How to Make Kugelhopf

Move over, stollen! Kugelhopf is the stunning bread centerpiece your Christmas needs.

Special breads are an important part of holiday celebrations across Europe. Stollen is a must in Germany, panettone is served in Italy and poteca is sliced up in Slovenia. But in Alsace—a part of France bordering on Germany—kugelhopf is on the Christmas menu.

What is a kugelhopf?

Kugelhopf —pronounced koo-gul-hopf—is a festive bread made from a brioche-type dough. It’s flavored with almonds, citrus zest and dried fruit. This dense, rich bread is sliced and served up during the holiday season.

This bread is traditionally baked in a tall fluted pan and is decorated with whole almonds around the top.

While this bread has its roots in eastern France, it’s popular in parts of Germany, Austria and Switzerland as well as parts of Eastern Europe. This treat has mass appeal!

How to Make a Kugelhopf

Ingredients for KugelhopfTMB STUDIO

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup raisins or dried cherries
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • 12 blanched almonds
  • 1 packet (2-1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm whipping cream (110-115ºF)
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup shortening or lard
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • Confectioners’ sugar

Tools

  • Kugelhopf pan: This bread is traditionally made in a specific fluted pan. If you’re serious about this traditional recipe, you’ll want to invest in the pan that goes with it.
  • Stand mixerMake prep work easy by mixing the dough and kneading it in a stand mixer. This one from Breville is one of our Test Kitchen’s favorite stand mixers.
  • Dough riserKugelhopf is often made during the holiday season and cooler months. To make proofing easier when it’s chilly, try a dough riser or proofing mat. It’ll gently heat the dough to help it rise.

Directions

Step 1: Steep the fruit

In a small bowl, combine the raisins (or dried cherries) with the rum and let it stand as you prep the rest of the recipe. Ideally, these ingredients should mingle for 30 minutes or more.

Step 2: Prep the pan

Almonds in panTMB STUDIO

Grease a kugelhopf pan the same way you’d grease a Bundt pan: Coat every nook and cranny of the pan with a thin layer of shortening. Then dust with flour and tap away the excess. This will ensure the bread will come away cleanly after baking.

But that’s not all for the prep. Nestle a blanched almond into each ridge on the bottom of the pan. This is a signature finish for a kugelhopf.

Step 3: Proof the yeast

Adding Yeast to DoughTMB STUDIO

Next, it’s time to proof the yeast. Dissolve a packet of active yeast (not instant; that’s a different type of yeast) in warm cream with a tablespoon of sugar and let it sit until frothy—about 10 minutes.

Test Kitchen Tip: Aim to hit about 110ºF for your cream. If the liquid is too hot, it will kill the yeast and it’ll be no good. If the cream isn’t hot enough, it won’t jump-start the yeast for baking. An instant-read thermometer is your best bet for getting that temp just right.

Step 4: Make the dough

Making DoughTMB STUDIO

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the remaining sugar, butter and shortening (you can also use lard in lieu of shortening). Make sure to beat these ingredients well—about 5 minutes.

Then add in the yeast mixture, eggs, zest, vanilla extract, salt and 2 cups of flour. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Add in enough remaining flour (you don’t need to use it all!) until you have a soft dough.

Step 5: Knead

Mixing Berries and Almonds in DoughTMB STUDIO

Continue to knead the dough with your mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Keep the mixer going for about 10 minutes. Then add in the raisins and sliced almonds and mix until combined.

Test Kitchen Tip: If you don’t want to knead your dough in the mixer, you can knead bread dough by hand. It will take some time and effort, but just keep at it!

Step 6: Proof

Dough in the Bowl covered with ClothTMB STUDIO

Place your kneaded dough into a greased bowl, cover it and let the dough proof at room temperature until it has doubled in size—about 90 minutes.

The proof time on this dough is longer than simpler bread recipes because the dough is enriched with eggs, butter and shortening. These ingredients add richness to the dough but do slow down proofing.

Test Kitchen Tip: If you find your home isn’t warm enough to proof bread (bread dough likes a warm and humid environment—75º is perfect!), you can proof bread in the oven. Pop the bowl into your oven (it should be off!). Place an oven-safe dish beneath the bowl and fill it with boiling water. The oven will keep the steam and heat inside and form a proofing chamber.

Step 7: Shape the dough

Filling the Dough in PanTMB STUDIO

After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down (that just means pressing out a bit of the air). Dust your hands with flour and shape the dough into a 12-inch rope.

Place the rope into the prepared pan. Press it down slightly to fill the crevices.

Step 8: Proof again

Risen Dough in the PanTMB STUDIO

Then it’s time for this bread’s second proof. Cover the kugelhopf pan and let it rise until the dough is doubled in size—about an hour.

Step 9: Bake

Baked Kugelhopf on Wire RackTMB STUDIO

At last, it’s time to bake! Bake at 350º until it’s a deep golden brown and the internal temperature hits 200º—approximately 60 minutes. If you find the bread is browning too quickly, you can tent it with aluminum foil.

Once fully baked, let the kugelhopf cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. When that time is up, invert the pan and reveal your kugelhopf. Before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Test Kitchen Tip: Is your kugelhopf giving you trouble? Follow these tips for getting a cake out of a Bundt pan. You can use the same techniques to get this treat out of its pan in one piece.

Kugelhopf Tips

Kugelhopf served on PlateTMB STUDIO

Can you use a Bundt pan to make kugelhopf?

If you don’t want to invest in a special pan for this recipe, you can absolutely use a Bundt pan to make kugelhopf. For best results, use a Bundt pan without a lot of sharp points or fine details.

How do you store kugelhopf?

The best way to store kugelhopf is in an airtight container or sealed in a bread bag. It will keep for several days this way.

You can also freeze kugelhopf—the whole loaf or individual slices. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and seal it in a zip-top bag. It’ll keep well in the freezer for three months. When you’re ready to enjoy, defrost at room temp. You can revive this bread by heating it in a 300º oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

Leftover slices (or slightly stale slices) can be transformed into bread pudding or French toast.

How do you serve kugelhopf?

Serve kugelhopf dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Feel free to slather it with good butter and enjoy as breakfast or serve it with holiday brunch.

Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is a former Taste of Home editor and passionate baker. During her tenure, she poured her love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa also dedicated her career here to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.