Love came in the form of household appliance this Christmas. Shinier than a diamond and more nutritionally sound, there really is no place like home when Special K and Ruby spend some quality time together.
The element of being surprised, of not expecting such a treasure, always disarms me a first. My initial instinct is spiritual: “I DON”T DESERVE THIS!” followed by comparative analysis: “Did I give you something AS good?”
But to be taken off guard that someone has witnessed a pure elation in you, has honored it, and given you a tool to produce more of it…
…without you asking,
that truly, felt….like “home” to me.
And home is where Ruby is.
I have great expectations of Ruby. I envision homemade whip cream, homemade marshmallows, high rise cookies, eat your heart out betty cakes, and do it myself spaetzle. Maybe even a sausage or two….who knows?
Up first: Santa’s choice….homemade oatmeal raisin cookies. Ruby gets people practically rolling on the kitchen floor waiting for the dough to be finished so someone can lick it off the paddle. And she is SPEEDY. Little delaying of gratification here (do you remember the last time that you got something and IMMEDIATELY put it to use? I felt 9 again for at least 45 seconds!)
For its first TRUE whirl, however, I decided to FINALLY stir up the necessary dough batter for Kougelhof (from last APRIL’s visit to ALSACE). The mold produced some lack luster baked goods, and although I attempted to make some cake batters in it (they were EDIBLE, in the end) I have always felt that the solid earthenware was waiting on this recipe to make its proper debut.
Ruby to the RESCUE!
Let me introduce you to: Kougelhof. or Kouglof, or gougelhof, kougelhof, gugelhupf, kugelhof, kugelopf, or kugelhopf
(you can see the different territory battles that occurred in the land by the dizzyness of its name).
It is an Alsatian brioche, usually garnished with raisins, and baked in a glazed earthenware mold that gives it the shape of a crown, or a turban.
Brioche? Well, it is a rich, yeasty milky eggy bread, baked since the Middle Ages in this large area that now is called Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Flanders, and parts of Germany, but Special K’s type a specialty from Alsace, because that’s the sort I’ve been exposed to.
This recipe produces a not very sweet brioche. It usually doesn’t last more than a day, but with just two of us part-taking, I rationed half of it out. The second day, slathered with my favorite Brummel and Brown spread, I swooned a bit after a 90 minute gym sprint.
Kougelhopfs are classically garnished with almonds and raisins, but try this out with dried cherries and pecans, or walnuts and cranberries or coconut and pistachio. One day, I promise to make one scented with french rose syrup and candied ginger and orange peel. Tip toe away from tradition a bit and maybe add some small choco-chips and raspberry jam! YUMMY!
The most important aspect of this bread means getting a mold. ANd I am happy to say, with not a hint of snobbery, that I bought mine in FRANCE. My mold is pretty simple, and I seasoned it last spring. functional and simple. So NOT like my personality, but definitely how I prefer items I invest in.
The MOST important part after the mold, in MY VARIATION, (After RUBY’s magic!), lies in SOAKING THE RAISINS in BRANDY.
A few hours later, this fragrant blossoming kougelhopf peeked out at me. Moist, pliable, with brandy soaked raisins and golden butter leaking from the inside. Dangerous as it is SO delightful, I HAD to pack it up and put it in my overnight bag to take with us for breakfast in bed on New Year’s Day.
It was such a perfect finger food after a night of swanky dancing, gorgeous fireworks, sparkling toasts and feeling as if I ended this year of amazement with wonderful friends and loves, some of them, who over 2011, I came to love.
Do you have a kitchen helper that makes you feel at home? Or a recipe spurred by love?
Special K’s Kougelhopf
– 300 grams (10 1/2 ounces) of flour PLEASE WEIGH IT!
– 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 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 salt
– 35 grams (1/2 cup) sliced almonds
– 45 grams (1/3 cup) raisins and/or sultanas, soaked overnight in 1/3 Cup of BRANDY
– a few whole almonds or a little more sliced almonds for the mold
– confectioner’s sugar for dusting
This makes ONE 22-cm (8 2/3-inch) kouglof mold** (outside measurement at the rim), or a bundt pan. This WON’T be as good in any other baking 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 1 hour.
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.
Let cool completely on a rack, about 2 hours, before unmolding. 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.