Start your new year off right!

by Dr. Krystal White
Contributing writer

What’s that you say? Kugelhopf?

Prounounced “cooo-goul-hopf,” this lovely yeast loaf has a culinary reach in most major European countries, including France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Given that it’s found in many places, it’s origin is of wide dispute.

One of the most endearing stories tells how the three holy kings made their way back from Bethlehem and traveled through Alsace. The people made them a gift of a “high cake” that honored the shape of their turbans.

The foundation of this delightful cake is a sweet, yeast dough resembling a brioche.
The yeasty nature of the cake makes it more suitable to serve in the morning at brunch or in the afternoon with coffee. It is baked in a glazed, earthenware mold that gives it the shape of a crown or a turban.

Brioche is a rich, yeasty, milky, eggy bread, baked since the Middle Ages throughout Europe.

Kugelhopfs are classically garnished with almonds and raisins, but
this awesome recipe includes dried cherries and pecans (although you can
substitute walnuts and cranberries, or try shredded coconut and

The most important aspect of this bread is the
mold. You can find a mold in any small town in Alsace (perfect for
Christmas market heaven!) as well as some larger stores in Germany. It
will be a gift that you’ll treasure for many holiday seasons to come.
So, tip-toe away from your usual New Year’s Eve brunch and start a
new tradition, with Kugelhopf.

Make your own Kugelhopf!

* 300 grams (10 1/2 ounces) of flour (make sure you weight it!)
* 50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar
* 15 grams (1/2 ounce) fresh yeast (for other types of yeast, see substitutions)
* 120 milliliters (1/2 cup) lukewarm, whole milk
* 3 eggs, lightly beaten
* 1 tablespoon dark rum brandy (can use from the reserved raisins)
* 120 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) butter at room temperature and diced, plus a good pat for the mold
* A good pinch of salt
* 35 grams (1/2 cup) pecan pieces
* 45 grams (1/3 cup) dried cherries, soaked overnight in 1/3 cup brandy
* A few whole pecans for placing on top of the mold
* Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

This makes one 22-centimeter (8 2/3-inch) Kugelhopf mold (outside measurement at the rim), or a bundt pan.

* Combine the flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl, combine the fresh yeast with the milk and stir to soften. Form a well in the flour and pour in the milk mixture, eggs and rum. Mix everything in with a wooden spoon.

* Mix the dough vigorously for 10 minutes, add the softened diced butter, and continue working with the dough another 10 minutes or so until it becomes elastic. Be warned that brioche dough is very sticky; if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, now would be a good time to use it. Add the sliced almonds and drained raisins, and mix again to combine.

* Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise for 30 minutes in a warm spot of the house (I opted to place it on a kitchen towel on top of the radiator). After the first rise, punch the dough down and knead it briefly again.

* Butter the pan generously and right up to the top. Place a whole almond in each groove of the mold (or sprinkle with more sliced almonds). Pour the dough into the mold and return it to the warm spot. Let the dough rise to fill the mold, about one hour.

* Preheat the oven to 180 C (360 F) with a heat-resistant cup of water placed on the oven rack. Put the Kugelhopf in the oven and bake for 45 minutes until crusty and brown and until a knife inserted in the center of the dough comes out clean. If the top seems to brown too fast, protect it with a piece of foil or parchment paper.

* Let cool completely on a rack, about two hours, before un-molding. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve with jam, honey or maple butter. Kugelhopf keeps for a few days, tightly wrapped in a clean kitchen towel; slices can be toasted to refresh their texture. You can also freeze part or all of the loaf.