Lifestyle & Belief

There's French pastry ... and then there's the Kougelhof


Credit: Alex Gallafent

The kougelhof is inverted onto a wire rack and dusted with icing sugar.

Pastry chef Jacquy Pfeiffer is a co-owner of the French Pastry School in Chicago. There he teaches young chefs everything from Tarte aux Framboises to chocolate eclairs. But if you ask him for something close to his heart, he’ll tell you about a special bread from his homeland.

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"The kougelhof is the most famous bread in Alsace, France," he says. "Every family has one during celebrations or just during weekends."

He says the kougelhof is kind of like a brioche with less butter. It's made in a bun-shaped mold, usually with a hole in the center. But kougelhof molds are also made in different shapes like fish, lobster or the fleur de lis.

"All of the shapes have a symbolic meaning," he says. "For instance, the lobster is a synonym of fertility."

Pfeiffer says that if you are searching antique stores for a good mold, find one with the flavor of burnt butter baked into it. He says kougelhof molds have survived not only 300 years of baking, but also 300 years of war. 

So yes, it will survive your oven.

Pfeiffer’s made thousands upon thousands of kougelhofs in his time. He was kind enough to share his recipe from his new book, "The Art of French Pastry."

Kougelhof Recipe

*Excerpted from "The Art of French Pastry" by Jacquy Pfeiffer. Copyright © 2013 by Jacquy Pfeiffer. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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    Credit: Alex Gallafent

    “There is no winging it in pastry”, says Jacquy Pfeiffer. Before baking, he prepares meticulously.

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    Credit: Alex Gallafent

    The antique kougelhof mold is lined with almonds.

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    Credit: Alex Gallafent

    Pfeiffer says pastry chefs must use “all the senses”, including listening to the dough as it mixes.

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    Credit: Alex Gallafent

    The kougelhof dough is shaped into a ball (studded with kirsch-soaked raisins).

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    Credit: Alex Gallafent

    Jacquy Pfeiffer creates a hole in the dough, kind of like “a giant donut”.

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    Credit: Alex Gallafent

    Pfeiffer places the dough in the kougelhof mold. Antique molds should smell “of baked butter”.

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    Credit: Alex Gallafent

    The baked kougelhof in the mold, before inverting.

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    Credit: Alex Gallafent

    The kougelhof is inverted onto a wire rack and dusted with icing sugar.

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    Credit: Alex Gallafent

    Jacquy Pfeiffer, author of The Art of French Pastry.