Our latest Swiss adventure happened last weekend in the canton of Valais. My brother-in-law’s invitation to run in the Sierre-Zinal race led us there, along with a great vacation rental with a kitchen that we found via airbnb.com. Known as one of Europe’s premier trail races, the Sierre-Zinal celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. So, we packed up the family and hit the road in a rental car, ready to explore the Val d’Anniviers, cheer on all the runners and enjoy some traditional Valasian rye bread.
Arriving in Grimentz
The quiet village of Grimentz served as our base for exploring around the valley. We took a narrow and windy road with lots of switchbacks up from Sierre. Squished in the middle between the boys and their enormous car seats, I felt a bit nauseous by the time we arrived. Luckily, the beautiful scenery made it worthwhile—mountain views, historic sun-weathered granaries and tons of window boxes filled with brilliant red geraniums.
Rye Bread from Valais
Our first morning in Grimentz, I picked up a loaf of rye bread or pain de seigle at one of the two local bakeries we visited. Throughout Switzerland, with its several hundred bread varieties, the Valaisan rye bread is the only one that can use the AOP label (appellation d’origine protégée or protected designation of origin). Bread adorned with this label must be made with rye flour grown, milled and processed in Valais.
I brought the rye bread with us to the playground in Grimentz, along with some other sweet pastries from the bakeries. After I photographed the bread on a picnic table while the kids were playing, I tried to rip off a hunk to try it. The bread was so dry and dense, I almost couldn’t tear it apart. After several tries, I wrestled off a small piece, took a bite and found myself chewing for a while. The taste was great, but I really needed a hot beverage, bowl of soup or a lot of jam to really enjoy it.
Before we left town, my husband picked up a bag of the traditional Valaisan rye flour, so I could trying making it at home. The tourist office in Grimentz sells the flour and has copies of the recipe to share. I was pleased to see the traditional recipe was dairy, egg and nut-free—although it can be made with nuts, raisins, dried apricots, cumin or other ingredients.
“The farmers, bakers and millers of Grimentz wish you all enjoyment in making and tasting your own rye bread.” –From the Grimentz office of tourism
The bread was extremely easy to make, but with a 12-hour rising time, you have to be patient. My version was a little softer, but I actually prefer it that way. I’ll have to try making this again with rye flour from the grocery store to see how it compares. For now, we’re enjoying our AOP-like bread with dairy-free margarine and raspberry jam for breakfast.
Grimentzard Rye Bread
1 kg rye flour from the mill
750 ml cold water
20 grams gfresh yeast
30 grams salt
1. Knead all the ingredients well for at least 15 minutes. Let the dough rise in a large bowl somewhere cool for 12 hours.
2. When the dough has doubled in volume, make it into a ball and roll it in flour. Let the dough rise and settle so the surface becomes cracked.
3. Bake for about an hour at 240°C/475°F. Wait until it cools completely to eat it. Store the bread in a paper bag.
I’m always looking for traditional Swiss recipes I can make at home, especially those sans dairy, eggs and nuts. If you have any to share, please leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, and bon week-end!