Eating kugelhopf is a little like traveling in time. You’re reminded of what “cake” was like before it became the ultra-rich, ultra-sweet, ultra-moist sort of device that it is now. I’m not complaining about modern cake, mind you. I’m just saying that “cake” as it was defined a few hundred years ago is a beautiful thing. I served this as the closer for Mrs. Pastry’s birthday party the other night, complete with candles, and it was a hit. A sweet white dessert wine positively makes this, as it blends elegantly with the toasty-sweet crust, tender buttery interior and tangy rum-soaked raisins. Talk about a grownup cake, I want one for my birthday!
The success of your kugehopf will largely depend on how you treat your brioche dough. Give it a little less butter but a whole lot more time. Let the sponge ferment overnight, then let the finished dough ripen in the fridge for two or three days. Brown a little of the butter. The care you take in the preparation of the dough will show later, believe me.
On the day you want to bake start by assembling all your components. Combine the sugar, water and rum (which is optional really) in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil.
Take it off the heat and add the raisins. Let them sit and plump for about an hour.
Seizing the nearest available 9- or 10-cup kugelhopf pan…
…butter the interior generously.
Pour in the sliced almonds and spread them around, sticking them to the sides as best you can.
That done, turn your attention to the dough. Take it out of the fridge, trim the batch down to 14-16 ounces, and turn it out onto a lightly floured board. Pat it into a rough rectangle.
Roll it a little in one direction…
…then turn the dough piece and roll it in the other until it’s about 14 inches long.
Drain the raisins (reserve the syrup for another purpose if you like) and scatter them over the dough. Apply some egg wash to the far edge of the dough sheet and gently start rolling it up.
Make the roll fairly tight so it’s easy to roll it back and forth a bit on the board (odds are you’ll need to even it out some).
Brush a little egg wash onto the ends of the roll…
…and lay it into the pan, sticking the ends together.
At this point you’ll want to cover the pan with plastic wrap and let it rise for about two hours until the top of the dough is about 75% of the way up to the lip of the pan. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Put the kugelhopf into the oven and set the time for 20 minutes. If it looks as brown as this at the 20 minute point, lay a piece of tin foil over the top for the last ten minutes of baking.
Remove the pan from the oven and turn the kugelhopf out onto a serving platter or plate. Brush the hot kugelhopf liberally with melted butter — to which you’ve added a few teaspoons of orange flower water (thanks reader Gretchen!) or a few drops of an extract of your choice. Orange or almond are preferred.
Let the kugelhopf cool for about half an hour, then serve dusted with powdered sugar.