Zopf braided egg bread
As a bit of a reaction to the heavy wholemeal sourdough I’ve been making lately, last Sunday I was dreaming about zopf, the eggy-buttery bread that you buy in Switzerland on Saturday to have on Sunday (when the bakeries are closed). There are many versions of this type of bread, including the Jewish challah, which is baked the day before Sabbath.
The butter is what makes it keep so well overnight, and the egg makes is rich and golden.
I’d never made one before, so I learnt a few things. First, don’t be worried about the size of the braid. This one was a whopper, and I could have made two normal zopfs with the amount of dough. Second, you can add heaps of butter. I used about two tablespoons and the result was not rich. Third, don’t be afraid of the plait, it’s really easy to make, even for me.
It’s a yeast bread, not my usual sourdough, which also means it’s ready in comparatively little time. The second spur for me to make it was that I’m having to think of ways to use eggs, as the chickens have come into lay.
Put 4 cups (1 L) of white bakers flour in a mixing bowl, sprinkle on and mix in a sachet of yeast. Mix in 300 mL tepid water, add 4 tablespoons melted butter (or more). Break up two eggs with a fork and tip most into the dough, reserving a little in the bowl for glazing the loaves. Mix or hand-knead for 10 minutes, adding a teaspoon of salt at the start. Form into a ball and leave to rise for 30 min. Punch down, form into a ball, and divide in half. Divide each half into thirds, roll out each third to a sausage about the length of your desired loaf (~ 30 cm). Plait trios of sausages, working to a thin end by stretching them as you go, then meld the ends together. Leave to rise 30 min or until you’re happy with the shape. Tip onto a greased baking sheet, brush with reserved egg, and bake in a hot (250 C) oven for 5 min, then turn the heat down to low and bake for 25 min. Slide onto a wire rack and let cool. Eat the next day if you can wait.
This is really a bread that lends itself to variation by different cultures. I have seen braids made from four or more strands, and I’m sure there is plenty of room for variation in the ingredients. One thing I would say is there’s no need for saffron or other yellow colouring if you are using two eggs – the result was beautifully golden inside. Another nice change was the very even spongy texture, a real difference from sourdough.
Have a go if you also are new to this bread type, and for the experts I’d love to read your personal takes on zopf braided egg bread.