Petits Pains for Hungry Kids

Sometimes, when I pick up my 6-year old from school, he’s so hungry that he’s practically crying (even though he’s already eaten breakfast and a snack at school!). It makes for such a pleasant walk home…

In order to get back to our apartment without making a huge American scene on our quiet Swiss streets, I’m starting to pack along small breads—some of which are commonly made for children and appear all over our local boulangeries. The Zopfhasen I made a while back is a good example of this. Pacifying small children with fresh bread seems to be a typical practice.


This morning, I made small, golden saffron buns. Flavored with grated lemon and orange rind and studded with cranberries and golden raisins, this recipe was super easy and thrown together quickly. It can be made without eggs, although I brushed a little beaten egg on the top. As usual, I need to spend more time shaping the dough to make them perfectly round, but these did the trick for today.

Petits Pains au Sucre

Recipe adapted from swissmilk. Make 6 buns. Sorry to my American readers… I’m being lazy and using the metric system today (as the recipe was written) instead of converting it to cups. I’m really enjoying my new kitchen scale!

250 grams farine pour tresse or zopfmehl
1/2 teaspoon salt
40 grams sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 pinch of powdered saffron
100 ml soy milk, lukewarm
1 tablespoon flax meal mixed with 3 tablespoons water (or 1 egg, beaten)
50 grams dairy-free margarine, melted
1 orange and 1 lemon, finely grated zest
2 tablespoons raisins, cranberries or mini-chocolate chips

1 egg, beaten (or 1-2 tablespoons melted dairy-free margarine)
2 tablespoons coarse sugar

1. Whisk together the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl and form a trough in the middle. Separately, add flax meal to the water in a small bowl and set aside. Then, dissolve the yeast and saffron in the warmed soy milk.

2. Add the yeast mixture along with the flax meal mixture and margarine to the trough in the large bowl. Next, add the lemon and orange peel and dried fruit. Stir together until a dough is formed. Then, knead for about 5 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

3. Divide the dough into 6 equal size buns. Place with sufficient distance on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let rise again for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Brush the rolls with egg (or melted dairy-free margarine) and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Petits Pains au sucre

4. Place in the middle of a preheated 180°C/350°F oven to bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove when lightly browned and place on a wire rack to cool. Best served the same day or freeze for later.

petits pains au sucre
I’ll be working on a local sauerkraut recipe this weekend. Wish me luck… Bon week-end, everyone!

Updated: October 7, 2014


Asperges Sauvages and Saffron Risotto

Over the weekend, I discovered the delicate flavors of light green asperges sauvages or wild asparagus. I thought I had tried wild asparagus before, but was pleasantly surprised to find something new. (As you may recall, I recently tried cooking white asparagus for the first time too.)

When I initially heard about wild asparagus appearing at our marché, I figured it resembled the thin stalks of asparagus growing on the family farm in Minnesota. However, this petite asparagus looks more like tender, green wheat. While at Migros on Saturday sans mes enfants, I stumbled upon several bunches of wild asparagus while I was bagging up my sweet potatoes. I was already planning on saffron risotto for dinner, and this seemed like an appropriate accompaniment.


Cooking Wild Asparagus

The wild asparagus I bought was grown in France. Unlike the more typical green asparagus I’m familiar with, asperges sauvages is a wildflower grown from bulbs that’s native to the Pyrenees (scientific name: Ornithogalum pyrenaicum).

To prepare the asparagus, I boiled it in shallow water with a little olive oil, lemon juice and salt. It only took about 5 minutes. You want to keep them a little crisp. My sons weren’t huge fans, but I thought it was great. A wonderful springtime treat.

Swiss Saffron Risotto

Saffron grows in the Swiss canton of Valais, and it’s harvested in the fall. I looked for Swiss saffron in the grocery stores and our local markets, but the powdered stuff I’ve been using comes from Iran. (For more info on harvesting saffron in Switzerland, check out this 2008 video from

And so, my saffron cooking experiments continue… Just last week, I made saffron bread or “Cuchaule.” Then this Saturday I tried saffron risotto—a traditional Ticino dish often served with Luganighe sausage. My husband found Luganighe at a local Italian market here in Suisse-Romande, but the sausage contained lactose, so we had to skip it. Also, while the market didn’t carry Swiss risotto, the clerk sold my husband an Italian risotto he said was even better than the Swiss stuff (but he may have been a little biased…).

For the saffron risotto, I used an easy recipe from my Swiss cookbook and just skipped/replaced the dairy. I served it with my wild asparagus and honey mustard chicken. The streamlined risotto recipe appears below, but if you have a favorite way to prepare risotto, just make it as usual and throw in a pinch of saffron before serving.



Dairy-Free Saffron Risotto

Serves 4-6

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups risotto
3/4 cup white wine
4-6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
a pinch of saffron (powdered)
salt and pepper

1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender.

2. Stir in risotto and cook for a few minutes until it’s translucent. Then, add wine and cook until completely absorbed.

3. Gradually mix in broth, stirring almost constantly, about 1 cup at a time until completely absorbed.

4. Once the risotto is tender, remove from heat and stir in the saffron, along with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.


I’m working on another bread recipe for Friday, this time from Suisse-Romande. As always, thanks for your helpful feedback and support. Hope you’re having a good week so far!

Spring Cow Parade and Saffron Bread

Lots of lucky Swiss cows spend their summers in the mountains.

Inalpes festivals happen in the springtime when cows ascend toward their alpine pastures (the fall equivalent celebrating their return is Désalpes). Imagine a parade of flower-decorated bovines with immense clanging bells around their necks.

On Mother’s Day, we checked out one such festival that occurs about once every 10 years in the town of Estavannens, not far from Gruyères in the Fribourg region. The weather was cold and wet, but we packed our lunches and piled in our Mobility car to experience this traditional Swiss event.


Poya 2013

Since 1956, the small mountain village of Estavannens has held a Poya celebration seven times. In the local dialect, the term Poya apparently refers to herds rising to their pastures. This 5-day event with food, music and more culminates in the cow procession on Sunday—a clanging parade of cows and other livestock with their human handlers dressed in traditional costumes.

Making Saffron Bread

At the Poya festival, the huge food tent served up typical festival fare—french fries, chicken nuggets, Swiss sausages, and pizza, for example. So when we got home, I decided to try making an allergy-friendly recipe from the Fribourg region. After consulting my Swiss cookbook, I chose a yellow-tinged saffron bread or “Cuchaule.”


After two failed attempts with saffron threads—the yellow color didn’t flow throughout the bread (I should have known better)—I finally tracked down small packets of powdered saffron, and it worked great.

Also, while I used flax meal in the bread, I decided to try an egg wash for the first time in over a year—now that our son has passed his “baked egg” food challenge. An egg wash gets crazy-baked to the point of turning brown, and the bread bakes for 25 minutes at 200°C/400°F, so I felt comfortable serving this to him (FYI: Allergy UK has a helpful table with “egg foods,” but always consult your allergist first to make sure).

The Swiss serve Cuchaule with Bénichon mustard, a sweet and savory condiment made with white wine, vin cuit and spices. While I have a recipe for it, I couldn’t spare the time this week to make homemade mustard. I checked around for a pre-made version at a few stores, but found out it’s a seasonal product sold in the fall. So, like the Swiss, I’ll hold off until fall to try my own Bénichon mustard.

In the meantime, we’ll enjoy our Cuchaule! Here’s the allergy-friendly recipe I modified from my Betty Bossi cookbook.



(dairy/nut-free), can be made egg-free

3-3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
150 ml soy or rice milk
100 ml water
3 tablespoons vegetable-based margarine
1 pinch of saffron
1 tablespoon flax meal mixed with 3 tablespoons water (or 1 egg)
Glaze: 1 egg yolk, beaten OR 1-2 tablespoons vegetable-based margarine, melted

1. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl—3 cups of flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Set aside.

2. Separately, mix together the milk substitute, water, margarine and saffron. Gently heat in a small saucepan, stirring constantly, just until the margarine is melted.

3. Mix flax meal with water and set aside for a few minutes. Add to dry ingredients along with the warmed saffron mixture. Stir together to form dough. Knead for about 5-10 minutes, adding the remaining flour as needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

4. Place in a covered bowl. Let rise until doubled in size, about one hour.

5. Form the dough into a round loaf and brush with glaze. Make crisscross cuts along the top. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.


6. Bake for about 25 minutes at 200°C/400°F. Remove and cool on a wire rack.



I could really devote a weekly series to Swiss bread. So many different, regional options. Look forward to trying them all. What’s your favorite? And, as always, Bon week-end!