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.


(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.

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


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!


Swiss Bread: Pain Paysan

With a name like “Pain Paysan” (a.k.a. “Peasant Bread”), you could imagine this bread baking in home kitchens for centuries throughout the Swiss countryside.


In reality, a professional school and a Swiss employment association developed Pain Paysan in the 1950s, according to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse. Using a combination of white and rye flour, this new recipe also called for milk, as was a way to use up a surplus commodity.

Over half a century later, it’s clear the marketing strategy worked. You can still find Pain Paysan on grocery store shelves and boulangeries all over Switzerland. I bought a small loaf at our local market for about 2 CHF this week. It’s a good, everyday bread and recommended for sweet (chocolate) or savory (cold cuts and cheese) accompaniments .

My homemade and allergy-friendly version of Pain Paysan contains rice milk. It’s extremely easy to make and has few ingredients. We’ve been eating the bread with jam, and in particular, a delicious homemade “confiture de pruneaux” (plum jam) from a friend.



Bauernbrot / Pain Paysan / Pane del nonno or Pane Paesano

Adapted from the Swiss agricultural information center’s recipe.


375 grams white flour
125 grams rye flour
7 grams active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
200 ml rice milk
150 ml water

1. Whisk together dry ingredients: white and rye flours, yeast and salt. Combine and gently bring the water and rice milk to room temperature.

2. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Stir until a dough forms, and knead until its soft and airy. The dough should gently spring back when pressed. Cover and let the dough rise for about 1 1/2 hours.

3. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Shape the dough into a round loaf and sprinkle with flour. Using a sharp knife, make shallow slices across the top of the loaf to form a grid. Cover and let the dough rise again for about 15 minutes.

4. Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes until the loaf is lightly browned. When tapped, the bottom of the bread should sound hollow.


This morning, I made little jam sandwiches with Pain Paysan for the boys’ breakfast. We were on an early train to Bern. It was a crisp and sunny morning in the Swiss capital city. Bon week-end, everyone!

2013-10-18 11.19.44

Swiss Bread: Valaisan Pain de Seigle

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 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 Thanks, and bon week-end!