Cook.Bake.Eat.Write.

Better-than-Bread Bernese Sunday Loaf (Berner Zuepfe)

Posted on: May 30, 2009

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In Switzerland, there’s bread and then there’s Zuepfe. I lived in the country for 4 years; I even married a Swiss man–and yet, I still don’t understand the distinction. It’s a really dense, milky butter yeast bread that is great eaten slathered with buttered and layered on with ripe Gruyere or is tasty just on its own, still slightly warm from the oven. Thinking about it, I suppose it really is more than just bread. It’s hearty, it’s rich, and is a staple for every Sunday breakfast or brunch.

Confusion aside, Bernese Zuepfe is the ultimate in yeast breads. Not being Swiss myself, Zuepfe making and baking did not come naturally. It took quite a few tries (i.e. failures) and taste tests to get it just right. I knew I had finally arrived when I served it for the in-laws. Crisp and golden on the outside, good tearing consistency on the inside, and a buttery, yeasty flavor–the entire loaf was devoured!

The key to this bread is proofing–well-risen dough will produce a light and airy loaf. Adding a little egg yolk to the dough supposedly makes it even lighter; however, this also makes the loaf go stale faster. I’m also convinced that using really good butter and fresh yeast yields a better product.

Bernese Sunday Loaf (Berner Zuepfe) (Recipe from TipTopf)

Ingredients

500 g plain flour (I use bread flour)

1 1/2 coffee-spoonfuls salt

1 coffee-spoonful sugar

60 g unsalted butter, at room temp.

15 g fresh yeast or 2 tsp active dry

300 ml lukewarm milk

1 egg lightly whisked, plus 1/2 an egg yolk

Directions

1. Warm the milk for 20 seconds in the microwave. Stir in the yeast and let stand for 15 minutes or until slightly frothy.

2. In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, mix flour salt and sugar.

3. Cut in the butter. Use your fingertips to work the butter and flour in together, creating a uniform mixture.

4. Add a little egg into your yeast and milk mixture. Mix.

5. Make a well in the flour mixture. Pour in the liquids. Knead for 10 minutes (by hand or in stand mixer) until the dough is smooth and elastic.

6. Place dough in a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until doubled in size.

7. Once dough has risen, place it onto a clean surface and cut in half. Roll the dough back and forth with your hands until you end up with two  equal-lengthed 18 inch snake-like strands. The middle of the strands should be thicker and the ends, thinner.

8. Braid the dough. Place it on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate and let rise for 15 minutes. (This last proof is optional.)

9. Then with remaining egg, brush two layers of egg onto the dough.

10. Place braid in cold oven, set oven to 220 C and bake for 35 to 45 minutes.

11. Remove the bread, knocking on the bottom for doneness. It should sound hollow. Allow to cool and then slice and serve!

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