(Braided Milk Bread)
This type of bread comes from the Emmental region of Switzerland, which is the same region that Herbert and his family originate from. Although I call this 'bread', the Swiss call it Züpfe. I'm constantly being reminded that it's not bread, it's Züpfe. If I ask someone at a table to pass the bread, they look around the table, completely confused. After I've pointed to what I mean, the response is always, "Oh, the Züpfe." When I was new to Switzerland, I thought that I wasn't pronouncing Brot (bread) correctly. I've come to learn that the Swiss are not only proud of their Züpfe, but insistent on what it should be called. Outside of the canton of Bern, where we live, it's called Zopf, which means a braid. Züpfe is simply the Bernese word for Zopf.
Züpfe is basically considered to be a Sunday morning bread, but it seems to show up at every meal or festival we go to. It's also a common prize to win at local events, such as bingo games.
Everyone seems to have their own recipe and it's taken me almost four years to find a recipe that works perfectly for me every time I make it. This is the recipe I always use now and it's a recipe from Mädi. It's is the least complicated, and most reliable for me.
This bread is, by its name, a braided bread. Don't let the thought of braiding bread dough deter you from trying. You can follow this link for a diagram of how to braid the traditional Swiss way with two criss-crossed strands, or you can simply make three strands pinch the three ends together and braid as you would braid hair. The only difference will be that the three-strand bread will be flatter than the traditional one. Either way, I think you'll be happy with your final loaf of 'bread'.
1 1/4 cups (3 dl) milk, separated
1 package of dry yeast or half a cube of fresh yeast
1/4 cup (50g) butter, melted
3 3/4 cups (500g) flour (bread flour if you can find it)
1/2 T. (10g) salt
1 egg yolk
* * * Do not preheat the oven. * * *
1. Warm 3/4 cup of the milk until it feels warm to your hand, but not too hot. (If you heat it too much, you can add some of the remaining milk to cool it.)
2. Disolve the yeast into the milk and set it aside until it starts to foam.
3. In a mixing bowl, mix the salt into flour.
4. Mix the milk-yeast mixture, the melted butter and the remaining milk with the flour and salt.
5. Knead until it doesn't stick to your fingers anymore and the dough is smooth and elastic. You can add additional flour or drops of milk, a little at a time, as needed to make a dough that's easy to work with. The dough should be a little sticky and will clean itself off your hands as you knead it. (You can use a machine if you want, but I have had the best results when I've kneaded the dough by hand. It only takes about five minutes and you can think of it as a short little work out.)
6. Place the dough in a large, clean bowl, cover with a dry towel and set in a warm place to rise until double. (About 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.)
7. Seperate the dough into two pieces. With moist hands, roll each piece in to a long strand and braid as shown here.
(Or, seperate the dough into three pieces, roll into strands, pinch the ends together, braid as you would braid hair and pinch the last ends together.)
8. Place the braided dough unto a baking sheet.
9. Brush the surface of the braid with egg yolk.
10. Place in an cold (non-preheated oven) and turn the oven to 350°F (175°C).
11. Bake until a hollow sound is heard when you knock on the bottom of the loaf. (About 45-55 minutes after you turned on the oven.)
Yield: One 2-pound loaf.