Sourdough kougelhopf

Mommy, you made a google loaf! These were the words of my daughter when she saw this cake followed by a nice laugh together.

I've done sweet dough with sourdough before by transforming recipes based on baking powder into sourdough-based ones. Nothing new here but it is the first time I have followed a professional recipe. This actually comes to add pieces of knowledge to my quest to understand more about these mysterious creatures generically called sourdough.

I've also had a quest in perfecting recipes based on baking powder but I found a few disadvantages that almost made me give up. 

The first is the fact that all rely on the chemical reaction in the oven. There is no way to guess its behaviour in the oven only by looking at the dough before. Will it rise enough? Will it crack? Will it be soft inside? With sourdough, the dough is already well-risen when the dough is put into the oven and this gives a good prediction about what you'll gonna get.

The second thing that I do not like is that the baking powder-based cakes deflate slightly when taken out from the oven. This never happens visibly when the dough is based on sourdough.

There are disadvantages to baking with sourdough too: it takes time and you may get it sour!  Unlike bread dough, where you need to perform a series of steps, this dough is mixed, let to rest for 30 minutes, and then left alone to rise overnight in a warm place. The used starter is not a liquid one but a stiff one. Although you can quickly transform a liquid starter into a stiff starter in only one step this is not enough. There is a reason why pasta made is used for sweet dough: it reduces acidity. Pasta made has its own preparation steps in order to get it right for the dough and this actually takes one day: start with a sourdough bath, to reduce the acids, then feed it 3 times at shorter intervals (kept at warm temperature) to get it very active.

This was my first trial to get it properly done (in line with the indications) and I did my best to align. The ph of the starter I did not get it right during the feeds, I'll need to tinker with some methods/temperatures to get it perfect next time.

Analysing the cake, here are my thoughts: the rise was good but I believe there is a place for better; the taste was interesting and nice but I detected a bit of sourness that shouldn't be there. The cause is still related to the power of the starter to rise the dough and temperature.

If you want to know the original recipe, I invite you to check the book "Coffret Traité de boulangerie au levain" by Thomas Teffri-Chambelland. I have the French version but I understood there is an English version too. Please note that this book is not for beginners... it's about the science of baking and there are a few recipes presented too. But if you are a sourdough geek, I can only recommend this book(s). No hidden publicity here, just my honest opinion as a homemaker with a passion.

I will test more recipes with sweet sourdough in the future although clearly not as often as I'll do for bread. For this recipe, I'd make a few more adjustments to make it perfect but I have to tell you that my kids loved it as such. Here is the recipe:


  • 500g strong bread flour (Manitoba)
  • 150g sugar
  • 190g hot milk
  • 225g eggs (that is about 4-5 eggs depending on the size)
  • 225g pasta made / stiff levain (ph 4.47, 32.4ºC when added) - see how to refresh it bellow
  • 180g soft butter
  • 9g salt
  • 250g dried fruits


Preparation of the pasta made / stiff levain:

  1. [Day 1, 10:00] Give a bath to the mother sourdough to remove its acidity. This is done in the following way: take 1 litre of water at ~25ºC and add 2g of sugar inside. Stir the sugar to dissolve. Add 60g of starter (it could be even stiff levain from the fridge) cut in pieces and let it there for 30 minutes. I measured the ph of the water before (7.6ph/24.6ºC) and after (pH 7.1/22.1ºC).
  2. [Day 1, 10:30] Remove the starter from the water and pick only 12g out of it. With the rest of the starter remember to prepare another mother starter and discard the rest. Put the 12g in a little bowl, and add 16g of water and 32g of strong flour. Mix by hand, laminate with a rolling pin, roll it, make a cross on top with a knife, put a tight lid on the bowl and leave it in the bread proofer set at 30ºC. The levain was at ph5.5/17.3ºC before the rest. This was the first refresh.
  3. [Day 1, 13:30] Repeat the feeding with the following quantities: 24g of previous levain + 32g water + 64g flour. Discard the remaining levain. Levain before the feeding at 4.97ph/25.2ºC and after 5.63/19.4ºC.
  4. [Day 1, 18:00] The third and last feeding with 48g of previous levain + 64g water + 128g flour. Discard the remaining levain. Levain before the feeding at 4.54ph/25.7ºC and after 5.4/21.8ºC.

Preparation of the kougelhopf dough:
  1. [Day 1, 22:00] In a mixer bowl with a palette attachment, add the hot milk and sugar and mix it.
  2. Add half of the flour and levain cut into small pieces and mix slowly.
  3. Add the rest of the flour and mix. If the composition is too thick for the mixer you might want to add one of the eggs before adding all the flour.
  4. Add all the eggs, one by one, and mix until a smooth composition.
  5. Add the butter and mix until well combined.
  6. In the end, add the dried fruits and mix slowly just until incorporated.
  7. Let the dough rest at a warm temperature for 30 minutes,
  8. Prepare a kugel or bundt pan (10 cups size) by brushing butter on the inside and sprinkling flour.
  9. [Day 1, 22:30] Put the dough in and let it in a warm place, like a bread proofer set at 30ºC. The dough at this step was at 5.92ph and had 23.9ºC.
  10. [Day 2, 11:00] The next day, after 12-16 hours of proofing the dough should be up, above the borders of the pan.  I checked the dough, it had 4.09ph  and 26.6ºC.
  11. Preheat the oven to 170ºC and bake it for 45 minutes. Check the inside temperature by sticking a pin thermometer. If it reached 93ºC, the kugel is ready.
  12. After baking, you can return the pan to a rack no matter if it is hot or not. Leave it cool before cutting it.


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