Strasbourg, France

As I am writing this, I am waiting for my kugelhopf dough to rise. Kugel-what? It’s this Alsatian cake that to my totally uninformed opinion, the result of an illicit and passionate love affair between a French brioche and an Italian panettone. I hear Ladurée in Paris makes a to-die-for version that is glazed with orange syrup and coated with vanilla sugar.

Honestly, I’ve never tasted kugelhof before. Al and I spent two amazing weeks in Alsace two years ago but for some reason it never crossed my mind to actually taste it. I was too busy stuffing my face with strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches, fabulous foie gras and drinking as much Riesling, Gewürtztraminer and Muscat as my belly could hold. In my defense, it was very hot that summer. If I was going to drink something what better than the wines from the vineyards 15 minutes from our apartment. I guess I will just have to go back to Alsace to eat my weight in kugelhopf.

I’m almost certain my cake is going to be one big flop. The ingredients are very basic: flour, yeast, sugar and salt, warm whole milk, room temperature butter and eggs, raisins soaked in rum and 22 whole almonds, that’s it. The step-by-step cooking instructions are simple enough. In theory I should be able to nail this sucker, but I just couldn’t stop myself from making what I thought was just a little tweak. I didn’t know it would change the whole chemistry of the batter.

I added more eggs than what the recipe called for. Then, I separated the yolks and the white and decided I’d beat the egg whites until they’re stiff like a meringue before adding it to the batter. My theory was that it would add some air and lightness. To my horror, the more I stirred the batter, the more the lumps kept forming. The batter was lifeless white not delectable yellow. It’s not soft and supple. It didn’t come together as it’s supposed to. I’ve beaten it to complete submission, it’s too afraid to rise.

Like my poor kugelhopf, our visit to Strasbourg was a big flop. To be fair, Strasbourg has nothing to do with it. It was totally our fault. Okay, Al’s fault. The city itself was as I recall, gorgeous. I’m of course just judging by the magnificent cathedral and its immediate surroundings. We didn’t see Petite Venice, the Palais Rohan, not one of the many world-class museums, the old town, the new town with cutting edge modern architecture, the flower market, the famous farmer’s market or the gorgeous riverside promenade. We didn’t really see anything at all other than the cathedral.

It was miserably hot that day. Like many ancient European cities, Strasbourg’s buildings and streets are made of stone which amplifies the heat and turns the city into a giant oven. As always I was starving to death. We made a beeline for the 140+ year old Restaurant Chez Yvonne. I had a three course lunch. The heat didn’t spoil my appetite. I gorged on foie gras, I inhaled the trout with cream sauce and morels, I even had room for dessert. Naturally, I had dessert. Al ordered a beautiful chef’s salad. It came with cheese, foie gras and smoked herring. He knew he was allergic to herring but it was very good, he ate it anyway. The poor guy must have been in agony during the 40 minutes of the trip back to Colmar.

If you are ever in Strasbourg, check out Chez Yvonne. It has an old world ambiance and makes delicious, hearty traditional Alsatian food. The service is warm and friendly. If this is your thing, the walls are covered with pictures of politicians, glamorous movie stars and legendary singers who have enjoyed a meal or two in the restaurant during it’s very long existence.

If and when I go back to Strasbourg, I want it to be Spring or Christmas. I’m sure it would be gorgeous decked in flowers or blanketed with snow and decked with a million twinkling lights.

I’ll spare you the sight of my poor kugelhopf, to learn how to make a proper one, check out:

  1. Wives With Knives – My, my, that title is genius.
  2. My Kugelhopf – This is the recipe from Ladurée’s cookbook.

To plan your very own trip to Strasbourg, check out:

  1. Conde Nast Traveller’s Guide to Strasbourg
  2. Tourism Office Strasbourg
  3.  NY Times 36 Hours in Strasbourg
  4.  Tourism Alsace

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