The crowning jewel of most Swiss Sunday breakfast tables is the plaited, golden Zopf / Tresse / Treccia, whose name means ‘braid’ in German, French, and Italian. Easily Switzerland's most famous bread, Zopf is enjoyed in all regions of the country, particularly the Emmental, where butter is treasured and added to the bread with abandon, and the braids are often giant and sold by the metre.
Good Zopf has a shiny, crisp exterior and an interior that manages to be both fluffy and chewy. My mother-in-law Josy, says that a proper Zopf breaks a little between the braids—that's the good stuff that the crust can't quite contain.
In Bern, the name for Zopf is Züpfe. My friend Annina gave me her Bernese grandmother's Züpfe recipe, saying that it is the easiest and best. It didn't disappoint.
For a how-to on two-strand braiding from a real Emmental master, plus a super slow tutorial video, see my post Braiding Zopf, here.
500 g flour
20 g fresh yeast, or 2 tsp dry yeast
250 ml milk, room temperature
1 egg yolk
1 tsp sugar
12 g salt
80 g butter, soft
pinch of salt
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
In another bowl, whisk together the milk, yeast, yolk and sugar.
Make a well in the flour and add the liquid ingredients. Stir this together until a dough starts to form, then add the butter and begin to knead it on the table. Knead for about 15-20 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic. Alternatively, mix for about 10 minutes in a stand mixer with a dough hook. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat your oven to 230° C / 450° F / gas mark 8.
Split the dough into two and roll each out into a long strand. Braid. (For how to braid Zopf, see here).
Place on your baking sheet and let rest for about 20 minutes.
Whisk together the egg and salt, then brush the dough.
As soon as you put the bread in the oven, turn the heat down to 200° C / 400° F / gas mark 6.
Bake for about 25-30 minutes.
The Züpfe is fully baked when you tap the bottom of the bread and it sounds hollow.
In Switzerland you can buy special flour for making your Züpfe called Zopfmehl / Farine pour Tresse / Farina per Treccia. This flour has spelt added to give it more protein and create its fibrous texture.
If you can’t get Zopf flour, you could try making your own, the ratio is usually 10% spelt flour and 90% wheat flour.
If you can't be bothered to make the traditional two-strand braid, just split the dough into three and make a simple three-strand version.
A great savoury variation is the Späckzüpfe, which adds bacon to the mix. Just fry up about 200 g (½ lb) cubed bacon, let cool, and add it to the dough after you mix in the butter.