When I think of saturday afternoons at my parents' house when I was a child I inevitably also think of my mother making the bread pictured above. It is called Züpfe in Swiss German or tresse au beurre in French. Made of flour, yeast, eggs, butter and milk, it was originally created for special, festive occasions as the ingredients were costly but it is now traditionally eaten for breakfast on sunday morning. Of course, Züpfe is available at any bakery or supermarket on any day of the week, but for me, it loses its appeal when eaten too often and anyway, nothing beats a homemade one (bakers tend to skimp on the butter). When I moved out from home, for a while, there was no Züpfe on my breakfast table on sundays until I realised how quick and easy they are to make and started to regularly bake my own. It should be eaten quite quickly, I always thought it didn't taste as nice on monday morning (or is that just psychological?) but if you have leftovers, try them lightly toasted and spread with butter and jam. A Züpfe is not strictly confined to breakfast, it tastes very good with cheese or ham or barbecued meat and salad, too, which makes it great for parties and which is why the recipe below makes for a very large one. When I bake one for our sunday breakfast, I simply divide all the ingredients by four.
- 1 kg plain flour
- 150g butter
- 0.5 l milk
- 1 egg
- 1 cube (42g) fresh yeast or dried yeast for 1 kg of flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Crumble the yeast into a small bowl and add the sugar, then stir until the yeast dissolves. Add to the flour. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, remove from the heat and add the milk. Add to the flour as well. Beat the egg and add about three quarters to the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until the ingredients come together then knead vigourously until the dough is no longer sticky but soft and shiny. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place for one hour. Divide the dough into two pieces and form "sausages", rolling the pieces with both hands. Place one strand over the other at a right angle so that they form a cross and pleat them. If you find the pleating too tricky, make three strands and pleat like you do with hair. If you don't know how to do that, either, well, then, just form a loaf - but don't dare and call it Züpfe (which means pleat). Let rise for another thirty minutes, then eggwash with the remaining egg. Bake in the preheated oven at 220° for ten minutes, then at 180° for another twenty to thirty minutes, depending on how big your Züpfe is. To test whether it's done, carefully turn it around and tap the bottom side with your knuckles, a hollow sound means it's done. Place on a wire rack and let cool.
Do use fresh yeast in this recipe if you can get hold of it. The dried kind works, too, but you won't get that fresh, deep flavour.
On sunday morning, enjoy your Züpfe spread with butter and honey or jam. Pure bliss, don't you think?
P.S. As somebody has pointed out in the comments, it's not that easy to divide an egg by four. That's true, of course. The thing is, the egg is not really needed in the dough. The only reason I put some in is that one egg is always too much to eggwash the Züpfe and then you won't have any use for the rest of the egg and end up throwing it away. So whatever size your pleated sunday treat is going to be, use one egg. Add some to the dough, keeping as much as you'll need for brushing.