Fresh from the oven on a weekend morning, these kugelhopf rolls are absolute show-stoppers. And that's even before you dip them in melted butter and roll them in cinnamon and sugar! I love to eat them slowly, pulling off one tender doughnut-like piece at a time and taking sips of coffee in between. This recipe is pure buttery, sugary bliss.
The inspiration for these yeasty morning rolls came from the kugelhopf that I recently had at Bread and Chocolate Bakery in Newton, Massachusetts. My husband and I were in town visiting friends, and I'm sorry to say that I completely lost track of the conversation while devouring my roll. It was as tender as a doughnut with a crunchy coating of granulated sugar. It seemed to almost melt in my mouth, leaving a lingering taste of almonds and cinnamon. You understand why I couldn't stop thinking about it, yes?
Back home, I decided to tackle this mystical breakfast roll for myself. I started with Dorie Greenspan's much-recommended recipe for traditional cake-sized kugelhopf and adapted it for individual rolls. I also added a poolish, or pre-ferment, which is made by combining the yeast, milk, and a portion of the flour and letting this bubble for a bit before making the final dough. Adding a poolish helps give the rolls the elastic, slightly chewy texture I wanted.
I played around with almond extract and cinnamon, and I finally landed on a teaspoon of extract in the dough and a dash of cinnamon in the final sugar coating. I kept the overnight rise recommended in Dorie's recipe. This helps improve the texture and flavor in the finished rolls — plus it lets us split the work between two days and makes the soft, buttery dough easier to roll out!
The resulting rolls are perfect. They have a chewy-yet-tender texture, a rich, buttery flavor, and just the right touch of sweet almond and cinnamon. These are the perfect thing for nibbling on a weekend morning while skimming the newspaper and sipping coffee. Go on, bake some this weekend and make everyone in your house happy!
The poolish will also be very elastic and pillowy.
How To Make Kugelhopf Breakfast Rolls
Makes 12 rolls
What You Need
2 tablespoons warm water (not hot)
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup whole milk, warmed (not hot)
1 3/4 cups flour, divided
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs
1 large yolk
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
Measuring cups and spoons
12-cup muffin tin
Make the poolish: Stir the water and yeast together in a small mixing bowl until the yeast dissolves, then stir in the milk. Add just 1/2 cup of the flour and stir until it forms a smooth batter, about 100 strokes. Cover the bowl and let this poolish sit for at least 20 minutes or up to 60 minutes. In this time, the poolish should rise to twice its original size and you should see lots of little bubbles on the surface.
Stir in the eggs, yolk, and almond extract: In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolk, and almond extract. Stir this into the poolish and mix until completely combined.
Mix the dough together: In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the remaining 1 1/4 cups of flour, the sugar, and the salt. Pour the poolish-egg mixture into the flour and stir until it becomes a wet, shaggy dough.
Knead the dough until smooth: Fit the mixer with a dough hook attachment and knead this dough on medium-high speed until it comes together and becomes smooth, five minutes.
Add the butter with the mixer running: Reduce the mixer speed to medium and start adding the softened butter in blobs, waiting until the blob is nearly incorporated before adding the next. (The butter needs to be quite soft; work it between your fingers before adding if it's still a bit stiff and chilly from the fridge.) You may need to stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl during this time.
Continue kneading until the dough comes together in a glossy, elastic ball: Once all the butter has been added, increase the mixer speed to medium-high and knead the dough for 10 minutes. The dough should come together in a ball, look glossy and supple, and jiggle like a custard if you tap it with your spatula.
Let the dough rise for 1 1/2 hours: Transfer the dough out to a clean bowl, cover, and let rise for about an hour and half, until doubled in size.
Refrigerate the dough overnight: Put dough in the refrigerator and let it rest overnight (or up to 2 days). It may rise a little more in the fridge before cooling completely down. You can punch the dough down if it looks like it will rise over the edge of the bowl.
Roll the dough flat and brush with butter: When ready to make the rolls, turn the chilled dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough out to roughly 10-x8-inch rectangle that's roughly 1/2-inch thick. Use more flour as needed if the dough is sticking to the work surface or your rolling pin. Brush the dough with melted butter, leaving an inch of un-buttered dough at the top. Sprinkle the buttered areas with the sugar.
Roll the dough into a log and slice into rounds: Roll the dough into a log and pinch it closed at the seam. Using a pastry cutter or a chef's knife, cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Spray a muffin tin liberally with non-stick spray, including the wells and the surface of the tin. Nestle each roll into a well, pressing gently to make sure it settles in the bottom.
Let the rolls rise for 1 hour: Cover the tin and let the rolls rise for about an hour, until they're just starting to peak over the tops of the wells.
Bake the rolls: Fifteen minutes before baking (when the rolls are almost to the top of the tins), preheat the oven to 375°F. Uncover the rolls and bake them for 25 to 30 minutes. About halfway through cooking, check the rolls and tent them with foil if they are golden-brown to protect the edges from burning. The rolls are done when a cake tester comes out clean and the internal temperature registers at 200°F.
Cool the rolls slightly: Tip the rolls out onto a cooling rack and let them cool until just cool enough to handle.
Dip the rolls in butter and cinnamon-sugar: Melt the butter in a small bowl and combine the cinnamon and sugar in a second bowl. While the rolls are still warm, dip each roll into the butter and then roll it in the cinnamon-sugar. It's easiest to dip and roll the bottom and then go back to dip and roll the top. The rolls are best if eaten right away, though they are still good for several days and are great reheated in a toaster oven. Store in an airtight container.
Leftover, stale kugelhopf make phenomenal French toast or bread pudding.
Make-ahead kugelhopf: If you have time the day before, you can shape the rolls the night before and let them sit in the refrigerator overnight so you have less work to do in the morning. (Although, the dough is easiest to roll out if it's cold. Let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour before rolling it out and shaping the rolls, if possible.) The next morning, just take the shaped rolls out of the fridge and let them rise as directed. They may take an extra half hour to rise.
Freezing kugelhopf: Let the kugelhopf cool completely, then package them in a freezer bag or container, and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, heat the rolls on a baking sheet in a 300°F oven until warm. Dip in melted butter and cinnamon-sugar, and serve.
Making kugelhopf by hand: This is one of those recipes that's so much easier to make if you have a standing mixer. However, you can make it by hand by beating the dough with a wooden spoon. It takes about an hour for the dough to come together and get silky, so it helps to have some willing assistants on hand! Also, don't try this with a hand-held mixer as its motor isn't strong enough.
This recipe has been updated. Originally published June 2010.