Kouglof cake from Alsace
For this cake you will need a large fluted ring mold, or two smaller molds. Traditionally in Alsace the cake is made in a decorated earthenware mold, but aluminum cake tins work fine as well. Your cake tin should have a volume of about 2 quarts (2 liters). This recipe was contributed by Andrée Hentz, whose family has been in Alsace for many generations.
4 cups (500 g.) flour
1/2 pound (200 g. plus 1 tbps.) butter
1/2 cup (100 g.) sugar
1-1/4 cup (1/4 liter) milk
3 tbsp. (3 packets, 25 g.) yeast
pinch of salt
1/2 cup (50 g.) raisins
1/3 cup (50 g.) blanched whole almonds
1 tbsp. confectioner’s sugar (sucre glace)
In a medium-sized pot, heat 1/2 cup milk to lukewarm. Remove from heat and add the yeast. Stir until the yeast dissolves – this can take some time, as there is a lot of yeast. Add 1/2 cup flour and stir. Set aside. This mixture will foam up while you are going on to the next few steps, so keep an eye on it – otherwise you may find it sneaking out of the pot!
Place the raisins in a small bowl and cover with 1/2 cup hot tap water or 1/2 cup kirsch. Set aside to allow the raisins to soak.
Use 1 tbsp. butter to grease your cake tin. This must be done with great care if it’s a fluted mold. Add a couple tablespoons of flour to the tin and shake to cover the butter all over with a thin coating of flour. Turn the tin upside down over your sink and tap it to remove any excess flour.
Melt the rest of the butter in a medium-sized pot. Remove from heat and add the sugar, salt and the rest of the milk. Stir.
Pour the rest of the flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour in the butter mixture and stir. Add the eggs and stir again.
Now comes the kneading – either by hand or with the kneading attachment of your electric mixer. I chose the latter solution as the dough is quite sticky. Knead for 5 minutes. Add the yeast mixture and knead for another five minutes.
Cover the bowl with a dry dishtowel and set in a warm place, like in front of a radiator. Allow the dough to rise for an hour. It should double in size.
When your dough has doubled in volume, punch it down and knead briefly. Drain the raisins thoroughly, and add them. Knead briefly.
Place the almonds in the bottom of the ring mold in a circle around the central ring – one in each crevice. Place the dough in your cake mold, distributing it evenly and being careful not to disturb the almonds. Place the mold in a warm place and allow the dough to rise for about 45 minutes.
Preheat your oven to gas mark 5 (375 F, 190 C). The oven rack should be placed toward the bottom of the oven, not in the center, to ensure that the top of the cake doesn’t burn.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the cake has risen and browned nicely. To test for doneness, insert a sharp knife into the cake – if it comes out clean, the cake is done.
Unmold onto a wire rack. Allow to cool.
Place the cake on its serving platter and decorate with powdered sugar. You will need a sieve for this. Hold the sieve over the cake, add the powdered sugar and press it through the sieve with the back of a spoon while moving the sieve around to cover the entire cake.
Serve with coffee, tea or a fruity white wine from Alsace like Gewurztraminer. Serves 12-16.
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