Kouglof Alsatian Brioche Recipe

Do you remember Muriel, from Muriel’s Chicken? She’s a good friend of Maxence’s mother’s who lives with her family in Le Perche, and whom we’ve been visiting every year or so with immense pleasure, and frequent sighs of contentment.

Last time we went was in the fall, and Muriel’s two lovely daughters had just started their school year; because they attend university in Paris, it means they live by themselves during the week, and come home on weekends. And in late morning on Sunday, as I was twiddling around in the kitchen, I noticed a brioche dough rising in its mold on top of the radiator. Muriel explained that this was her daughters’ weekly kouglof, which they took with them on the train and ate their way through during the week.

I thought the idea heartwarming — this is exactly the sort of thing I could see myself doing if I had daughters to send off to college — but more to the point, I had to ask: would she give me her recipe? Muriel, as I hoped she would, opened her kitchen notebook to the tattered page where she had written her own mother’s recipe, and allowed me to jot down the ingredients and instructions.

Muriel makes a weekly kouglof for her daughters, who take it with them on the train to their city apartment and eat their way through it during the week.

Kouglof, also spelled gougelhof, kougelhof, gugelhupf, kugelhof, kugelopf, or kugelhopf (dizzy yet?), is an Alsatian brioche, usually garnished with almonds and raisins, and baked in a glazed earthenware mold that gives it the shape of a crown, or a turban. Similar brioches have been baked since the Middle Ages in a large area that also comprises Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Flanders, and parts of Germany, but in my heart I think of it as a specialty from Alsace and Lorraine, because that’s the sort I’ve been exposed to while on vacation there with my family.

It is on one such trip that I decided I was in urgent need of a kouglof mold of my own. In a bakery in Munster I spotted, on a high shelf behind the counter, a few really old ones that would have made me very happy — well-seasoned molds become practically non-stick* — but they weren’t for sale, so I settled for a new one, and chose the simplest model possible, an off-white mold with a caramel-colored glaze, in a shop in Colmar.

This was the summer of 2004, and I have little choice but to confess that the poor thing only gathered dust at the top of my kitchen cabinet for the four and a half subsequent years. I am a terrible person, I know. But this is a story with a happy ending, for all of a sudden, a couple of weeks ago, inspired by Muriel’s recipe and armed with a little bag of fresh yeast from the bakery, I decided to put an end to its consignment. I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

A few hours later, I was beholding a fragrant kouglof, a moist and light-crumbed loaf I’d baked sans raisins, because raisins in brioche make me wrinkle my nose like a five-year-old. This is the perfect project for a lazy day at home — start in late morning if you want the kouglof to be ready by teatime — but, let me tell you, it is a dangerous, dangerous one for the professional procrastinator working from home.

This recipe produces a not very sweet brioche, meant to be sliced and slathered with jam, honey, or the spread of your choice. And while kouglofs are classically garnished with almonds and raisins, you can try other combos of dried fruits and nuts, such as sour cherry and pistachio. This type of brioche takes well to a subtle citrus flavoring, too, so you could add a little orange flower water, finely grated citrus zest, and/or candied citrus peel. And although you’d be taking a step further away from tradition, I can’t see the harm in a cocoa powder and chocolate chip variation.

* While looking around and reading other people’s thoughts on kouglof, I stumbled upon a post by a woman who explained that, once she’s baked enough kouglofs in a mold to season it, she gives it away to a beginner kouglof baker, and starts over with a new mold. Can you think of a more thoughtful gift?

Muriel's Kouglof Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 35 minutes

For one 22-cm (8 2/3-inch) kouglof mold (outside measurement at the rim), a bundt pan, or any baking pan with a 7-cup capacity.

Muriel's Kouglof Recipe

Ingredients

  • 300 grams (10 1/2 ounces, see note) flour
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar
  • 15 grams (1/2 ounce) fresh yeast (for other types of yeast, see substitutions)
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) lukewarm milk
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum or kirsch
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) butter, at room temperature and diced, plus a good pat for the mold
  • a good pinch salt (I used demi-sel butter so I skipped this)
  • 35 grams (1/2 cup) sliced almonds
  • 45 grams (1/3 cup) raisins and/or sultanas, soaked overnight in warm water or tea and drained
  • a few whole almonds or a little more sliced almonds for the mold
  • confectioner's sugar for dusting

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Kouglof
  6. Let the dough rise to fill the mold, about 1 hour.
  7. Kouglof
  8. Preheat the oven to 180° C (360° F) with a heat-resistant cup of water placed on the oven rack. Put the kouglof 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.
  9. Kouglof
  10. Let cool completely on a rack, about 2 hours, before unmolding.
  11. Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve with jam, honey, or maple butter. Kouglof 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.

Notes

  • That's 2 1/2 cups, but I encourage you to measure the flour by weight; it really is more accurate, and accuracy is especially important in yeast-based recipes such as this one.
  • If your earthenware kouglof mold is brand new, you will need to prep it before the first use, otherwise it might crack. First, place it in a large bowl of warm water to which you've added half a glass of oil, and soak for 24 hours. The next day, preheat the oven to 180° C (360° F), pour a glass of milk into the (drained) mold, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Let cool completely, pour out the milk, and wipe before using. Kouglof molds should not be washed, but rather wiped clean with a damp towel.

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  • http://www.meanmama.org liz

    this was particularly fun for me to read, since my 16 year old daughter is spending this year with AFS in southern germany and has eaten and baked many of these cakes (which i belive are called “gugelhupf” where she lives). she even got a gugelhupf cookbook for christmas!

  • http://firefliesofhope.com Gwendolyn

    Your post reminds me what kind-hearted and generous people there are in the world. It makes me want to share ~ like the woman who bakes for her daughter’s trips, or the woman who gives away her precious seasoned molds.

    It also makes me want to get in the kitchen and bake!

    Thank you.

  • http://www.anamericantable.com sirena

    a well-loved and well-seasoned mold! what a lovely thought to recycle something like that. your kouglof is beautiful! i’m keeping it on my to-do list in case i ever come across a mold like that in rockville, md, or make it to colmar…

  • Liz – aka Nutty Gnome

    Oh, this has so made my mouth water and brought back wonderful, warm memories of summers spent in Mayenne with a french family and lots of kougelof when we got back from school! Thank you for that!

  • http://www.fromsingletomarried.com Tabitha @ From Single to Married

    mmm… that looks delicious! I always learn about such interesting foods from your site!

  • http://www.oneforthetable.com/oftt/index.php annie

    I am one of those work-at-home types who sees a dried cherry and pistachio kugelof in my immediate future. I hope I can maybe make it in my ancient bundt pan, since I don’t have the right kind of ceramic mold and may not find one easily. Thanks so much!!

  • http://smallkitchenbigideas.wordpress.com Sara

    Sounds great!

    I think my bundt pan would work for this.

  • http://bilateralhaze.wordpress.com/ Lara

    This is the sweetest thing. I hope as my children grow up and out of our home I can do something similar for each of them.

    Now if only I can find someone to gift me with a seasoned kouglof mold…

  • http://wolfsilveroak.insanejournal.com Wolf

    I have a bottle of orange flower water in my spice/herb drawer and had no idea what to use it in.

    Now I have an idea.}:P

  • Kara

    I taught english in Colmar for a year after school, and fell in love with the subtle comforts of kugelopf. Reading your post reminded me of all the amazing food I had in Alsace… mmmmmmm!

  • http://theendivechronicles.com/ Erin

    What lucky daughters. If I ever have children I hope to take care of them with loving actions like that.

  • dory

    This looks lovely! I don’t have the right kind of mold, but I am going to try the recipe. It reminds me of the kinds of breads that my husband used to eat growing up in South America, so I will make one for him. It is funny, because the name kugolof reminds me of the noodle kugels my Jewish friends make, but the recipe is nothing like that. Definitely I have to make one in the next week, because we are having one of the coldest, greyest springs in recent times. My house needs cheering up by way of one of your recipes.

    Dory

    Dory

  • http://MyKugelhopf.ch Kerrin – MyKugelhopf

    What a fabulous post!! Loved it – and not only because the kugelhopf is near and dear to my heart — that’s the name of my blog, MyKugelhopf !! I live in Zurich, at the very center of all the supposed origins of the cake. But I’m with you – it’s Alsatian to me. I discovered it in Strasbourg and Colmar years ago, and return there whenever I can. In fact, that’s where I’m heading tomorrow, to Alsace! What fun timing to see your article here before I go. Now the only question is… where to go to find an already seasoned kugelhopf mold?! ;)

  • http://mllenoelle.wordpress.com mlle noelle

    My first experience with kugelhopf was in the kitchen of an 80+-year-old woman in the tiny Alsatian village of Guewenheim, at age 16. She was trying to instruct my friend and I how to bake a kugelhopf; however, although our French was pretty good, we could not for the life of us understand her thick Alsatian accent! Not only that, but unfortunately her version was rather dry and uninspiring. Perhaps I’ll have to give it another shot, as a nod to my Alsatian heritage. :)

  • http://beyondthewindow.wordpress.com beyond

    oh this brings back fond memories. my mother made kugelhopf a lot when we were kids. so yummy. i liked it best when she didn’t put raisins in. (they get so squishy!)

  • http://www.macaronpatisserie.com Tim

    I. LOVE. KUGELHOPF! The problem is, you can’t find a good kugelhopf mold in the US. There are many providers that market “kugelhopf molds” but in reality they are just spiral bundt pans. I want a nice terra cotta mold like yours! Also, the terra cotta molds like you have just have a small “bump” inside so that the bread rises up and completely covers it. The molds in the US have the tube all the way up so you would end up with a loaf will a hole all the way through, like a big donut.

    Where can I find that nice lady giving away seasoned molds?!?!?!?

  • Jennifer

    Looks amazing! Could you also soak the raisins in dark rum, or do you think that would make them too “rum-y?”

  • http://thecanberracook.blogspot.com Cath the Canberra Cook

    Ah, interesting. I like the idea of it as a rich fruit loaf. It sounds almost like a pannettone. Mostly I’ve encountered the chocolate version, in Melbourne’s Jewish bakery strip at St Kilda.

    BTW, for Wolf, I recently used orange flower water in an old fashioned seedcake, here.

  • http://awake.typepad.com E.

    I usually read without commenting, but I had to chime in here. This Kugelhopf looks so tempting! I have very nice memories of eating Kugelhopf in the morning with my husband’s relatives in Vienna, along with delicious coffee and conversations that would last until our second cups were cold at the bottom. Of course, I therefore thought that it was an Austrian treat!

  • http://www.unconfidentialcook.com unconfidentialcook

    I would definitely give the cocoa powder and chocolate chip version a go….

  • Julia

    The Kouglof doesn’t stop at the Austrian border, we have them in Hungary, too. Spelled simply kuglof. So if you’re ever in Budapest, try them!

  • http://www.merisi.blogspot.com Meris’s Vienna for Beginner

    Guglhupf is very popular in Austria.
    The Viennese version of the yeast dough Guglhupf is made with the same ingredients like Muriels (portions are a bit different), but lemon peel instead of Rum as a flavoring, according to the classic Viennese cookbook “Wiener Küche” by Olga and Adolf Hess. I also have a recipe where the dough gets divided into four parts, which are then devided in turn and filled with four different fillings.

    I baked an Earl Grey Chocolate Guglhupf recently, a modern take on the marble cake version.

  • http://easydoesitrecipes.blogspot.com/ Chris

    What a great article! I really enjoyed this! You inspired me to make my own kougelhof! I come from the Champagne region, which was not very far. My best souvenir of it is staying at somebody’s in Alsace who woke up very early to make us a fresh Kougelhof so that we could have irt warm for breakfats, how sweet is that! The food in Alsace is amazing :)

  • Janka

    Hmmm, Guglhupf… So, I also thought this was an Austrian-Hungarian treat as my grandpa also made them (I’m from Slovakia, living in Austria now). However, his version was a sponge cake with raisins. With no leaveners at all, he never used baking powder or anything. Only pure muscle power in form of beaten egg whites made the cake rise to the top of the mold. His was an enameled metal mold. Usually, all kinds of cakes (yeast dough or others) baked in such mold is called guglhupf. I might try this Alsatian version soon (with raising, please ;-))

  • http://www.carablack.com Cara

    Mouthwatering post, Clotilde. And what a lovely thing to send your daughters off to school with. thank your for this recipe and the inspired discussion

  • http://www.lemontart.typepad.com/ Tami

    Well I can imagine the last must be divine and I’m inspired to finally bake a brioche. But what caught my eye is the amazing white ceramic hold. I know I will not be able to get that beautiful piece of bakeware out of my mind until I finally make it to Alsace one day and pick up my very own….

  • http://onlinepastrychef.wordpress.com/ Jenni

    Thank goodness for people who don’t mind sharing recipes. The bread is gorgeous, and I am coveting your pan more than a little. I, too, am a bad person:)

  • http://design-smith.blogspot.com/ design_SMITH

    Clotilde you are trouble … always suggesting cooking equipment I don’t have and then think I must get RIGHT AWAY.

    In lieu of a kouglof mold, what kind of pan would you suggest? Or what qualities are important for this treat? The mold looks deep as it is wide. And you said it’s clay … Maybe a bundt pan? Or souffle dish?

  • http://sweetdiversions.blogspot.com Tiffany

    This is so special–I love the story behind it, too. Hope to be able try it out soon, though, I’ll have to do it in a bundt pan.

  • dory

    I am planning on trying a springform pan.I don’t have a bundt pan, and I don’t particularly want my brioche to have a big hole in the middle. Using a springform pan will not be nearly as pretty, but it will hold a lot of dough.

    Dory

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Design_SMITH – I can relate to the pan envy! :)

    But as noted in the recipe, the dough could also be baked in a bundt pan, or any baking pan with a 7-cup capacity.

  • http://www.cakespy.com Cakespy

    I loved reading more about this treat! I have been curious about kugelhopf (that’s what I grew up reading it as) – so interesting to discover this regional version of kuglof. I think I am in love!

  • http://reci-p.com/recipes/kouglof Calvin

    Definitely going to love playing with this recipe. I’d seen something similar at http://reci-p.com/recipes/kouglof but love the idea of adding other nuts and fruits.

  • Rachel

    your mold is very beautiful

  • http://design-smith.blogspot.com/ design_SMITH

    Clotilde:

    When I scanned the recipe I missed the alternate pans – thanks. I have one rising right now (with hazelnuts and cranberries). Can’t wait!

  • Sue

    Hello, does anyone know where to buy a ceramic pan like this over the internet? Thanks so much!

  • Valerie@The Hopla Square

    The Kougelhopf, in its sweet or savory version, is delicious and is definitely best baked in the earthenware mold. I brought mine from Strasbourg, my hometown, when I moved to the US. I will definitely try your recipe. I import clay cookware handmade in Alsace but unfortunately we do not propose the kougelhopf mold but we offer faitouts/casseroles (perfect for slow cooking) to cook for example another Alsatian specialty, the baeckeoffe (meat stew).

  • Kristi

    What a sweet story.
    And I am completely fascinated by the idea of Muriel’s “kitchen notebook” with the tattered page where she had copied her mother’s recipe! Please tell me more? Can you describe the book and how she uses it?
    Thanks and thanks for your wonderful books and blog.

  • Alice

    Oooooh, that sounds wonderfukky delicious…maybe I’ll give it a try soon.

  • http://laflordelcalabacin.blogspot.com Ajonjoli

    Hi!
    I’m trying your recipe right now and, well, I don’t want to bother you but I have found something puzzling with your taux d’hydratation. The liquids are three eggs (~180 gr), 120 gr milk and a tbs of rum. With 300 gr flour, it makes a taux d’hydratation of more than 100% !!! That’s the same taux d’hydratation of sourdough…
    I’m used to bake “roscón de reyes” in Spain, that has a very similar dough as this one, and the taux d’hydratation is 65%. Are you sure there is no mistake in the quantities? It’s impossible to work with a taux d’hydratation of 100%. I have finally put 375 gr of flour and 2 eggs, what gives me the 65%, and the dough looks fantastic. Hope I will not spoil it when removing it from the moule!!!
    Thanks for the recipe anyway. I have to say that I’m writing the comment thinking in those persons that are not used to bake at all. If they try to work with those quantities they will be in trouble.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for writing! The recipe is correct as written. It is indeed a sticky dough, and as noted in the recipe process it isn’t meant to be kneaded by hand, but rather in a bowl with a wooden spoon or in a stand mixer with the dough hook. The high taux d’hydratation makes for a very moist crumb in the finished kouglof — try it sometime!

  • http://laflordelcalabacin.blogspot.com Ajonjoli

    then it’s the only sweet bread in the world that has a higher than 100% taux d’hydratation. And with 65% it was already sticky!

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