Zopf (Swiss Braid)

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 Emmenthaler cheese harvest, zopf has a very slight tang (from the sour cream).

Prep
35 mins
Bake
30 to 35 mins
Total
3 hrs 30 mins
Yield
1 loaf, 16 slices
Zopf (Swiss Braid)

Instructions

  1. To make the 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.

  2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast and salt.

  3. Add the dry ingredients to the sour cream mixture, then stir in 1 large egg and 1 egg white.

  4. Stir until the mixture comes together to form a shaggy mass, then set it aside for 15 minutes.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 nearly doubled in bulk.

  7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased surface and knead it gently a few times, to expel the excess carbon dioxide.

  8. Divide it into three equal pieces, and roll each piece into an 18" log.

  9. Braid the logs together, pinching them at both ends and tucking the pinched ends under.

  10. Place the braid on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover it, and allow it to rise for 45 to 50 minutes.

  11. Toward the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 375°F.

  12. To make the glaze: Whisk the egg yolk with the water, and brush the braid with this glaze.

  13. To bake the braid: Bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes, or until it's golden brown and shiny.

  14. Remove bread from the oven and let it cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely.

  15. Store the bread, well-wrapped, at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Tips from our Bakers

  • Want to see our video showing how easy it is braiding a three strand loaf? Visit how to braid a three strand loaf.
  • Zopf is traditionally served at breakfast, toasted or not, with butter and/or jam.