Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Kugelhopf and Hedgehogs

Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
In one of the book clubs I am in (the only one that meets in person), we met to discuss The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, translated from the French. It takes place in Paris, where a concierge named Renee tries to keep her intelligence hidden from the people living in her building. Along the way her friend Manuela is always bringing her baked goods, and while this is a minor plot point, I decided to dig one up to try making for tonight.

The baked good getting the most attention in the book is a gloutof, which is described as "a rather voracious Alsatian cake." Despite my doubts that a cake can indeed BE voracious, it intrigued me. I had definitely never heard of it.

From page 262 of the paperback: "But Manuela's gloutof is ambrosia as well. Everything that is dry and heavy about Alsace is transformed by her hands into an aromatic masterpiece." Later in the story, Manuela's gloutof gets devoured with coffee while watching a movie.

I tried looking up a recipe for a gloutof on the internet, which usually would not fail to produce recipe after recipe for most breads or cakes. The only references I found were related to the book I had read, including a blog post that had found reviews of the original French book that said the author meant to say kugelhopf. I would be more than happy to entertain proof of an actual item called gloutof, but for now I elected to go with the wisdom of the masses and make a kugelhopf instead.

I found a recipe from Dorie Greenspan in someone's blog, although I'd urge any reader of this blog to purchase her cookbook "Baking From My Home to Yours," because it has everything in it, even apparently obscure baked goods I only learn about through literature.

A kugelhopf is pretty much a brioche, somewhat cakey, with raisins that I soaked in kirsch instead of water, since another recipe I found had that advice. I had a disaster trying to get it out of the pan because alas, I do not own a kugelhopf-specific pan! But it still tasted good, and will be just as good toasted and spread with jam in the morning with a strong cup of coffee.

By the way, The Elegance of the Hedgehog is an interesting read. At first my reaction was mixed, but it is one of those books that seems to improve after I've thought about it for a while. I finally talked my group into reading something post-apocalyptic, so who knows what creations that might inspire!

Categories: Bread, Cake, Literary Baking, Raisins


noƫlle {simmer down!} said...

I read this book, I really liked it! Did you know the author has another book about a dying food critic's quest for an elusive flavor? I was actually thinking that one would make a good choice for foodie book club.

I had kugelhopf when I was 16 on my first visit to France and I think I was traumatized, it was so dry we were choking it down. I'm sure yours was much better, but I still have a mental block about trying it again :)

Mary said...

So what exactly is a kugelhopf pan supposed to be like?

I'm scared of the post-apocalyptic cuisine idea... Will it involve cockroaches? Ewww

Unknown said...

mlle_noelle - Dorie says it is meant to be eaten as soon as it comes out of the oven, and even then I found it a bit dry. Pouring melted butter over the top does help quite a bit. Once we thought of it more like bread than pastry, it was much more enjoyable.

Mary - A kugelhopf pan is kind of like a turban with diagonal swirls. The blog I linked to has a picture. It is pretty but then I'd have this kugelhopf pan....

Christina said...

Mmmmm! I wish I could try your Kugelhof. I think it's really cool that you found a recipe and made it for your book group. It looks delicious.
And I think the book is having the same effect on me- I'm having fonder feelings toward it as some time passes.