Zopf (which literally means braid) is probably the most famous Swiss bread. Unlike most other Swiss breads it contains milk and butter, which gives it a lovely soft texture. While the supermarkets sell Zopf all week, it’s traditionally a treat we Swiss only indulge in on Sundays, for breakfast or brunch. It’s best eaten with butter and jam, or butter and honey. Butter and Birnendicksaft goes well together too. Or, of course, Nutella.
Like any bread, Zopf is best enjoyed on the same day. If you want to prepare it the day before so it’s ready early morning for your breakfast, you can either take it out of the oven 10 minutes before the end and finish baking it in the morning, or you can put the ready-made, unbaked Zopf into the fridge (in a plastic bag) and let it prove in the fridge overnight. Then you would add the eggwash in the morning and bake it according to the recipe.
Recipe for one loaf
- 500g flour (for a normal, white Zopf you can use Zopfmehl (Zopf flour) if you live in Switzerland, or just plain flour if you live abroad or don’t have any Zopfmehl at home. You can also mix some brown and white flour (or spelt flour or anything else) to make a brown Zopf).
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 20g fresh yeast or 7g (1 tbsp) dried fast-action yeast
- 3 dl milk, lukewarm
- 60g butter, soft
- 1 egg
Put flour, salt and sugar into a bowl and mix. Add dried yeast or fresh yeast in crumbs and mix. Add milk and butter and stir until combined. If the dough isn’t stretchy and soft, add a little water.
Knead dough for 10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes with an electronic device. The dough is kneaded enough if you can see a regular pattern of lots of small bubbles inside the dough if you cut it in half. These bubbles contain the oxygen the yeast needs in order to prove the dough.
Form a ball and put back into bowl, cover with clingfilm and prove it until double in size. This will take about 1-1.5 hours.
Knock air out of dough, cut in half and roll both halves into long strings.
Braid the dough into a braid (Zopf). If you’re unsure how to do this, watch my video below.
Put the Zopf onto a baking tray covered with baking parchment. Cover it with a tea towel (or put tray into a big plastic bag). Let it rise again until double in size. Or, if you’re in a hurry, heat the oven to 50 C and put the Zopf into the oven until risen, this will only take about 20 minutes. Important: stick a wooden spoon into the oven door so the door isn’t properly closed so the bread gets the oxygen it needs to rise.
When Zopf is risen, crack the egg into a small bowl, add a sprinkle of salt or sugar and mix well. Using a brush, cover the Zopf with the egg wash.
Bake it in lower part of the oven at 220 C for 35-45 minutes. You know the Zopf is ready when the crust looks golden brown and you get a hollow sound when knocking at the bottom of the Zopf with the back of your finger.