One of the most common breads you’ll find all over Switzerland is Butterzopf or Tresse au beurre (“butter braid” in German and French, respectively). With my son’s milk allergy, the bread’s name is a clear sign to avoid it. Now, after two attempts, I’ve found a recipe that works for a homemade, dairy-free version of this favorite Swiss bread.
There’s evidence the Swiss have been making Zopf since the mid-15th century, with Bern considered its birthplace (it’s called Züpfe there). Legend has it that widows used to cut off a braid of their hair to bury with their husband. At some point, women began replacing their braided hair with a braided loaf of bread.
Zopf comes in all shapes and sizes, but it typically has a tapered end. The braids can also vary in height and width. Weekends, and Sundays in particular, are traditional times for Zopf—which explains why our Suisse-Romande bakeries filled their windows yesterday (Friday) with Tresses au beurre. The braided loaves remind me of less-eggy version of Challah. A thick slice of Zopf with jam is my favorite way to eat it.
I find the braiding to be challenging, but that’s because I’m very impatient! After only two loaves, I still have a lot of practicing to do… Here’s a video from Swiss Milk (in German) to help you out, if you’re making Zopf at home.
Zopf can be made with or without eggs. Since my son passed his baked egg challenge, I’ve been trying to incorporate a daily dose of eggs into his diet. So, my recipe below is primarily based on an egg-less zopf recipe from Betty Bossi, but it also borrows from a one-egg Zopf recipe from swissworld.org.
3 1/2 to 4 cups zopfmehl/farine pour tresse*
1-2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
250 mL soy or rice milk, lukewarm
1/2 cup dairy-free margarine, soft, in pieces
1 egg white
1-2 tablespoons soy or rice milk (I think this step isn’t necessary, so I’ve stopped doing it.)
1 egg, beaten
*Please note: If you live outside of Switzerland and can’t find zopfmehl, you can try making your own. Laughing Lemon recommends a mixture of 15 percent bread flour and 85 percent all-purpose flour. I’v also made this recipe with all-purpose flour. It’s not the same, but it works just fine.
1. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups of flour and the salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture.
2. In a small bowl, stir in the sugar and yeast to the warmed milk substitute. Let set for a few minutes until the yeast dissolves.
3. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and mix well. Then, add the margarine and egg white and another cup of flour and mix together to form into dough.
4. Knead for 5-10 minutes, adding extra flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Let rise for about one hour or until doubled. Then divide into 2 equal parts, make long cylindrical ropes and braid the dough (see video above for details).
5. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet,
brush with the milk substitute, and let rise for another 30-40 minutes.
6. Brush the dough with the beaten egg. Bake for about 35 minutes at 200°C/400°F. Remove and cool on a wire rack.
Updated: January 18, 2015