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Food Column ATK Kuglehopf

This photo provided by America's Test Kitchenshows kuglehopf.

Kugelhopf is a festive, crown-shaped yeasted bread traditionally baked in a heavy earthenware mold. One legend suggests it originated in an Alsatian village, when the Three Kings presented it to a local baker named Kugel, who had hosted them.

Other histories point to origins in Vienna, where bakers may have made the bread in the shape of a sultan's turban to celebrate the defeat of the Turks by Hapsburg forces in 1683.

For our version, we set out to make a kirsch-scented, raisin- and dried cherry-studded, almond-crusted Kugelhopf typical of Alsace. Classic Alsatian recipes we tested yielded dense, somewhat dry breads that we needed to dunk in coffee or wine to fully enjoy. Several modern versions we tasted were sweeter, airier, moister, and even doughnut-like.

Our goal was to develop a Kugelhopf recipe that would please traditional and modern palates alike -not too sweet, yeasty and a tad boozy, light but not fluffy, chewy yet soft, rich but not heavy.

Many traditional recipes call for a sponge -a mixture of yeast, flour, and liquid that ferments separately and is added to the dough - for flavor, but we found that allowing our dough to ferment slowly (up to 2 1/2 hours) during the initial rise, and folding the dough upon itself twice during that time to redistribute and stimulate the yeast, gave our bread plenty of heady flavor. Adding just the right amount of cherry brandy augmented this complexity.

We tested our way through hydration levels and amounts of sugar, butter, and eggs until we landed on the perfect formula to yield a delicate yet satisfying texture and a moderate level of richness. We developed this recipe using our favorite 12-cup Bundt pan, however, we also like using a traditional 10-cup Kugelhopf pan. If using a Kugelhopf pan, the dough will rise 1/2 inch above the lip of the pan. We do not recommend mixing this dough by hand.

KUGELHOPF

Servings: 16 (1 loaf)

Start to finish: 9 1/4 to 10 1/4 hours (Baking time: 25 minutes)

Key Equipment stand mixer, 12-cup nonstick Bundt pan, instant-read thermometer

2/3 cup dried cherries, chopped coarse

1/3 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup (2 ounces) kirsch or other cherry-flavored brandy

3 1/2 cups (17 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup (5 1/3 ounces) whole milk, room temperature

3 large eggs, room temperature

6 tablespoons (2 2/3 ounces) granulated sugar

8 tablespoons (4 ounces) butter, softened

1/4 cup sliced almonds

confectioners' sugar

Microwave cherries, raisins, and kirsch in covered bowl until steaming, about 1 minute. Let sit until cherries and raisins have softened, about 15 minutes. Drain fruit and reserve kirsch.

Whisk flour, yeast, and salt together in bowl of stand mixture. Whisk milk, eggs, granulated sugar, and reserved kirsch in 4-cup liquid measuring cup until sugar has dissolved. Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add milk mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed.

Increase speed to medium-low and knead until dough begins to pull away from sides of bowl but sticks to bottom, about 5 minutes. With mixer running, add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, and knead until butter is fully incorporated, about 4 minutes. Continue to knead until dough is elastic and slightly sticky, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add fruit mixture, and mix until incorporated, about 1 minute. Transfer dough to lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise for 30 minutes.

Using greased bowl scraper (or your fingertips), fold dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl 90 degrees and fold dough again; repeat turning bowl and folding dough 2 more times (total of 4 folds). Cover tightly with plastic and let rise for 30 minutes. Fold dough again, then cover bowl tightly with plastic and let dough rise until nearly doubled in size, 1 to 11/2 hours.

Grease 12-cup nonstick Bundt pan and sprinkle bottom with almonds. Press down on dough to deflate, then transfer to lightly floured counter. Using your lightly floured hands, press dough into 8-inch round.

Using your fingertips, press through and stretch center of dough to create 2-inch hole.

Place dough in prepared pan and gently press into even thickness. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise until loaf is level with lip of pan, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 F. Bake until golden brown and loaf registers 190 F to 195 F, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Let loaf cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert loaf onto wire rack and let cool completely, about 3 hours. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve.

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