Strasbourg Kouglof – Brioche Buns with Almonds & Rum Soaked Raisins
Kouglof is a speciality of Strasbourg and the wider region of Alsace, that fascinating, oft-disputed region, where France and Germany rub shoulders. It’s a sort of brioche studded with almonds and raisins and shaped to look like a crown. Although they can be found all year round, they come into their own at the Strasbourg Christmas Market. The recipe for Strasbourg kouglof here is my take on this classic French bake.
Kouglof or Kugelhopf
The Kouglof, it turns out, is known by many different names: kugelhopf, guguluf, kugluh or even gugelhupf, as named in my review of Betty’s Christmas Kugelhupf from a few years ago. In fact it’s pretty much the same as the Polish Babka. It seems that similar cakes are claimed by the inhabitants of many regions across central Europe and there are various theories as to its name. I’m going with an Alsatian version I heard which makes some sort of sense. The kugulhut was a traditional hat worn by Strasbourg’s members of parliament and the kouglof is shaped just like it. Hut means hat and it does rather look like some sort of medieval hat.
Strasbourg kouglof is a yeasted confection made with an enriched dough which lies somewhere between bread and cake. It’s made with almonds and raisins and sometimes has the addition of citrus. It’s mostly found as a large bundt shaped brioche, but at the Christmas markets you can find mini ones so you can eat them on the go. I decided, in true Strasbourg Christmas Market fashion, to make individual ones.
It’s a rare thing indeed for me to use only white flour, but there are some things where wholemeal just doesn’t work. Croissants are one of those and brioche is another. I make sure my flour is organic and hasn’t been bleached, but but – oh là là! These Strasbourg kouglof are pure indulgence. There’s plenty of butter and eggs too. The recipe contains sugar, but not too much. It satisfies my sweet tooth, without making me paranoid that I’ve consumed my entire quota of sugar for the week. Rum seemed like a nice festive addition, so rather than adding the raisins dry I soaked the fruit in rum overnight. I can’t tell you how good rum soaked raisins are. I reckon Amaretto would work wonderfully well too.
The Strasbourg kouglof proved to be very much like rich and buttery brioche with crunchy nuts in every bite and surprise pops of rum soaked raisins. They were a real hit and I’m now thinking I might make a large one for Christmas morning or maybe Boxing Day. It’s a lot easier to make than I ever thought.
Kouglof and Coffee
The Strasbourg kouglof is often dunked in coffee or hot chocolate for breakfast. I was slightly dubious about this, but I gamely gave it a try. Not for breakfast, but at elevenses, which seems a much better time to consume something sweet. It turned out to be a pleasant surprise and I shall be dunking my kouglof in coffee from now on in.
Strasbourg Christmas Market
I have to confess, I’ve never been to the Strasbourg Christmas Market or Christkindelsmärik as it’s known locally, but mon dieu, how I’d love to go. Strasbourg is a spectacular city and the old quarter is enchanting with its steep roofed medieval buildings and gothic cathedral. It’s only just under two hours from Paris by TGV. From London all I’d need to do is hop on the Eurostar and change at Paris.
The market started way back in 1570 and is the oldest Christmas market in France. It’s also one of the largest in Europe. Actually there isn’t a Strasbourg Christmas Market as such, there are in fact eleven of them, dotted around the city. The most well known is the one in front of the Cathedral. The festivities start on the 24th of November this year and continue until the 31st of December. The Christmas tree in the Place Kléber has become well known for being particularly imposing and the Christmas lights are a talking point. As well as plenty of Christmas food, drink and crafts, there are various activities on offer, including carol singing, concerts and an open air ice-rink.
There are literally hundreds of stalls selling all kind of gifts and refreshments, but handmade decorations are a particular specialty. And of course, you’ll find lots of stalls selling Strasbourg kouglof. I think I’ll book my train ticket right now, purely for kouglof quality research purposes, n’est ce pas?
12 Days of Blogmas
I’ve teamed up with Titan Travel this year to offer this Strasbourg kouglof recipe. Head on over to their 12 Days of Blogmas to find other recipes, crafts and ideas inspired by Christmas markets from around Europe. You can also follow the fun on social media with #Blogmas.
Strasbourg Kouglof – The Recipe
A yeasted confection from Alsace made with an enriched dough which lies somewhere between bread and cake. It's traditionally made with almonds and raisins and can be found in abundance at the Strasbourg Christmas Markets.
- 40 g raisins
- 1 tbsp rum
- 100 ml milk
- 30 g golden caster sugar or vanilla sugar
- 10 g fresh yeast
- 225 g plain flour
- 100 g unsalted butter - melted plus a little extra for greasing the moulds
- pinch of sea salt
- 2 medium eggs free range of course
- 25 g of slivered almonds + 10g for the topping
The first thing to do is to get your raisins soaking in rum. The earlier you can do this the better, but leave them at least 1 hour before they're needed. Place the raisin and rum in a small jar and give a shake every so often.
Warm the milk until tepid. Place in the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and yeast and stir until they're dissolved.
Stir in 100g of the flour, cover with a cloth or plastic bag and leave in a a warm place for 20 minutes to ferment.
Brush 12 mini kouglof or bundt moulds (or one large one) with a little melted butter. Scatter a few slivered almonds over the bottoms of each mould.
Add the remaining flour, butter, salt and eggs to the ferment and knead using the dough hook of the stand mixer or hand held mixer for 10 minutes. The dough is too soft to knead by hand, so if you don't have an electric mixer, stir hard with a metal spoon instead.
Finally throw in the raisins with any remaining rum and the slivered almonds and knead until everything is well combined.
Divide the mixture between the 12 moulds. Place in a large plastic bag ensuring there is plenty of room for the dough to rise. Leave in a warm place for a couple of hours or until the dough has completely filled the moulds.
Bake at 180℃ for 20 minutes when the kougloffs are golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean. You will need longer in the oven for a larger kouglof. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Dust with icing sugar before serving.
Soaking the raisins in Amaretto instead of the rum would be good too and exentuate the almonds.
Preparation time does not include proving time. The kouglofs will need at least a couple of hours to rise, plus initial 20 minute fermentation.
I’m sharing my Strasbourg Kouglof with #CookBlogShare which is hosted via Easy Peasy Foodie this week.
They also go to #BakeOfTheWeek over at Casa Costello.
And #Baking Crumbs over at Only Crumbs Remain is another must enter link-up.
Strasbourg Kouglof. PIN IT.
This post was commissioned by Titan Travel. I was not expected to write a positive review and all opinions are, as always, my own. Thanks to my readers for supporting the brands and organisations that help to keep Tin and Thyme blythe and blogging.