Zopf (Swiss Braid)

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Zopf (Swiss Braid)

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Published prior to 2008

Just as each culture seems to have its everyday bread, each also seems to have its "weekend" bread: bread made with more expensive ingredients, bread a step up the richness ladder from the typical flour/water/yeast/salt loaf. These loaves fall somewhere in between basic breads and holiday breads: unlike holiday breads, they're not overly sweet and aren't enriched with dried fruits or nuts; but the addition of butter, perhaps sugar, eggs and/or milk takes them quite a bit beyond the simple hearth loaf.

The Swiss have long been known for their egg- and dairy-rich breads, as well as their intricately shaped loaves. Zopf, usually formed into a simple three-strand braid, is a basic example of this Swiss art. A staple on weekends, and traditionally offered at New Year's and at meals marking the Emmentaler cheese harvest, zopf has a very slight tang (from the sour cream). This was a great favorite among our taste-testers; we found it's absolutely perfect with raspberry jam.

3/4 cup (6 1/2 ounces) sour cream
4 tablespoons (2 ounces, 1/2 stick) butter
3 1/4 cups (13 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs (reserve 1 yolk for glaze)

1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water

Dough: Warm the sour cream to lukewarm in a microwave, or over very low heat while stirring constantly. Add the butter and stir until melted.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the sour cream mixture, then stir in 1 egg and 1 egg white. Stir until the mixture comes together to form a shaggy mass, then set it aside for 15 minutes.

Knead the dough -- by hand, electric mixer, food processor or bread machine -- until it's smooth and elastic, adding a small amount of water or flour, if needed. Place it in a greased bowl, cover the bowl, and set the dough aside to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until it's doubled in bulk.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased surface and knead it gently a few times, to expel the excess carbon dioxide. Divide it into three equal pieces, and roll each piece into an 18-inch log. Braid the logs together, pinching them at both ends and tucking the pinched ends under. Place the braid on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover it, and allow it to rise for 45 to 50 minutes.

Glaze: Whisk the egg yolk with the water, and brush the braid with this glaze. Bake the bread in a preheated 375°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until it's golden brown and shiny. Remove it from the oven and let it cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely. Zopf is traditionally served at breakfast, toasted or not, with butter and/or jam. Yield: 1 loaf, 16 slices.

Nutrition information per serving (1 slice, 47g): 146 cal, 6g fat, 4g protein, 18g complex carbohydrates, 1g dietary fiber, 40mg cholesterol, 181mg sodium, 65mg potassium, 63RE vitamin A, 1mg iron, 18mg calcium, 50mg phosphorus.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. XI, No. 6, Autumn 2000 issue.


  • star rating 03/01/2012
  • LegoMom from Toronto
  • I was intrigued by the shape of a two-strand zopf so I baked three loafs with the different recipes that I found online. This is the fourth one I tried and I like its texture the best. I changed the recipe a bit using my limited bread baking experience: (1) I soaked the yeast with 2 TBS of water and ½ TBS of sugar for a few minutes. (2) I poured the yeast mixture into a hole that I made in the dry ingredients; I then stir the liquid a little to mix in some of the dry ingredients and let sit for 15 minutes. (3) I melted the butter on stovetop and then add the sour cream; was careful not to over heat the mixture. I braided it like a challah and it looks great! I think I will make this recipe again soon in the future.
  • star rating 04/09/2010
  • Kendra from Nova Scotia
  • well this was my first attempt at making zopf. I trained with a swiss family for years and loved the zopf the mother made. She however wouldn't share the recipe... family secret I guess. So I picked the easiest to read recipe... thus this one. So first the positives. It was really well descriptive. And I definitely think sour cream was in my friends zopf. Some of the other recipes I found did not have it. It smelled good, but did not rise. Thus it didn't look great. That being said here is what I think I did wrong. I'm trying again so we'll see if it turns out. I used the bread maker to kneed. So I decided to kneed by hand. I would not recommend using all purpose flour. Mine did not rise at all. This time I am adding a bit more yeast, and added some baking powder to see if it will rise better (with the all purpose). I got this alteration from a website that showed how to substitute if you don't have bread flour. I hope it turns out this time. I really look forward to having some fresh zopf tonight
    I'm sorry you are having trouble with this recipe. It may be in the way you are measuring your flour, which can add too much flour to the dough, or that your yeast is not active enough. Give us a call and we'll be happy to help. Molly @ KAF