Swiss National Day of Allergy 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015 – Today marks the seventh National Day of Allergy in Switzerland. Organized by aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse, this year’s event focuses on the relationship between allergies and skin, particularly during times of leisure, such as traveling or participating in sports activities. To increase awareness of allergies, aha! will be presenting images related to this year’s theme and sharing informational materials at seven train stations across Switzerland: Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Locarno, Lucerne and Zurich.

Image source: aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse

As part of its focus on skin, allergies and leisure in 2015, aha! is promoting several of its programs and activities related to this theme, such as its allergy-friendly camps for children and translation cards for traveling. Also, aha! offers training courses for parents of children with atopic eczema. At least two of these courses are planned for Suisse Romande this fall. Finally, aha! has lots of materials on allergies available via its website to help further this year’s message: “une bonne information et prévention pour une meilleure qualité de vie” (i.e., good information and prevention for a better quality of life).

For more information:

Special bites: A Zürich “Sweet Studio” with Delicious Gluten-free and Dairy-free Treats

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Elegantly decorated cupcakes, rich double chocolate cookies and cake citron garnished with candied lemon—all made without dairy and gluten by Special bites in Zürich. I had the chance to meet the baker who creates these delicious treats over the weekend, and my family and I are now her biggest fans.

Hungarian-born Timea Megyeri opened Special bites in October 2013 because she wanted to make sure that people avoiding dairy and gluten could still enjoy delicious sweet treats. Her goal is to make high-quality baked goods that taste just as good, if not better, than those made with milk, butter and wheat, for example. With offerings like Bakewell Cake and Victoria Sandwich Cake, Timea has a strong British influence in her baking, as she received her formal training at University College Birmingham.

After admiring her stunning photos of cupcakes and other treats on Facebook for months, I finally placed an order for pick up in Zürich. When I arrived at her commercial kitchen, her brightly lit workspace was immaculate and absolutely free of products containing dairy or gluten. Timea had set out a platter heaped with freshly baked cookies and bars. There was a layered sponge cake with berry filling and some lightly sweetened breakfast cookies, including one with grated carrots, gluten-free oats, agave syrup and raisins. I also had the chance to meet Timea’s boyfriend, Malcom Hett, who serves as her taste-tester and marketing advisera fitting role given his day job working as a global marketing manager.

Special Bites Tea Time

Photo courtesy of Special bites

For my 3-year old son with a milk allergy, it’s not often he gets to eat something that I haven’t made for him—which is why I was so excited to discover Special bites. He can safely eat gluten, so I don’t normally buy gluten-free products, but from my experience in Switzerland, its more common that dairy-free products are also made without gluten. Unfortunately, the few prepackaged cookies like this we’ve bought for him haven’t been very good. However, the photos I kept seeing from Timea made it seem that gluten-free ingredients weren’t holding her back from making really delicious baked goods, so I had to give it a try.

I had such a lovely time chatting with Timea about her baking, it wasn’t long before I realized an hour had passed! My usual snack time routines involve cleaning up spilled soy milk and reading children’s stories, so I enjoyed the opportunity to just sit and talk with someone who really understands how to bake exceptionally well, including for people with food allergies and intolerances. When it was time for me to leave, she bagged up my order of chocolate cookies and lemon cakes in a Special bites tote bag, and I could haven’t been more pleased.

Back at home, both of my sons were thrilled with everything from Special bites. The lemon cake had a great flavor and light icing, without being too sweet (she admitted to actually liking salty things more than sweets, and it’s reflected in her baking). I was especially impressed with the double chocolate cookies—so rich and with a texture almost like a brownie. I had to remind myself they were for my son, so I wouldn’t eat them all!

Double Chocolate Cookies

Double Chocolate Cookies

If you’re living or traveling in Zürich with special dietary needs, I highly recommend Special bites for delicious and elegant dairy-free and gluten-free, as well as vegan and gluten-free, baked goods. We plan on placing another order the next time we’re nearby. You can order products online that can be picked up in Zürich or you can find them at the following:

Eva’s Apples
Weinbergstrasse 168, 8006 Zürich
Phone: 044 363 56 54

Mr. and Mrs. Glutenfree
Forchstrasse 28, 8008 Zürich
Phone: 076 548 43 23

Simply Soup
Hallwylstrasse 24, 8004 Zürich
Phone: 044 554 66 71

Pelikanstrasse 19, 8001 Zürich
Phone: 043 497 22 32

FELFEL (no retail shop; food items delivered to enrolled workplaces)
Grubenstrasse 11, 8045 Zurich
Phone: 043 536 74 51

A big thanks again to Timea Megyeri of Special bites for hosting me and for creating quality products that taste great while catering to the needs of people avoiding dairy and gluten in Switzerland.

Swiss Allergy Center: Summer and Fall Camp Programs for Children and Teens

aha! summer camp 2014

Site of the aha! camp program in Davos Klosters (Photo courtesy of aha!)

Are you looking for a summer or fall camp for your child with food allergies? If so, aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse is once again hosting several camp programs for children ages 8 to 12 years and 13 to 16 years.

For several years, I attended a weekly summer camp in Minnesota, and I think programs like this create memories for a lifetime. Kids get the opportunity to make new friends and enjoy the outdoors, while learning how to be independent from their parents for a week (and now I see how it’s a nice break for parents too!). It’s great that aha! is sponsoring programs to make camp accessible for children and teens with allergic diseases, such as asthma, atopic dermatitis and food allergies.

Located in the Swiss Alps, these camps have staff trained to deal with food allergies, such as responding to severe reactions like anaphylaxis. Also, there’s a dietician to help plan safe and nutritious meals for those with food allergies and intolerances. With this support system in place, children and teens with allergic diseases get to have a wonderful camp experience, and parents have the comfort of knowing their children’s medical and dietary needs are being met.

Please see the table below for a quick overview of aha!’s various camps this summer and fall. For the first time this year, aha! will be offering a camp for French-speakers.

Camp d’enfants aha!

aha!kinderlager

aha!jugendcamp

Eligible ages 8-12 years 8-12 years 13-16 years
Language spoken French German German
Date Fall: Sunday, October 11 to Saturday, October 17, 2015 Summer: Sunday, July 19 to Saturday, July 25, 2015

Fall
: Sunday, October 4 to Saturday, October 10, 2015.
Summer: Sunday, July 26 to Saturday, August 1, 2015
Location Crans-Montana (Valais), elevation of 1500 meters Davos Klosters (Graubünden), elevation of 1100 meters Davos Klosters (Graubünden), elevation of 1100 meters
Cost* CHF 240 CHF 240 CHF 290

*For children and teens residing abroad, the cost will be CHF 350, if the individual is not covered by insurance in Switzerland.

For all of the camps listed above, the deadline for enrollment is four weeks prior to the start of the program. You can find the online registration form for each of these camps by clicking on the links provided above. If you have any questions, please contact aha! directly at 031 359 90 50 or info@aha.ch.

Tonight, my husband and I will attend aha!’s Benefizkonzert in Bern, which will raise funds for these camp programs. A big thank you to aha! for inviting me to this event. I’ll report back soon on this evening’s festivities, for a worthy cause!

Recipe: Magenbrot – Chocolate Gingerbread

‘Tis the season for Christmas markets in Switzerland, and I hope to visit one soon! To date, I’ve strolled through these festive markets in Montreux, Neuchâtel and Zurich. With a steaming mug of vin chaud in my hands, I have to always stop and admire all the sweet Swiss treats. I still have many to try, but one of my favorites is Magenbrot—small cocoa gingerbreads coated with dark chocolate icing.

Christmas market stall - Zurich

Zurich Christmas Market, December 2013

magenbrot - onion festival

Onion Market in Bern, November 2013

Magenbrot means “stomach bread” in German. According to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse, the name developed because the spices and sugar contained in the bread were supposed to aid digestion. Instead of wheat flour, recipes for Magenbrot call for rye flour, which gives the gingerbread a little more texture. You can typically find these at fall festivals in Switzerland, like the Bern Onion Market, and at Christmas markets. Bakeries that make Magenbrot traditionally sell them wrapped in pink paper.


Magenbrot

(dairy-free, egg-free and nut-free)

Recipe adapted from Betty Bossi.

Dry ingredients:
300 grams rye flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:
125 grams sugar
150 ml rice milk
1 tablespoon kirsch

1. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl until well-blended.

2. In a separate container, whisk together the wet ingredients and then pour into the large bowl with the flour mixture. Stir until a dough forms.

3. Turn the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll with a floured rolling pin until you have a rectangle, about 2 cm thick. Cut the rectangle into about 5 strips of dough with a sharp knife. Please note: The dough will be a bit sticky, so use a little extra flour to help shape it.

Magenbrot dough

4. Bake at 180°C/350°F for about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly on a wire rack. When still warm, cut into pieces, approximately 2 x 4 cm. Let the pieces continue to cool while you prepare the glaze.


Magenbrot Glaze

100 grams allergy-friendly dark chocolate
20 grams dairy-free margarine
100 ml water
250 grams powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
a pinch of nutmeg
a pinch of salt

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix the first three ingredients together, just until the chocolate is melted and well-blended. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining ingredients.

2. Put the cooled Magenbrot in a large bowl and pour the warm glaze over them. Toss them gently in the glaze until well-coated.

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3. Place the Magenbrot on a wire rack to cool and for the glaze to harden. Store in an airtight container.

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I just froze some homemade Magenbrot so my son can have an allergy-friendly treat during our next visit to a Swiss Christmas market. They’re easy to make and highly addictive!

Peanut Allergy, Air Travel and Public Policy

A friend of mine was recently on a flight. Her son has a peanut allergy. Once she took her seat, she heard an announcement that flight attendants would not be serving peanuts or any other nuts because of a passenger with a food allergy on the flight. All passengers were asked to refrain from eating these products. Afterward, my friend noticed the person next to her opening a bag of trail mix full of nuts. Thankfully, her son wasn’t flying with her that day.

Would a federal law banning peanuts on all flights prevent incidents like these and keep passengers with food allergies safe? Peanut bans and peanut-free buffer zones have been suggested before, dating back to at least 1998, but none of the proposed accommodations for passengers with food allergies have been passed into law. As such, airlines lack consistent policies when it comes to flying with food allergies.

Congress has actually prohibited the US Department of Transportation (DOT) from making rules restricting the distribution of peanuts, unless a peer-reviewed scientific study finds that airborne peanut dust can cause a severe allergic reaction. To date, studies have been conducted, but none have found this link. Therefore, DOT currently has no authority to establish rules with regard to peanuts and airlines (see the infographic I prepared below; you can click on the image for an interactive version with links to the relevant federal laws and notices).

2015 Peanut Allergy and Air Travel

Allergic Living recently interviewed Dr. Matthew Greenhawt about flying with food allergies, after two high-profile cases in which airline passengers experienced severe allergic reactions while in-flight. According to this expert, five studies in the last 10 years have looked at airborne peanut dust. However, none of these studies seem to have found the evidence necessary to fulfill the Congressional mandate in Public Law 106-69.

“…it is highly unlikely for a passenger to inhale nut protein from someone consuming nuts a few rows in front of him/her. There is no evidence that has been able to show that such dust circulates.” —Dr. M. Greenhawt, Research Director, Food Allergy Center and Assistant Professor, Division of Allergy and Immunology, University of Michigan

While this current research should bring some comfort to people with peanut allergy, an open bag of peanuts or trail mix on a plane can be a scary thing, even though the risk may be very low. Also, the Congressional mandate for a peer-reviewed study only focuses on airborne peanut dust, but what about allergens that might linger and accumulate on surfaces within a plane, like tray tables or arm rests, an issue Dr. Greenhawt raised in his interview with Allergic Living. (That’s why Food Allergy Research & Education and others recommend passengers with food allergies wipe down their seat area on the plane.)

Weighing both the evidence and the concerns, why not ban peanuts from all flights? At the same time, we know that even in peanut-free classrooms, people still make mistakes and bring in unsafe foods. Would a peanut ban or peanut-free buffer zones provide a false sense of security? And, how should airlines handle other food allergies?

In my opinion, more consistent policies for all airlines on how to accommodate passengers with peanut or other severe allergies would be an improvement. What do you think? Please share your thoughts in a comment below.

Additional resources:

For a detailed comparison of the various allergy policies of 11 major airlines, Allergic Living has compiled a 4-page chart to help people understand what accommodations they can request and receive.

Finally, there are at least two online petitions related to food allergies and air travel. One of these petitions was started by Elizabeth Goldenberg who authors the Onespot Allergy Blog. Her petition supports a total ban on peanuts. It’s earned over 15,000 signatures. Lianne Mandelbaum authored the second petition I came across last week, and it requires airlines to institute an allergen-free buffer zone for passengers with food allergies. To date, this second petition has earned over 30,000 signatures.

Update: I made revisions to the inforgraphic above on January 19, 2015 to include a key policy action from 2003 that came to my attention after reading The Not-So-Friendly Skies – Allergic Passenger Rights by the Allergy Law Project (ALP). For a more detailed analysis of your rights as an airline passenger with food allergies, I highly recommend you check out ALP’s post.

Recipe: Irish Soda Bread on the Griddle

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If you crossed an English muffin with elements of a baked pretzel and a fluffy American-style biscuit, then I think you would have something like an Irish soda farl. Unlike baked versions of Irish soda bread I’ve made in the past, the Northern Irish soda farls are cooked on a stove top. With only five ingredients, you can quickly throw these together for breakfast, serve them warm and eat up the whole batch.


Belfast and Bushmills

During our trip to Dublin for the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Meeting 2014, my family and I made time for an excursion to Northern Ireland to see friends and visit Giant’s Causeway.

While we were in Belfast, our dear friends took extra effort to prepare an allergy-friendly dinner for my son, and even helped pack a lunch when we went out the next day. I appreciated this so much. It kept my son from feeling excluded or from limiting what we could do—the two things I always try to avoid when it comes to managing his allergies.

In Bushmills, we stayed at a wonderful self-catering cottage just up the road from Giant’s Causeway. The boys had fun exploring along the scenic coastline, and we especially enjoyed Dunluce Castle and Whiterocks Beach. Also, I’m happy to report we had an excellent meal at a local restaurant two friends had recommended to us: the Bushmills Inn Restaurant. Per my request, the chef prepared steamed veggies and fresh fish cooked in olive oil for my son, which he loved (except for the broccoli, of course).

giant's causeway

The famous hexagonal rock formations at Giant’s Causeway

bushmills inn

The Bushmills Inn Restaurant

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Dunluce Castle

Ulster Fry

My favorite food discovery of the trip is the Ulster Fry—a traditional Northern Irish breakfast with beans, tomato, mushrooms, sausage, bacon, eggs, pudding, soda farls and potato bread. Please keep in mind that the “pudding” is not a sweet and creamy dessert, but rather a coarse beef sausage made with oatmeal and suet. The pudding is either black or white, and both are apparently made with the same ingredients, but the black version gets its color from dried blood powder.

Ulster Fry

The Ulster Fry from St. George’s Market in Belfast

If you want to try making a homemade Ulster Fry, here’s a dairy-free recipe for Irish soda farls to get you started. Instead of the buttermilk, I used a mixture of rice milk and vinegar. Soy milk works too, and seems to thicken more with the vinegar, but my family preferred the ones I made with rice milk.


Irish Soda Farls

Recipe adapted from Ita at allrecipes.com.

(dairy/egg/nut-free)

Dry ingredients:
1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:
Put 2 teaspoons white vinegar in a measuring cup and then add rice milk until it reaches the 3/4 cup line. (Please note: Here in Switzerland, I use vinaigre de table, since I couldn’t find white vinegar this week.)

1. Whisk together the dry ingredients and make a well in the middle. Pour the wet ingredients into the well and mix together to form a soft dough, adding extra flour as needed.

2. On a well-floured surface, gently knead the dough a few times until it can be rolled into a 8-9 inch (20-23 cm) circle with with a well-floured rolling pin. It should be about 1/2 inch thick (1-1/4 cm). With a sharp knife, cut the dough circle into four quarters.

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3. Over medium heat, cook the four quarters of dough on a frying pan sprinkled generously with flour (I use a cast iron griddle). Cook the soda farls for about 5-10 minutes on each side until lightly browned and firm.

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The secret is out, I’m a very messy cook!

4. Eat the bread while warm, straight off the stove. If you have some left over, try to eat them the same day—either lightly toasted or fried on the stove with some dairy-free margarine. My friend in Belfast says she likes to use them for pizza bases as well.

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Tomorrow, I’m heading to Bern for the aha! Swiss Allergy Center‘s annual award ceremony, thanks to a kind invitation to join in the festivities. I look forward to sharing what I learn during this event!

Traveling to Dublin: Food Allergy Conference

I’m in the final stages of packing for our family trip to Dublin, in part so I can attend the third annual Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Meeting (FAAM) 2014 presented by the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI). For every trip we take—no matter where we’re going and especially if we’re flying—I prepare a “food bag” for my son with allergy-friendly treats and back-up meal options. Today, I made madeleines in the morning, and a batch of saffron buns just came out of the oven.

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Allergy-friendly food for my son, sans dairy and (raw/undercooked) eggs

FAAM 2014 will be a great opportunity for me to hear from allergists working throughout Europe. To give you some background info on this conference, according to the EAACI website:

“The FAAM 2014 scientific programme has three integrated and complimentary plenaries, presenting the basic, translational and clinical science of food allergy and anaphylaxis. The final plenary weaves these themes together addressing how we hope to help patients move from merely controlling their food allergy – which is difficult for them – to a cure – which is proving difficult for us.”

For those on Twitter, I’ll take a stab at live-tweeting from the event, providing highlights of what’s being presented and by whom. I look forward to sharing with you what I learn in Dublin in the coming days and weeks.

By the way, if you have any recommendations for allergy-friendly restaurants or products in Dublin (or Belfast), please leave a comment below! Thanks in advance for your help.

Recipe: Swiss Comfort Food—Benedictine Stew from Einsiedeln Abbey

benedictine stew

Public schools don’t provide lunch here in Switzerland, as I’ve mentioned before. Kids either go home for lunch or to a grandparents house, for example, or they participate in an offsite parascolaire program. These programs in our Swiss city pick up kids from school at 11:40 AM, feed them and then bring them back to school by 1:45 PM.

Since I’m still working as a mère au foyer (i.e., stay-at-home mom), my son comes home for lunch. With a fixed amount of time to get him fed and returned to school, I find myself needing to do some meal prep in advance. This way, our time together isn’t too rushed (i.e., I keep my cool and don’t yell as much!), and he’s not late getting back to class.

This week, I wanted to share a very Swiss recipe from the canton of Schwyz that I’ve adapted to be dairy-free: Benediktinereintopf Kloster Einsiedeln (Benedictine Stew from Einsiedeln Abbey). It’s a hearty Swiss-style meal that can be made relatively quickly, with a little chopping done beforehand. So far, I’ve served it with mashed potatoes (which most of us prefer) and elbow macaroni (which my son with food allergies prefers). Surprisingly, it’s a dairy-free cheese that makes this dish work!


Einsiedeln Abbey

Our family visited the Einsiedeln Abbey this summer, where the Benedictine Stew apparently originated, but the torrents of rain prevented us from having a leisurely visit. We still enjoyed our time there, but I would love to return someday during the holiday season for the town’s famed Christmas market, as the Abbey makes a dramatic backdrop to the festive stalls of craft makers and food vendors.

Einsiedeln Abbey front

Einsiedeln Abbey in the pouring rain, July 2014

The current Monastery and Abbey Church in Einsiedeln were constructed in the 18th century, but religious pilgrims have been visiting this site for over a thousand years. The courtyard include stables for the historic Einsiedeln breed of horses. The boys would have loved seeing them, but it was raining so hard that day, none of us wanted to venture out across the courtyard!

Einsiedeln Abbey interior

Courtyard of the Einsiedeln Abbey; stables in the background

Back home after our trip, I came across the Benedictine Stew recipe in my Betty Bossi cookbook. Other than it being from the Einsiedeln Abbey, I haven’t learned much else about this Swiss dish. Although, I saw the Jewish Museum Berlin has a recipe online for a cheese soup served at the Abbey on “minor fasting days,” with leeks as a suggested addition. If you know anything else about the Benedictine Stew, please let me know!

The Betty Bossi recipe calls for a soft cheese with herbs, like Boursin. Instead, I substituted a dairy-free alternative: CreamyRisella, a soft Italian cheese made from brown rice. For the herbs, I just added some fresh tarragon. If you can use real cheese in this recipe, you should! However, if you’re like us and need to avoid milk-based products because of an allergy, CreamyRisella is a very good alternative.

Benedictine stew ingredients


Benedictine Stew

Recipe adapted from Betty Bossi’s “The Swiss Cookbook” (Zurich, 2010).

Ingredients:

400 grams ground beef
1-2 tablespoons dairy-free margarine
400 grams leeks, cuts into thin strips lengthwise (or into rounds—it’s easier and tastes the same!)
3 small onions, finely chopped
500 ml vegetable broth
200 grams CreamyRisella (or another very soft dairy-free cheese)
1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon

Instructions:

1. Brown the ground beef in a large pan. Remove the beef and set aside. Drain the fat from the pan.

2. Add 1-2 tablespoons of dairy-free margarine to the same pan, and sweat the leeks and onions slowly for about 5-10 minutes over medium heat.

3. Pour the vegetable broth over the leeks and return the ground beef to the pan. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.

4. Stir in the CreamyRisella (or other cheese substitute) and tarragon, over medium heat, until both are fully incorporated and the dish is heated throughout. Serve immediately over your choice of an accompaniment: allergy-friendly boiled or mashed potatoes or elbow macaroni.

Benedictine Stew 2
The Swiss holiday, Jeûne Fédéral, is this weekend, so I’ll be making a Tarte aux Pruneaux to celebrate. Bon week-end, everyone!

Allergy-Friendly Restaurants in Switzerland: Seeking Your Recommendations

allergy-friendly meal

Dairy/egg-free meal at Grindelwald’s Hotel Belvedere

During a rare meal out at a restaurant last month, my son raised up his arms and cheered loudly at the table—with a fork in one hand and a knife in the other. He really liked his fish, and was pretty excited about having a meal in a restaurant. Although, I can’t help but wonder if he was just glad to not be eating my cooking! Either way, it was a nice moment on our vacation that I won’t soon forget.

Have you ever been served a delicious allergy-friendly meal, carefully prepared by a restaurant in Switzerland? This most recent meal was at the Hotel Belvedere‘s restaurant in Grindelwald. With a lot of advanced preparation and emails back and forth, my son enjoyed a safe meal made without dairy and eggs. We were all very happy to be there—even though I can never fully relax when my son eats a meal I didn’t prepare myself.

Based on our experiences, and those of others living and traveling with food allergies in Switzerland, I’m constantly adding to my list of allergy-friendly restaurants and accommodations. For example, I just received an email last week with a new restaurant recommendation for Zurich: Widder Restaurant.

If you have places to recommend, please leave a comment below or send me an email. We can learn so much from each other. This information is helpful to our family and for so many others living with food allergies and intolerances. I really appreciate your help!

I’ll be offline for the next two weeks until school starts, as we’re taking a short vacation with family visiting from the United States. As usual, I hope to discover some new Swiss foods while we’re traveling. Thanks to you all for your continued support!

Recipe: Petits Pains for Swiss National Day

Petits Pains

Every year on August 1, Switzerland celebrates Swiss National Day. Here in Suisse romande, we know this holiday as Fête nationale or 1er août. Given the Swiss affinity for bread, it’s not surprising that there’s a special bun prepared for the holiday. Known as August-weggen (German), Pain du 1er août (French) or Panino del 1° agosto (Italian), the small and large versions are cut and baked to look like there’s a Swiss cross on top. They’re typically decorated with a small paper version of the red and white Swiss flag.

This year marks our first time celebrating Fête Nationale in Switzerland. Our first year here, we arrived one day after the celebration on Saturday, August 2, 2012. Now I understand why everything was so quiet the morning we drove from the airport in Zurich to our new home! The Swiss were sleeping in after a day of local celebrations and feasting—traditionally an outdoor brunch at a local farm—and watching fireworks late into the evening.

Instead of heading to a farm for a local brunch on Friday—which would undoubtedly have tables heaped with delicious Swiss cheeses and other milk and egg-filled dishes—we’re choosing to have our own picnic and bonfire at a local park. We’ll be roasting cervalas, often referred to as the Swiss national sausage, as well as marshmallows, to give our celebration an American twist. I’ll also be serving my own version of Petits Pains du 1er août, but mine will be made without dairy.


Rütli Meadow: The Birthplace of Switzerland

To give you some background, Swiss National Day commemorates the founding of Switzerland in 1291. The story goes that the leaders of three cantons—Schwyz, Unterwalden and Uri—came together at the Rütli Meadow to form a strategic alliance. The pact made by these three original cantons ultimately led to the formation of Switzerland and the 26 cantons we know today (there’s a great video from Swissinfo.ch with some beautiful images of Rütli and more detailed info about its history).

We visited the Rütli Meadow earlier this month when we stayed a few nights in Brunnen (as an aside, we had a pleasant stay at the Hotel Schmid & Alfa, which has a few apartments with kitchens, so we could make our own meals). From Brunnen, we took a 10-minute ferry ride across Lake Lucerne to Rütli. During our visit to this historic site with incredible views, only a few other families crossed our path. We had a peaceful time exploring the pristine meadow, seeing happy Swiss cows and having a snack at the picnic area (that’s shown in the video above). If you’re in the vicinity, it’s certainly worth a stop.

Rutli Meadow

The view from Rütli Meadow

Swiss National Day started in 1891, but it became a federal holiday over a century later in 1994. Also, the Swiss didn’t start making Pain du 1er août until 1959, when it was invented by the Swiss national association for bakers and confectioners. The small version of the buns are very similar to Petits Pains au Lait, except they have a patriotic shape cut into the top.

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Pain du 1er août in a Suisse romande bakery window

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Pain du 1er août (even a chocolate version) at the supermarket


Petits Pains for Swiss National Day

Recipe adapted from one of my favorite Suisse romande bloggers, Delimoon

(dairy/nut-free, can be made without egg)

Makes 8 rolls

500 grams all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
300 ml soy or rice milk,
very warm
7 grams (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast

60 grams dairy-free margarine, softened
1 egg,
beaten (or 1-2 tablespoons dairy-free margarine, melted and cooled)

1. Whisk together the first three ingredients in a large bowl. Add the softened margarine. Set aside.

2. Add yeast to the warmed soy or rice milk, along with a pinch of sugar. Gently stir and let sit for a few minutes until the yeast has dissolved and the mixture begins to foam slightly.

3. Pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl with the flour mixture and margarine. Stir until a dough forms. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, stopping when it becomes smooth and elastic.

4. Let the dough rise for about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Punch down the dough and cut into 8 equal pieces. Shape the pieces into round buns and set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover the buns with plastic wrap and let them rise for another 30 minutes.

5. With a pastry brush, gently brush on the egg wash (or melted margarine). Then, using kitchen shears or a very sharp knife, make cuts into the dough that resemble the cross on the Swiss flag.

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6. Bake the buns for 20-30 minutes at 200°C/400°F. Remove and tap the bottoms. If they sound hollow, then they’re done. Place on a wire rack to cool.

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Happy Swiss National Day! We’re looking forward to a 3-day weekend. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Bon week-end, all!