Over the holidays, I made Hubert Keller’s father’s (confused yet?) recipe for a kugelhopf from Alsace.
(Disclaimer—or actually, claimer, as I am thrilled to be doing this—I am currently working on a cookbook with Hubert.) The recipe was included in Hubert’s first cookbook, The Cuisine of Hubert Keller, and he included it in his newsletter mailed out over the holidays. The recipe makes a very handsome brioche that some would call plain because it has just a few raisins and is neither very buttery nor very sweet but instead, just right. Especially when spread with butter and jam or lightly toasted and served with foie gras or a rich smoked salmon rillettes (Try Paula Wolfert’s from her Cooking of Southwest France cookbook.). Hubert and his wife Chantal, both from Alsace, say that their mothers and grandmothers prefer the cake dry and several days old. It is often served with coffee or wine in the afternoon and I think I’d like to try it with a gewürztraminer.
The recipe makes a huge cake—it filled my bundt pan and when baked crowned over the top. Which is the idea, I guess to make the bread look even more like a crown. Its history contains references to the 3 kings and the gifts of the Magi. Because of the many ways it can be served, a huge bread (Kugelhopf is either a bread masquerading as a cake or a cake pretending to be a bread. You make it and decide.)
Now round about Thanksgiving, on Wednesday, 21 November 2010 to be precise, The San Francisco Chronicle published a recipe for a bread pudding made from leftover stuffing. This immediately struck me as a brilliant idea and I made it twice. It makes stuffing worth the effort—not something I normally like to do. If left to my own devices, I’d just roast a lot of garlic and potatoes with the turkey. The stage was set for turning leftover kugelhopf into bread pudding.
Following Hubert’s advice, I cut 1/4 of the kugelhopf into chunks and let them thoroughly dry out. (I never cut the crusts off because crusts are my favorite part of bread. They do cause some chewiness in the finished custard but that’s fine by me. If not by you, remove the crusts.) That took a day or two. When it was time to bake, I piled the bread in a 2 1/2-quart baking dish and made a simple, light custard mix by whisking together 4 eggs, 1 quart half-and-half, 1 tablespoon vanilla, and a large handful or so—about 1/2 cup—of sugar. The kugel would do the heavy lifting in terms of interest and flavor. This was poured over the bread and left to soak until the bread seemed thoroughly saturated. I poked at it occasionally whenever I walked by, pushing bits of bread under the surface of the liquid.
Meanwhile, the oven preheated to 350°F. The baking dish went into the oven on top of a baking sheet in case of leaking. An hour later, the whole thing turned puffy and brown. To eat on its own, the proportions of custard to bread could have been more generous, but when eaten warm with vanilla ice cream? Well, it was more than fine. And for those of you with leftover panetonne or other holiday bread tucked away in the freezer and looking for a purpose in life, treat your book group to a great dessert. Then let your family eat leftovers reheated for breakfast.