oh, zopf, how i love thee…

here is a recipe for swiss zopf. i got it from johanna, a swiss farmer, so i can assure you of it’s swiss provenance and authenticity (i understand how important these things are to you). she had to go to hausfrau school to learn it (true! 2 years of learning how to run a household…egads).

i have to admit that i have re-posted this recipe from its original home of my old foodie egroup, ‘in the red kitchen’, which sadly seems to have fallen by the wayside of late. it was just too long to re-type!

zopf is basically very rich white bread. it’s full of all the things that are good for you: white flour, butter, full fat milk. don’t say i didn’t warn you. i make this most weekends, and we eat it for an indulgent sunday morning brekky. this recipe makes enough for 4 small loaves, or 2 large ones, or 3 medium size ones. or lots of small buns. or whatever. you get my drift.

to pronounce ‘zopf’ with a properly swiss intonation: it isn’t ‘zzzopf’ as in ‘zoo’, but ‘tzopf’ – get that ‘t’ sound happening and you’ve got it. took me ages to get it right. sometimes i just say ‘bread’.

swiss zopf

1 kg white flour
600 ml milk
100g butter
1 Tb salt
1 cube of fresh yeast – the cubes here are 42 g. i’m not sure what that
translates to in dried yeast, unfortunately….if you can get fresh
yeast, use that, its way better for this!
NOTE: my lovely friend priscilla made this with dried yeast, i think one packet, and it
worked, so try that if you can’t get fresh

DON’T preheat the oven

-melt yummy soury swiss butter, and leave to cool.

-crumble the yeast into a cup with a little of the milk.

-in the most enormous bowl you have, dump in the flour.

-make a well in the centre, and a little fortified ledge around the edge of the well for the salt to sit on (apparently this is because the yeast doesnt like salt and therefore should be mixed in last)

– pour the salt around the ledge

– mix the yeasty milk til it is creamy and dissolved

– pour the milk, yeasty milk and cooled butter into the well and stir in circles to mix with flour, trying to keep the salty flour til last. this is good to do with a fork, even tho you will end up with pop-eye arms, cos it mixes the stuff together better.

– once it is a manageable lump, toss out onto the bench and knead the hell out of it for ages. seriously. about 20 minutes. i dunno. just keep going until it resembles a plump and deliciously smooth baby’s bum (if you dont know the texture, go and pinch one!). there seems to be a magic point where it all comes together and is smooth and pliable and elastic.

– the swiss proof of readiness: get a sharp knife and make a big cut down the middle. part the two bum cheeks and if the holes you see are of an equal size then yr in business. if not, get kneading again!

– when its all good and equal-holed, plop it back into the (clean) bowl and put in a warm spot to double in size. Wet a towel and put it over the top. find some way to conceal (or reveal!) yr new pop-eye arms.

– when it has doubled, dump it on the bench and cut it into whatever portions you want – 4, 2, 3 etc etc

– cut each portion into 2, and roll out into two long snakes, with a humpy bit in the middle

– now this is the tricky bit. you can either go ahead and plait it any way you like, or you can try and follow these no doubt confusing and silly instructions…

– the cheats way is to to twist the two strands together, and then double it over and twist it together again, so there are essentially four strands plaited (this is the aim)

– the swiss way (ha!)is to lay yr strands out in a X.

– take the strand that is on the bottom: top strand in right hand, bottom in left, and cross yr hands RIGHT OVER LEFT. this is the key. right over left!!! bottom strand should be at the top, and the top at the bottom.

– do the same with the other strand- yr left hand will starthe top, and right at the bottom. right over left!!!! yr left hand will finish at the bottom and yr right at the top.

– are you confused yet? i am!!! bloody hell. anyway, just keep going like that til there’s no more left to plait. i mean, you could really twist and turn it into any shape you want. remember plaiting yr friends hair at school? try 3 strands! whatever you do with it it will still taste fab.

– oh and max of course always gets a zopf snail or whatever his latest animal craze is. he just likes to poke the dough and smash it with the rolling pin (make sure the kids have their own chunk!)

– put on a baking tray and brush with egg yolk to give a shiny glossy look -oooer.

– bake at 180°C for about 30 – 40 mins or until they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

i know it sounds like lots of trouble and mess for a some white bread, but really, its not just white bread. think about the butter quotient! and the milk! thats damn good for you! you have a duty to eat it! and hey, look at the texture when you finally get to scoff it. its beautiful (and you have the arms to prove it).

if you can wait til the next morning, devour with homemade jam and more butter and cooooofffeeeeeee. and maybe a 3 minute eggy. oh and if yr attemptng to recreate the true swiss weekend brekky add some stinky cheese. and mandel muss (almond butter – like peanut butter but better).

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9 thoughts on “oh, zopf, how i love thee…

  1. This sounds great. 42g is a very precise measure! I love the sound of hausfrau school. I think I missed my calling except I don’t want the hausherr.

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