Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A brief word on the Gugelhupf

A number of people asked me about the Gugelhupf I made last week. Gugelhupf (also spelled Kugelhupf) is a yeasted cake, traditionally made with sourdough, often now with commercial yeast, but never made with other leaveners.

When leavening a cake you basically have three choices: whip a whole lot of air into eggs, as in the French genoise; use chemistry, as in baking powder, which creates carbon dioxide when it encounters liquid; or use yeast in the form of commercial yeast or sourdough.

The latter method was not so long ago quite common, but the increased availability of baking powder in the late 19th century all but extinguished these types of sweetened baked goods.

Gugelhupf is one exception, still made the old-fashioned way by any honest baker. It is a cake traditionally eaten in the afternoon, with coffee, between lunch and dinner. It is not terribly sweet, not terribly rich, and only sparsely filled with raisins. It has, usually, a light dusting of confectioner's sugar, or perhaps none at all. It may have other dried fruits, and perhaps a few pistachios, but these are not so abundant that they overwhelm the flavor.

Of course, what attracts me to this cake is that it is made with yeast, and one must have patience, mix it with great care, and let it rise prior to baking it, as with all bread (or anyway, all bread that is worth our time).

I hope those of you who got a slice enjoyed this little piece of a German afternoon here in Etna.

--Erik Ryberg

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