Every time I desperately seek for something, anything, like a call from a long lost friend or getting my hands on a rare ingredient that I’ve wanted so badly, it has somehow never worked for me. I suppose the desperation in my case hardly leads to a positive outcome. Well, I’ve never been quite the chaser anyway, let’s just say that when I chase, there’s a backfire and then I explode.
On the other hand, at times, the way in which my subconscious thoughts spring up on me in some form of reality or the other is frighteningly phenomenal. It could be this person writing to me after several years; someone I’m not particularly in touch with, whose picture I see on Facebook and for one fleeting moment, I dwell on the lovely time we had many years ago. It’s almost as though, somewhere during that fleeting moment I had, thinking of her and the good time we had, an elusive signal was sent to that person, from my mind to hers.
The other day, I was thinking of Dave Matthews Band and how I haven’t heard them in the longest time. A week later, I was flipping channels and just like that, I chance upon Dave Matthews Storytellers Live concert on VH1. I could go on and on with examples, like a particular kind of wallet that I’ve wanted or a holiday that I’ve been thinking of but what I’m trying to say is that these thoughts are hardly forgotten, they linger somewhere in your brain subliminally and very soon, they come back to life, in the form of a phone call or in this case a Kougelhopf mould.
So Kougelhopf (or should I say Gugelhupf?), is a part German, part French bread that’s predominantly made in this quaint little town called Alsace, nestled in the border of France and Germany. You know these paintings of Monet you have, of water lilies floating on a bed of moss green pond, a landscape of violet flower beds or little boats wandering through a thin belt of blue stream, that’s Alsace for you. It’s just so cut off from the real world; people here live amidst little wooden houses, green pastures, fat cows (with little bells tied around their necks) and wild raspberries hidden in forests. They soak in every iota of goodness that nature showers upon them. If I had to move there, I would, in a heartbeat.
Kougelhopf is a tradition in Alsace where the bread is pre-baked and had for breakfast on Sunday mornings. I can almost picture the Alsatian homes floating in the aroma of freshly baked Kougelhopfs, families coming together for breakfast, with slices of Kougelhopf and dollops of some kind of berry jam on the side at the table, with the church bell ding-donging in the background.
I’ve been meaning to bake a Kougelhopf for the longest time, but to bake one you need a special bunt-like mould. It’s not something you easily find in Bakeware stores in India. I put the thought of making Kougelhopf at the back of my mind and thought I’d ask someone to get it for me from Europe. On my birthday, last week, I was at this store, scrutinizing the baking aisle, to gift myself with something special, and there it was, a Kougelhopf mould, sitting perfectly on a shelf, like some sort of a crown or a tiara.
The brevity of your thoughts really don’t matter when it comes to things you desire, as long as your thoughts are powerful, these things eventually have a way of finding you.
- 500 g (1/2 kg) wheat flour, sifted
- 60 g (1/2 cup + 1 tbsp) caster sugar
- 250 ml whole milk, tepid
- 180 g unsalted butter, softened
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tbsp salt
- 100 g golden raisins
- 50 g almonds
- 50 ml kirshwasser
- Icing sugar, to dust
- Butter, to grease the mould
- Soak the raisins in the kirshwasser the previous day.
- Combine yeast and warm milk in a bowl. Let it rest for a few minutes.
- Add 100 g of wheat flour to the milk yeast mixture. Using a wooden ladle, whisk until combined. This is your base sponge. Cover the base sponge with remaining 400 g of flour. Cover with tea towel and allow it to rest for 20 minutes.
- The flour mixture should’ve cracked on top (see pic).
- Crack an egg into the flour, sprinkle the salt and sugar. Fit your electric mixer with dough hooks. Beat the dough for 8 minutes, on high speed, until the dough comes together.
- Once the dough comes together, add the butter, bit by bit, while beating the dough at the same time.
- The dough will be really shiny and soft now. Add the raisins and beat further, just until combined.
- Bring the dough together and drop it in a clean bowl. Cover with tea towel and allow it to prove for 30 minutes.
- Once the dough has risen to half its volume, deflate the dough onto itself. Cover the bowl with the tea towel and allow to prove for 40 minutes.
- Soak the almonds in hot water for a few minutes. Place the almonds on the base of the kougelhopf mould, in every single groove, the pointy side of the almond facing towards the center (see pic).
- Life the dough up from the bowl and gently drop it into the kougelhopf mould. Cover the mould with a tea towel and allow it to prove for 1 ½ hours.
- Preheat the oven to 180 C. Once the dough has doubled in volume, bake the kougelhopf for 45 minutes.
- Allow to cool for an hour before slicing. Dust with icing sugar.
Note: Traditionally, they are baked in ceramic moulds. Kougelhopf is best served the next day, preferably for breakfast, with some jam.
Recipe source: The Jam Queen hereself, Christian Ferber