This is a traditional Swiss bread consisting of flour, butter, yeast, milk, and egg yolk. It is characterized by its soft texture and braided appearance. This bread is usually eaten on Sunday mornings together with everything else that can go for a brunch, such as butter, jam, ham, or cheese. It’s a kind of bread, therefore not really sweet!
Make the dough
Mix flour and salt in a large bowl, form a hollow.
Melt butter with some milk in a pan, add remaining milk; it should be about body temperature. Add crumbled, liquefied or dry yeast and milk/butter in the hollow.
Knead until the dough is non-sticking, soft and includes air bubbles when cut apart.
Place the dough in a large bowl and let it rise to its double volume. It should be covered - with lid, cling film, or damp towel -and kept at a warm place.
Form the braided bread
Divide the dough in two halves. Roll each half to a string which is thicker in the middle and thins out to the ends. Cross the two strings and start braiding: Always the two opposite ends are crossed, the first (which lies top) is crossed over one string, the second (which lies lover) is then crossed over two strings, and so on.
Lay the braided bread on a baking paper covered baking tray. Glaze with egg yolk.
Bake the bread
Put the bread in the lower to middle part of the oven. Recommendation: top and bottom heat.
Bake one 2 lb bread at 400°F (200°C) for about 40 minutes; and two 1 lb loaves for about 25 minutes.
Enjoy the bread!
Fresh yeast can either be crumbled or liquefied when mixing with some sugar. The yeast likes it warm - best fermentation at 90°F (32°C) but will be destroyed at 113°F (45°C)
Some say a warm place it is the best for the dough to rise, some say the dough could also stay in the fridge over night.
When braiding the bread, the crossings always change between 1) from right to left, from left to right, and 2) cross over one string, cross over two strings. So it’s 1a) from top right to bottom left over 1 string and 1b) from bottom left to top right over two strings, then 2a. from top left to bottom right over 1 string and 2b. from bottom right to top left over two strings, and then start again.
There is no need to preheat the oven, although some like to preheat. Since the baking time is much depending on the oven, better try out and have a look into the oven from time to time. The braided bread should get golden brown.
This bread is known as butterzopf, zopfe or zopf. The word zopf means braid.
Food in Europe
Alternative shaping of the dough
Grittibenz (butter bread man)
“Grittibenz” are traditionally made on the sixth of December when celebrating Santa Claus in the German speaking part of Switzerland and in Germany. The children love to decorate this “butter bread man” (there is no ginger in it and it’s soft) with raisins, sugar hail or almonds before baking them. Other names: Weckmann, Grättimaa…
On the sixth of January in Switzerland and Germany the “Dreikönigstag” (Three Wise Men or Three Kings Day, 12th day) is celebrated. Then the butter bread is formed into small balls which stick together and form a “flower” or crown. The bread is often covered with sugar hail or sliced almonds and more sugar and raisins can be added to the dough, so it’s sweeter than the braided bread. In just one bread ball a small white plastic king is placed - it could also be a nut or almond. The one person choosing and eating the ball with the king in it is then the king, or queen, of the day and gets also crowned.