Kugelhopf with Orange Flower-Scented Syrup

14 September 2011

Post image for Kugelhopf with Orange Flower-Scented Syrup

A Kugelhopf is an iconic cake of the Alsace. If you ever travel to this part of France, especially for the famous Christmas markets in the picturesque village of Strasbourg, you will find stores overflowing with the traditional and colourfully decorated Kugelhopf moulds. It’s tempting to purchase a few, either as a decorative souvenir or indeed as intended for use in the kitchen, but they are rather heavy and make juggling cups of Glühwein (mulled wine) amongst the crowd a bit difficult, especially if one hand is also holding onto a thick slice of Lebkuchen (gingerbread). I had a brief moment with the Kugelhopf moulds before sighing with resignation to join the rest of my friends who I understood had not travelled to Strasbourg to pay homage to a piece of kitchen equipment. Next time, there is a blue enamelled Kugelhopf mould with my name on it …

I first tried a Kugelhopf when I was at Sprüngli one day for their popular brunch. Sprüngli is a famous, long-standing confiserie in Zurich which, once upon a time, was part of Lindt & Sprüngli, the famous Swiss chocolate company. Their flagship store is at Paradeplatz, a busy tram interchange in the middle of Zurich city where most of the big Swiss banks are headquartered and where luxury stores like Louis Vuitton and Prada line the streets. On Sundays, they offer a lovely continental brunch buffet filled with their famous breads and cakes, a selection of seasonal bircher muesli, cold cuts, a variety of cheeses and – my staple – soft-boiled eggs.

Alongside the croissants and brioches offered at the brunch buffet is usually also a Kugelhopf which you can help yourself to. Hubby, having grown up in France and who had a great-aunt who frequently baked Kugelhopfs at home, recognised a treat when he saw it. I simply followed his cue in taking a few slices with a little pot of jam to go with. And since then, I’ve been hooked. A little spread of jam on a slice of Kugelhopf, together with a cup of Earl Grey on the side, makes for a really lovely breakfast in my world.

So when I saw the recipe for Kugelhopf in Ladurée’s Sucré cookbook, I fleetingly thought about trying it. Baking with yeast is not something I am particularly comfortable with so I put that thought away quickly. And then I saw that Julie from Mélanger had published a post on this recipe and her photos simply left me awe-inspired.

The Ladurée Sucré cookbook, luxuriously bound in a soft green suede cover with gilded pages, is probably the prettiest cookbook out there. It even comes beautifully wrapped in its own box, similar to those which you can buy filled with macaroons from their stores. My first thought was, no way was this book going to sit stove-side in my kitchen! And besides, who would ever attempt to make their cakes and pastries when their pastry chefs probably train for years in some fancy French école and have degrees that justify the painstaking effort to produce these exquisite creations? But the book lends itself well to dreamers like me who love to look at the pictures and occasionally try out a recipe or two.

It probably goes without saying that the Ladurée Kugelhopf recipe is a bit complicated, in my opinion. Okay … the (minimum) 7.5 hour resting time (over three different periods) should have put me off from the beginning but I had managed to convince myself to devote a whole Sunday to making this cake. The Ladurée recipe doesn’t provide any tips on how the Kugelhopf can be made over two days so that it can be baked just in time for breakfast, but my guess is that once you have reached the stage of leaving the dough to rest in the fridge, you could leave it there overnight and do the final bit of proofing the next morning before baking. In any event, I found that the Kugelhopf actually tasted better the next day when it was slightly stale than when it was still warm and soft from the oven.

The only change I had made to the recipe was to soak the golden raisins in some rum which I had heated first in a small saucepan. It is a habit which I have picked up whenever a recipe calls for raisins and one which I follow faithfully.

One part of the recipe which baffled me was the use of “cake flour”. Having recently discovered that a fellow expat in Zurich (Kerrin Rousset of the wonderful food and travel blog, MyKugelhopf) actually translated this book from French to English, I was tempted to contact her to quiz her on what this ingredient was. But then I realised that, well, she was only the translator, not the person who created the recipe. My memory recalled something about a mix of plain flour and cornflour but I was unsure of the ratio, so I ended up using normal plain flour.

The dough was really soft and sticky due to the high fat content, so it is probably best to only attempt this recipe if you have a standmixer. I found that I had to mix the dough for about 20 minutes on high speed before the dough started to pull away from the sides of the bowl and become elastic in texture.

The resting phases were quite anxious moments for me. During each period of proofing, I was frequently checking on the dough to make sure that it would rise, fearful that the yeast had died and all of my effort and ingredients had gone to waste (not to mention my Sunday). Either it was the yeast I was using or the temperature of my kitchen, but I had to be quite patient as the dough took about 2.5 to 3 hours to double in size each time.

I’m not sure if I was a bit impatient with the last bit of proofing because I only had enough dough for just one Kugelhopf mould of 22 cm diameter; the recipe suggests using two Kugelhopf moulds of 19 cm diameter.

All in all, despite the sticky and messy dough, and despite the anxious periods of proofing, my Kugelhopf turned out rather well. It rose beautifully upon baking and only required 35 minutes in the oven (not 40 minutes as per the recipe). The Orange Flower-Scented Syrup gave a lovely aroma when brushed over the warm Kugelhopf. But, to be honest, I think you could do without the syrup and just brush over melted butter before dusting generously with icing sugar. In any event, if you were to make the syrup, Julie from Mélanger suggests scaling down the recipe to a quarter. I gratefully followed her advice and still ended up with more syrup than I needed.

The Ladurée recipe is essentially a rich brioche studded with raisins. By comparison, the Sprüngli Kugelhopf is a more restrained cake, less sweet and less buttery; it could almost pass as a bread but for its decorative shape. And if I had to choose, my preference would be the Sprüngli Kugelhopf, but maybe that’s only because it was the first one I had ever tried. And you know the saying about first loves …

Overall, I am really glad I tried this recipe. Despite the long hours required to arrive at the finished product, at least the effort was worth it in the end. Now I wonder if Sprüngli has published a book …

{Please click on the image twice to view the recipe in full size}

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Caroline 14 September 2011 at 7:36 pm

Absolutely fantastic read Thanh. For me this is your best food post so far, and I love the composition of the photographs. Your intro pic, the beautiful Kugelhopf, placed on a such a pretty rack, its beauty undisturbed, just caught my attention completely and am I right in thinking, these are your first, in- process shots? If so, please do continue. And a complete pleasure to read too..was smiling throughout and nodding in agreement at several places!

My favourite post Thanh!

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eat little bird 14 September 2011 at 7:42 pm

Oh thanks, Carrie! I think it’s my longest post so far!! If there’s anyone out there thinking about making a Kugelhopf, hopefully my review will help. And with all of the waiting in between proofing, I tried a few in-process shots but I haven’t got the hang of it like you have :-) I’m so glad you enjoyed this post! Tx

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Julia Levy 14 September 2011 at 8:06 pm

Oh T,

This is indeed the longest of your blogs but also your most wonderful. With so much wonderful word painting and imagery layered between the lines of your story, its truly lovely. The pictures are a delight too. It’s probably not something I’d bake myself but can now happily enjoy vicariously from here.

Julia x

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eat little bird 14 September 2011 at 8:33 pm

Thanks, Julia! I will try to keep future posts a bit shorter, though, I think. The in-laws have mentioned that they have difficulties reading everything in full!! Thanks also for the info on cake flour :-)

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Dawn 14 September 2011 at 8:26 pm

Lovely! How I wish I could grab a slice through my computer screen. Your photos, as always, capture the deliciousness of your creations :)

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eat little bird 14 September 2011 at 8:34 pm

Hi Dawn! Great to see you here :-) Please let me know of any plans for Yountville! I’m dying to hear if you’ve been back to Bouchon!

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Julia @ Mélanger 14 September 2011 at 10:20 pm

So glad you made this Kugelhopf – and discovered Kerrin, too! She is one of my favourite blogger. Your Kugelhopf is just stunning, and you are so right, you really should only attempt it with a stand mixer (like most brioche doughs really). Just lovely!

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eat little bird 14 September 2011 at 10:27 pm

Hi Julia! It was your post which inspired me to make this Kugelhopf, so thank you :-) My husband’s great-aunt (who’s around 80 years old) makes Kugelhopfs quite regularly … by hand! Puts me to shame!!

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Terry 14 September 2011 at 11:55 pm

it’s been awhile since i’ve popped in…things are looking even lovelier than before.
i do agree that this post is what I believe truly “you”. the story, your insight, your incredible fotos and immagery all set in a very endearing little world. the cake looks divine, and your little habit with the raisins sounds like a winner! Thanks for sharing it all.

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eat little bird 15 September 2011 at 12:05 am

Hi Terry! Thank you for your lovely words :-) I hope you had a great holiday! I’m curious to see what you will make with your recent arrival of UK goodies. Btw, the tip about the raisins came from – who else but – Nigella :-)

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Kerrin @ MyKugelhopf 15 September 2011 at 12:04 am

did i hear *kugelhopf*?! ;) i saw kugelhopf in the title and already jumped with excitement, even before reading that it was the ladurée recipe you made. so so glad you tried the recipe – your kugelhopf looks extraordinary. even more tempting than the one at sprüngli. true ! you should ask for your husband’s great aunt’s recipe, if she’ll be willing to share ! when i was in alsace there were kugelhopfs just warm from the oven, but the baker wouldn’t even sell them to us. you’re not supposed to eat them that fresh ! everyone there says – 1, 2 or even 3 days later, dipped in coffee, is the best.

as for the flour, there’s the issue with translating in english, when you have american english, british english and australian english. you may be more familiar with the term ‘pastry flour’ perhaps ? to be totally honest with you, i’m not sure what the swiss equivalent is, so i used plain flour like you – and it turned out great ! =)

thank you so much for the mention above. and gorgeous photos !! and by the way, julia of mélanger is one of *my* favorite bloggers !

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eat little bird 15 September 2011 at 12:24 am

Hoi Kerrin! I’m jealous of your blog name ;-) I read on your blog that you had translated the Ladurée book but it didn’t really sink in until I actually saw the book. And wow!! What a privilege it must have been to work on this book! You probably know all of the recipes by heart now ;-) I would have been constantly hungry if I were you.

I do actually have my husband’s great-aunt’s recipe … I was going to try it again soon (maybe start some sort of Kugelhopf baking marathon!) and document it here. But just checking a few details with her, such as how much she means by “1 verre de lait” …

I’m not too familiar with the term “pastry flour” but, in the past, I always used plain flour in place of cake flour and my cakes turned out ok. So I didn’t fret about it too much but, because the Kugelhopf is a rather time-consuming project, my only concern was that the type of flour might affect the rising, etc. But it turned out that I needn’t have worried!

I’m happy to have discovered yours and Julia’s blog – I get to learn more about Switzerland through you and Julia’s blog makes me feel like I have a foot back in Brisbane :-)

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Liz Headon 15 September 2011 at 12:45 am

That looks beautiful, and I love the idea of having a few slices with jam for breakfast ! I was with you every anxious step of the way as you waited to see whether it would rise each time. A long time and a lot of effort for one cake, but well worth it, it seems !

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Sneh | Cook Republic 15 September 2011 at 5:33 am

This is beautiful. Happy to have found your blog. Love the quirky illustration, you are a girl after my own heart! Donna Hay wire rack??

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eat little bird 15 September 2011 at 12:22 pm

Wow, you have a good eye! It is indeed from Donna Hay :-) I was in Sydney last year and visited her store in Woollahra – I was tempted to buy everything!

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Claudine 15 September 2011 at 10:02 am

Wow (I *really* need to find some alternative superlatives as I seem to say ‘WOW’ quite a bit here) – yet another beautiful post Thanh! I could almost smell the heavenly aromas emanating from my screen with each and every photograph :)

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Jeanette 16 September 2011 at 6:48 am

Recipes that use cake flour end up with a product that has a fluffier and lighter crumb.

If you don’t have cake flour, and quite often people don’t because it is not called for that often, you can still make your own.

Measure out 1 cup flour and remove 2 Tbsp. You will not require the 2 Tbsp flour that you removed so put it bag in the bag of flour.

Add 2 Tbsp cornstarch to the remaining flour in the cup. Now sift the mixture at least 5 times…..and you have cake flour. Not hard at all.

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eat little bird 16 September 2011 at 8:53 am

Jeanette, thank you so much for this information on cake flour! I know it will be very helpful for anyone who stumbles across this post.

If cake flour is that easy to make, I guess there is no need to really buy it! But sifting 5 times … it’s not my favourite activity in the kitchen but I have no doubt that it helps to make the end result really light.

Thank you again for this tip!

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Anita Menon 16 September 2011 at 8:30 am

I love the dainty cake stand. The kugelhopf looks gorgeous..

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eat, little bird 24 March 2012 at 11:54 pm

I bought the cake stand when I was in Australia in 2010. I often pick up lots of pieces for the kitchen when I am travelling and this cake stand has been a real favourite of mine.

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Reem | Simply Reem 16 September 2011 at 5:09 pm

Delicious Insanity!!!! This is amazing….
I loved reading this post and enjoyed every picture while drooling…
OH this is pure pleasure, how I want a slice right now…

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eat, little bird 24 March 2012 at 11:55 pm

Thanks, Reem! It was a fairly intensive recipe given the time involved, but I’m glad it all worked out well in the end :-)

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Lucie 24 March 2012 at 8:46 pm

Evening! :-) Nice to see Kugelhopf on your blog. In my country, we bake many types of Kugelhopf (we call it “bábovka”) very often. It’s kind of traditional cake in the Czech Republic, Austria, part of Germany and France. We often bake it with baking powder and whisked egg whites instead of yeast. But your recipe is very nice, I’ll try it :-)

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eat, little bird 24 March 2012 at 11:53 pm

Hello Lucie! Ooh I would be interested to try this cake. Not that I am afraid to use yeast, but there is a bit of waiting time involved. So it sounds like you could make the cake more quickly if using baking powder and whisked egg whites. I’ve come across a few other Kugelhopf recipes which are more cake-like than brioche-like, but they all taste great to me :-)

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Lucie 27 March 2012 at 7:21 pm

The recipe which I allways use (without whisked eggs) is very simple and it’s from my grandmother :-)

2 and 1/2 or 3 cups (250 ml) flour (I use half wholemeal and half white flour, I think our type of flour is called “all purpose” in english – it’s allways a problem for Czechs living abroad)
1 cup caster sugar (I often use brown sugar)
1 and 1/2 cup semi-skimmed milk (or little more, depends on consistency of the batter)
1 or 2 eggs
1/2 cup (or less) sunflower oil
1 baking powder, a pinch of cinnamon
2 heaped table spoons cocoa powder

Carefully grease the kugelhopf form with butter and strong flour. Whisk together eggs, milk and oil and in another bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon. Mix together and stir good (more than when you make muffins). Split the batter into two bowls, stir in the cocoa powder in one of them. Pour both the batters into the form and mix just to make “marble” in it.

It’s totally foolproof (so even I can make it ;) and it’s the favourite “bábovka” in our house. I have never made the whisked eggs version but I’m going to try it. I’ll post a (tested) recipe here if you like :)

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eat, little bird 28 March 2012 at 11:11 am

Lucie,

Thank you SO much for sharing your grandmother’s recipe here! I always love receiving recipes from readers to try :-)

This sounds like such a lovely marble cake – I will definitely try it and let you know how it turns out!

And if the version with whisked egg whites work out well for you, please also feel free to share the recipe here :-) I’m sure others would also be happy to see your recipe and try it for themselves.

I will be in touch with you soon. Thank you again! :-)

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