Alsatian Gugelhopf

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This recipe is another one that I copied from a cookbook checked out from our local library maybe 30 years ago, and pasted on an index card. I have no idea what its origin, but I know there are many similar variations of festive gugelhopf and kugelhopf from France and Germany, with many different spellings, and probably in many more countries. In fact, it’s not too different from Italy’s Panettone or Pandulce, as far as ingredients go.

This particular recipe is a moist yeasted sweet bread with dried fruits, topped with nuts. Obviously, there can be many variations. I made this one specifically for Christmas morning, so I used only dried tart cherries and pistachios.

Alsatian Gugelhopf

1 cup dried tart cherries, cut in half if they’re large, about 5 ounces
1/2 cup golden raisins, about 2 1/2 ounces
4 tablespoons Kirsch or ruby port
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons dry yeast
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon orange oil
3 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup tepid whole milk
3 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 cup ground pistachios or almonds

Mix the dried fruits and the Kirsch in a medium bowl. Do not be tempted to add any more Kirsch; it could kill the yeast. Allow to sit for 15 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Combine 1/4 cup warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over; stir to dissolve. Let sit for 10 minutes or until yeast foams to top.

In large bowl beat 6 tablespoons of butter, 1 cup sugar, egg yolks, zest, vanilla, and salt until well blended. Add yeast mixture, milk, and 1 cup of flour. Beat until smooth.

Add in plumped fruits and gradually add remaining flour and beat until dough forms.

Cover and let sit for 15 minutes.

Butter a 10-cup Bundt pan with 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the nuts, tilting pan to coat bottom and sides.

Spoon dough into pan. Cover with plastic wrap and damp towel. Let dough rise in warm place for 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake about 35 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes.

Turn onto rack to cool.

If desired, make a glaze for the Gugelhopf by combining 1 cup powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of Kirsch and 1 tablespoon of cream. Whisk until smooth, then pour over the cake.

Personally, I don’t love powdered sugar glazes, and this bread is sweetened already, but I made a glaze for half the gugelhopf.

I love gugelhopf slightly toasted with butter.

Pumpkin Spatzele

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My goal in the kitchen is not to be super creative and serve fancy food presentations. That’s just not me. I go to restaurants for that enjoyment. I’m just a self-trained home cook.

Spazele with pumpkin might seem like I’m trying to be creative, but my use of pumpkin began innocently enough, many years ago, for two different reasons. 1. I love pumpkin, and although a fall ingredient, can be used year round. 2. I always used canned pumpkin in my cooking as a way to enrich the food I prepared for my family. Sneaking in the pumpkin is perhaps a better term for what I did – sneaking it into stews, soups, chili, spaghetti sauce, meat loaf – you name it.

So my posting of spazele made with pumpkin is not meant to be show-offy or gourmet. It was just a natural thing for me to do because I became adept at sneaking in ingredients. And pumpkin, is fortunately pretty. Kids tend to be a little more suspicious of green ingredients.

I grew up with spazele because although my mother is French, her father was Alsatian. Spazele are German. They’re also spelled spaetzle. And perhaps even more ways than I realize.

I don’t think my mother ever put pumpkin in them, or anything else, because she always made them the traditional way. But they’re seriously fun to play with. You can add fresh herbs, pesto, tomato paste, cheeses, paprika crème, and just about anything that won’t ruin their cooking integrity. Because they all work.

If you’re not familiar with spazele, they’re kind of like gnocchi’s ugly cousin. I could also call them lazy man’s gnocchi. Either way, they’re simply made by adding spoonfuls of batter to boiling water, very similar to American dumplings.

There are spazele makers that turn out grated-looking “worms” of spazele, but I really like the rustic dumpling look. But taste and texture wise? Spazele are just as fabulous as gnocchi. They’re little puffy pillows of goodness. And simply tossed in brown butter? Dynamite.

With the beautiful orange color and that hint of pumpkin, they should be loved by every one of all ages. So here’s my recipe. Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Spazele

2 eggs
1 cup goat’s milk, heavy cream, milk, dairy or non-dairy
1 cup pumpkin purée

1 2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter
Parmesan
see note below for seasoning options

Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and goat’s milk together with the pumpkin purée and salt.

Slowly incorporate the flour into the batter, adding just a little at a time. Whisk to remove any flour lumps, then switch to a spatula. Don’t overstir.

The resulting batter can’t be too thin because it will disintegrate in the boiling water. But you also don’t want too stiff of a batter from too much flour and over whisking because the spazele will be hard and tough. You want a soft, tender spazele.

When the water is boiling, test one spazele if you want to time them. It’s worth doing if you don’t trust yourself, but honestly dumplings like these are very straight forward to cook.

Place a teaspoon of batter into the boiling water. Notice it will fall to the bottom of the pan. After it rises to the surface, scoop it up and place it on a plate.

Cut the spazele in half and study the middle. It should be soft, but not raw or tough.

When you are ready to begin, place uniformly-sized spoonfuls of batter in the water – only about ten or so at a time. Again, they will eventually rise to the surface of the water, at which point I let them cook another 30 seconds.

When the first batch is done, remove them from the water using a spider sieve, and place them in a colander or on a paper towel-lined platter to drain excess water. Then continue with the remaining batter. When cool enough to handle, I also turn over each spazele to drain any water on the top.

When you’re all done, place the spazeles in a serving bowl.

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Brown the butter on the stove.

While still hot, pour over the spazele.

Look at those lovely browned butter bits on the pumpkin spazele.
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If desired, sprinkle with grated Parmesan.

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note: Regarding seasoning, I’ve used a few different ones over the years – Chinese 5 spice, nutmeg, white pepper, and thyme. If you’re serving the spazele as a side dish, season in complement to the protein. Also, I chose goat’s milk for today’s spazele, but cream, or any dairy and non-dairy liquid would work. It’s your choice.

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