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Kugelhopf – what’s in a name?

Whip the eggs, oil or butter and bloomed yeast together well.
Whip the eggs, oil or butter and bloomed yeast together well.

So, what is Kugelhoph ... kougelhupf, gugelhopf, kouglof? It’s an Alsatian bread/cake, however the Austrians claim it as well. In Austria, there is a legend that Marie Antoinette took the recipe with her to France when she married Louis the XVI in 1770. Of course he wasn’t Louis XVI when she married him. She married Louis-Auguste, Dauphine of France who didn’t become King Louis the XVI until 1774.

Traditional Kugelhopf

Another story claims that it originated when the Hapsburg forces successfully held off the Turkish attack on the gates of Vienna. In celebration the bakers of the city created this special pastry, halfway between a cake and bread and baked it in the shape of Sultan’s turban.

And yet another story claims that it represents the turbans worn by the Magi. There is, however little doubt that it dates from at least the latter half of the 16th century because there are molds in museums of that age.

Whatever the true story of it’s origin, the Alsatians adamantly claim it as theirs, and it has been an integral part of the Alsatian wedding ceremony for centuries. It is traditionally baked by the brides mother who also bakes loaves for the priest, the mayor and schoolteacher, the midwife and neighbors, as tokens of good will, just in case their help was is needed.

Kugelhoph is available from bakeries in Alsace and Austria year round but in Alsace it is a must on the breakfast table at Christmas, and here is something that has mystified me for decades ... in Alsace, on April first, it is baked in the shape of fish. I have been trying to research this for years with no results.

Well, no matter what shape you bake your Kugelhopf in, or when you serve it, it is no myth that it is a delectable addition to any baker’s repertoire. You can make an excellent Kugelhopf by beginning with a recipe for Challah, make it a bit sweeter and add a bit of nutmeg and almond flavoring to the sponge. Add some currants and slivered blanched almonds. Knead as directed. Place soft dough into your molds that have been liberally sprayed with non stick spray or treated with oil and flour and allow to rise. When ready, bake as for Challah to desired degree of doneness. Carefully remove from the baking pans and paint with Baker’s syrup.

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