French word for bacon, and this version is typically made with onions, ham/ bacon, walnuts and herbs.
This bread/ cake contains eggs because they are a characteristic part of this bake, but feel free to substitute powdered flax seed for the eggs if you don’t eat them. You may also use sun-dried tomatoes and toasted pine nuts instead of the tomatoes/ bell pepper and walnuts. I used Cheddar because that’s what I had, but use a cheese of your choice if you prefer. A sharper cheese will taste better.
This Kugelhopf bakes in an 8” Kugelhopf pan, but you should also be ableto bake it in an 8” Bundt pan, a regular loaf tin (or 2 small ones), smaller Brioche tins or even muffin tins. If you’re baking this in muffin tins you might want to use half the recipe, though I understand that this bread freezes well.
- Once again I used the processor. This can be done by hand but it will be a bit sticky to handle. Put 3 cups of flour, yeast, and salt in the bowl of the processor. Pulse a couple of times to mix. The add the butter, a little at a time, and process till incorporated.
- Add the warm milk and process till mixed. Now add the eggs and process till mixed. You will now have a soft and sticky dough. Knead some more, adding more flour, a little at a time and just enough till the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Do not be tempted to add more flour than absolutely necessary.
- Your dough will be very soft, elastic and just short of sticky. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover and let it rise until double in volume. This can take from 1 1/2 hours to 2 1/2 hours!
- In the meanwhile, heat 1/2 a tsp oil in a pan. Add the chopped green bell pepper, the tomato and a pinch of salt and stir-fry till the raw smell disappears but the vegetables are still crisp/ crunchy. Remove and keep aside. To the same pan, add the remaining 1/2 tsp oil and sauté the onions with a pinch of salt till they turn golden brown. Remove and add to the bell peppers and keep aside.
- Grease an 8” kugelhopf mould or bundt pan well especially around the centre (or whatever pan/ tin you plan to use). Place some of the chopped walnuts in the bottom of the mould. If you’re using a loaf tin or brioche moulds, then don’t do this. Instead press in the walnuts on top of the dough after the second rise, just before baking.
- Once the dough has risen, deflate it. Then work the cheese, stir-fried onions, bell pepper and tomato, the remaining walnuts, black pepper and thyme into the dough. The best way to do this is to flatten the dough out and spread all this over the surface, fold the dough over and then knead it. This will ensure a more uniform incorporation of the “filling”. The dough will be a bit sticky, so use a scraper to help you with the kneading. Do not add more flour!
- Roll the dough into a longish log, long enough to fit into the mould comfortably. Lift the “log” of dough and place it in the mould in a circular fashion and pinch the two ends together to close the “circle” of dough. Cover and let the dough rise for about an hour or so, until it reaches the edge/ rim of the mould.
- Bake the Kugelhopf at 200C (400F) Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees for about 35 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown and sounds hollow when it is tapped.
- Unmould the Kugelhopf and let it cool on a rack. Slice and serve. This Kugelhopf should serve about 10 people and is also good for breakfast, as a snack or served with a simple soup