Every year at Easter I make kougelhopf. Why for Easter? I’m not sure except that to me Easter is, among many other things, a feast of gorgeous baked goods and spring treats.
Besides, kougelhopf holds special memories for me. Not only do I love its taste and buttery texture, the way the raisins float in the dough and the almonds perch on top. But I remember searching for the best kougelhopf in Paris when I worked on the very first Food Lover’s Guide to Paris with Patricia Wells. We searched the city for the best until we found it at a small bakery in the 5th arrondissement. It belonged to a cheery Alsatian named André Lerch, who had a collection of gorgeous, much-used and cherished kougelhopf molds perched on a high shelf in his bakery kitchen. “The blacker the better,” he said.
He gave us his recipe, and I bought my own kougelhopf mold that day. It was brand spanking new but it turned out many a great kougelhopf anyway, as I worked my way through his recipe. Since then I’ve always kept an eye out for beautiful old black molds, as attested to in my minor collection. Then, last Christmas, I was given an enormous, and enormously blackened, mold by my friends Eloise and Bertrand. Bertrand is an antique specialist in Paris and when he spies something precious, he nabs it. He’d nabbed this for me, and I used it for the very first time this year. It produced a perfect kougelhopf.
Here is my recipe, originally from André Lerch, first published in the Food Lover’s Guide to Paris, then in my own French Farmhouse Cookbook! I’ve adapted it slightly to my own taste.
(BTW – the new and fabulous FOOD LOVER’S GUIDE TO PARIS is out now. And so is the iphone app. Both are indispensable.)
½ cup white raisins
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon dry yeast, SAF brand recommended
About 3-3/4 cups (525g) unbleached white flour
2 large eggs, beaten
½ cup (100g) sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
¾ cup (6 ounces;170g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for buttering the mold
½ cup (70g) whole almonds
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
1. Heat the milk to lukewarm, add the yeast, stir, and set aside until the yeast begins to proof, about 5 minutes.
2. Place the flour in a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer and make a well in the center. Add the dissolved yeast and milk, the eggs, sugar and salt. Mix the wet ingredients, then gradually mix in the flour to make a sticky dough. Knead by hand by slapping the dough against the edges of the bowl, until the dough becomes very elastic, for about 10 minutes, or with the electric mixer for about 5 minutes. Add the butter bit by bit, and knead or mix until the dough is smooth. Knead the raisins into the dough.
3. Let the dough rise, covered, until it is doubled in bulk. Punch down, knead lightly, and let rise again until doubled in bulk. Punch it down, and place the dough in the prepared kougelhopf mold. Let it rise until it is almost doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
4. Heavily butter the kougelhopf mold, and place an almond in each indentation.
5. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).
6. Bake the kougelhopf until it is golden and puffy, and baked through, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven, and turn out onto a cooling rack. When the kougelhopf is cooled, sprinkle it with the powdered sugar.