For anyone who comes from Alsace, the northeastern region of France, kugelhopf, as plain as it is, is a dream food. Part bread, part cake, kugelhopf is made very much like brioche. In fact, it is almost a brioche, but not a rich one. You won’t miss the bit of butter that’s left out of the dough, though, because once it’s baked, the cake is soaked with melted butter and sprinkled with sugar, so it develops a fine crust. While, in a pinch, you could make a kugelhopf in a Bundt pan, it’s a treat to make it in the pan designed especially for it. Sometimes called a Turk’s head or “turban,” a kugelhopf pan is fairly slender and has graceful curves (which do, in fact, resemble the wrap of a turban). If you want to be completely authentic, you can look for a heavy pottery kugelhopf mold from Alsace — you might even find one with painted flowers. Or you can use a silicone turban pan, as I do. It gives me particular pleasure to bake a centuries-old recipe in something so modern. Like brioche, this dough is best made using a heavy-duty mixer; however, you can succeed in mixing it in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.–Dorie Greenspan
7 H, 35 M
Special Equipment: 9-inch kugelhopf mold (8- to 9-cup capacity)
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Bring a little water to a boil in a small saucepan and toss in the raisins. Turn off the heat and let steep for 2 minutes, then drain the raisins and pat them dry.
Put the yeast and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt and stir just to moisten the flour—don’t be concerned, the mixture will be shaggy and there may be dry patches.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs and yolk together lightly with a fork. Fit the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one, and, working on low speed, pour in the beaten eggs, mixing until they are incorporated. Add the sugar, increase the mixer speed to medium-high, and beat until the dough comes together and smoothes out a little, about 5 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add the butter in 4 to 6 additions, squeezing each piece to soften it before adding it and beating until each one is almost fully incorporated before adding the next.
When the butter is blended in, the dough will be very soft. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and climbs up the hook, about 10 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the raisins. Scrape the dough into a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. (The length of time will depend on the warmth of your room.)
Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall back with a slap into the bowl. Cover the bowl again and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours. Then, if you have the time, let the dough rest in the refrigerator overnight. (The dough can be wrapped tightly and refrigerated for up to 2 days.)
Generously butter a 9-inch kugelhopf mold (8-to-9-cup capacity) and put the chilled dough in the pan. Cover the pan lightly with buttered parchment or wax paper and let the dough rise in a warm place until it comes almost to the top of the mold, 2 to 3 hours.
When the dough has almost fully risen, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
Remove the paper and bake the kugelhopf for 10 minutes. Cover the pan loosely with a foil tent and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the kugelhopf is golden brown and has risen to the top — or, more likely, over the top — of the pan. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with foil and place a rack over it. Remove the kugelhopf from the oven and unmold it on the rack.
Melt the butter and gently brush the hot cake with it, allowing the butter to soak into the cake. Sprinkle the hot cake lightly with sugar and cool it to room temperature.
Right before serving, dust the kugelhopf with confectioners’ sugar.
If you are not going to serve the cake as soon as it cools, because it stales quickly, wrap it in plastic without sprinkling it with confectioners’ sugar. Then sprinkle it with the sugar before serving. Luckily, stale kugelhopf is delicious cut into thick slices, toasted, and spread with butter and marmalade.
Kugelhopf Recipe © 2006 Dorie Greenspan. Photo © 2006 Alan Richardson. All rights reserved. All materials used with permission.