The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello from Switzerland / Celebration Bread and Zopf

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chouette22's picture

Hello from Switzerland / Celebration Bread and Zopf

Hello everyone,

I thought it’s about time to introduce myself. I have been a very silent member of TFL for over a year and reading pretty much ALL the forum entries through my RSS feeder. I enjoy all of your entries and discussions tremendously, this wealth of information and knowledge and have become so familiar with the regular members’ creations and variations. I am so impressed!

I grew up in Switzerland (hello Salome and Thomas, fellow Swiss citizens) and came over to the US when I was 27, absolutely determined to stay only one year (teaching at a university). However, on that first flight I met my husband (coming from India to the US) and the rest is history. Even though both of us wanted to go back to our respective countries, we decided to stay in the US as this was somewhat  neutral ground for us (no one having the home advantage). It’s been quite a few years since that flight!

When people ask what I miss most from Switzerland, one of my top three items is always BREAD and the bakeries and pastry shops in that same category. I started baking breads many years ago to fill the lack of hearty, thick-crusted loaves that I was unable to find here (I remember my fist visit to Panera Bread,  those loaves looked like they might have a good crust, but I was so disappointed after buying a loaf or two because they were just as “spongy” as everything else I had tried).

I have just returned from a month-long visit to see my family in Switzerland and my daily visits to different bakeries and trying as many delicious breads as possible is always one of the highlights.

I believe that my daily visits of TFL’s forums have helped me with my bread-nostalgia.

All of my breads have been yeast-based until a few months ago when, through the inspiration of this site, I have started experimenting with sourdough, with decent results so far.

This is a celebration bread I made for the birthday of a dear friend. I believe it took me about two hours to shape this harvest wheat sheaf. I found it on p. 164 of “The Ultimate Bread and Baking Book” by Linda Collister & Anthony Blake.

And this is a Zopf, a loaf that I bake very often since my kids absolutely love it, and it has also become an often requested bread from my neighbours, when I need to thank them for little favours. "Just bake me a Zopf," they'd often say.
It is two-coloured because my lacto-vegetarian mother-in-law was just visiting from India and unable to eat the part with the egg-wash.

I am looking forward to more inspiration from these forums and hopefully I'll be able to share a little bit something as well.


crunchy's picture

What a sweet story of how you and your husband met. Your breads look very appetizing. I'm looking forward to hearing from you more often.


tssaweber's picture

Hi Anita,

I had similar experiences with the Zopf. As I'm not familiar with the historic background of this bread, we named it Swiss Sunday Bread, because the name Zopf generated to many questions. Over time I had to double the weight of this bread to make sure that my wife and I had some too for breakfast in the morning because a lot of times it would disappear overnight. My older son's best friend always wants this bread as his birthday present.

I also made sure that the succession planning is done







Brotfan's picture

Hi Anita,

I feel like you - I've been addicted to Freshloaf for six months now, reading the posts every day and trying out a lot of the recipes. Thanks everybody for being so inspiring! I'm originally from Germany and "got stuck" in Massachusetts nine years ago when marrying my husband. Like you I missed the good bread from home and been constantly disappointed by the bread here (Panera had me hopeful for a while too).

Then my friend gave me a sourdough starter and I've never looked back. I've tried out a lot of Hamelman's and Leader's breads and some are just as good as what I remember.

I'll try and be a more active member too. With two little kids I don't think I will be able to come up with a detailed writeup like some of you. But pictures say a lot too, right?!


ehanner's picture

Anita; Glad to see you posting your work on the forum. TFL is a strong international community because of our contributors.

Can you tell us a little more about the Zopf please? If you post the recipe I'm sure others would like to try this bread you like so much. Do you ever bake anything from your husbands culture?

Kirsten; Welcome to you too! Another German baker comes on line at TFL. I look forward to seeing your posts and learning about what you like to bake as good examples of old world breads from your home.


Jw's picture

Salut Anita,

funny how our story somehow relate.

Zopf got me hooked on baking bread myself (lived in Switzerland for some five years, then returned to Holland). I was a oneyear student in the US, did stick to that one year, but have returned many, many times since. Met my better half in Austria, just across the border Swiss border.

Just got back (1 hour ago) from Austria, I was even tempted to take pictures in the bakeries there... Here is a picture of my zopf



Salome's picture

Hi Anita,

Thank you for the personal greeting!

Great to have you here. Your Zopf looks wonderful, very shiny! What do you use for brushing, the egg yolk, a beaten whole egg, or something else?

Your story is indeed cute. I had similar experiences, even though it was somehow the other way round. I met a Californian just after arriving in India and I would probably still be together with him, if we would have the possibility to live together in the States. But so far, not possible. Anyway, enough from my side.

I think it's great that you keep up the Swiss custom. I love Zopf, and if you read all the entries here you've probably seen my recipe as well. I'd be interested in yours. Is it a Tiptopf recipe or an inherited one or . . .


chouette22's picture

Thank you so much for the nice welcome! What a friendly community!

@Thomas: You are doing it exactly right! The same happens to us as well and I have been thinking that I really needed to teach Zopf-making to my kids. Your son seems to be a master at this already! Great pictures!

@Kirsten: Hallo, das freut mich aber! Our stories are so similar. And you are right, after discovering sourdough, an entire new world opened up to me as well. But it's also a huge (and it seems very scientific) field to discover. Just these days I am working on three different sourdough breads, having a somewhat hard time to keep the dough temperature at the recommended levels when the weather is so warm.

@Eric: Zopf is a very well-known bread in Switzerland, and as Thomas has mentioned, typically eaten on Sundays for breakfast or brunch. Growing up, we had it practically every Sunday, often home-baked, but sometimes also bought at the bakery. One baker in Switzerland once told me that the easiest home-baked bread to ressemble (i.a. to be as good as) the bakery product was precisely the Zopf (which, by the way, means braid) and continued to say that most home bakers cannot reproduce the bakery made breads in their home ovens with equally good results (which I found very disappointing, since I was on a quest to make good breads at home. But then I hadn't discovered sourdough yet. And the TFL community certainly proves that baker wrong, if I may say so).

As you can see from the following recipe, it's a very rich bread, made with milk and butter (that's why it's so good). So it was a real treat for us kids, however during the week, we would get only very hearty breads with lots of grains, etc.

My recipe:
500g AP flour
1 Tbsp to 1 1/3 Tbsp dry yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
70g melted butter
ca. 3 dl luke-warm milk (maybe a tiny bit less)

Knead it until it's a very soft, non-sticking dough. Let rise until doubled in volume, then braid it however you like (I always make a four-strand one). Put it on a baking sheet and let it rise again for about 30-40 min. Brush it with egg wash (egg yolk mixed with 1/2 Tbsp water and a few drops of oil). Bake in a pre-heated 400 F oven for about 45min.

Oh, and I do try to make some Indian breads like Chapattis and Naan, but they sure are not as good as the ones my mother-in-law makes not just freshly every day, but freshly for every meal! Since she just left, I have quite a few pounds of chapatti flour left (atta flour). I'll have to see how I can use that up.

@JW: Salut! Yours is an interesting story! And your Zoepfe look wonderful, the Pretzels as well. I'll make sure to check out your blog. And I am the same, I always feel like taking pictures in bakeries too :). The Austrians sure have a great bread culture as well! How is the Dutch one?

@Salome: Hoi! Yes, those cross-cultural relationships sure can be tricky.
My absolute favorite Swiss bread lately has been the Paillasse rustique, you wouldn't have a recipe for that? I just pulled a batch of alpine baguettes (Leader's recipe)from the oven (they are still cooling) in the hope that they might be a similar bread. Your blog is beautiful, by the way. PS: The egg wash is in the recipe above.


Salome's picture


I haven't got a Pain Pailasse rustique recipe, but for sure I know this bread very well. It's spread all over switzerland because there are flour mixtures to make it . . . I suspect it would be hard to exactly copy this bread, because of the flour mixture. But I just googled and found this interesting article in German about the Pain Pailasse's history and (roughly) how it's made: Maybe that helps?


Paddyscake's picture

You did a beautiful job!

About the Zopf, is their some history to it's shape or just tradition? Are the strands thicker in the middle and then tapered at the ends? One last question, what does ca. 3 dl luke warm milk mean? 3 deci litre, but the ca.?

Welcome and I'm very glad you joined us.



Jw's picture

Betty, the strands are thinker at the end. Sometimes I make two standards (equally thick) strands and two, which are thinker. Works both ways. I think ca. means 'circa' are 'approx'.

I am interested in its history as well, and wonder if there is link with challah.


tssaweber's picture

I guess now that Eric asked, we will see how many Swiss are on this site, because that will be the number of Zopf recipes we will get.  I'm quite sure Anita and Salome will agree with me. Here is mine. It comes from my mother's mother......... and there are people (in Switzerland of course) who pretend this is the only real Zopf recipe. The only change I made I adapted it to American flour

Emmentaler Züpfe or Zopf from the valley of the Emme.


Sunday Bread (Zopf)

Final Dough Weight:




Bakers %






Bread Flour (Gold Medal)












Brown Sugar







Total Liquid+Eggs




Instant Dry Yeast


513 gr








Milk 2%






I make sure that eggs and liquids are always the same weight, if the eggs are smaller then I adjust with milk. Egg I count as 75% liquid.

The rest is the same like Anita's recipe.

DonD's picture

I am a fairly new member of TFL (4+ months) and have found this site to be a great way to meet very nice like minded people who share a common passion. I was fortunate to spend my first year of college in Geneva in the late sixties and for a wide eyed fresh out of high school kid away from home for the first time, that year has given me so many treasured memories. I will never forget one winter morning after a night of partying with friends, my room mate and I were walking home at 6:00 am, passing by a bakery and smelling the warm fragrance of freshly baked bread permeating the cold winter air. We had to stop and although the bakery was not open, we knocked on the door and the proprietor was kind enough to let us buy a couple of croissants frest out of the oven. To this day, those were the best croissants I have ever had in my life!


chouette22's picture

Thomas, that's a wonderfully precise recipe. Someone once told me that eggs make a Zopf dryer (or maybe it was that it gets stale faster, I don't remember), so I never put any into the dough. I should try that again, since 'stale' is never a problem with this bread anyway. But in any case, as you say, there are so many different Zopf recipes, each family seems to have their variations.

And, by the way, I just spent one of my four weeks in Switzerland in the beautiful Emmental! My family lives in Thurgau though.

Betty, thank you for the compliment. By ca. (circa) 3 dl of milk I meant approximately that amount. It depends of how much your specific flour absorbs. You just need to get a nicely soft dough, thus if you reach that stage before using the 300 ml of milk, then you should stop at that point.

Yes, when you make a four-strand braid, you shape your dough into two long logs that are tapered at the ends. You then put the two long logs into a cross-shape and start braiding from there, thus the Zopf will be thicker on that end. I hope this makes sense.

Tradition of the braid. I did a little research and found that it owes its origin to a custom where widows used to cut off one of their braids to bury it along with their husband. As time went on, they seem to have buried a loaf of bread in the braid shape instead of cutting off their hair. This bread has been known in Switzerland since around the 1450s. And one more tidbit: All other breads were made with just the basic ingredients, except for the Zopf with its richer dough. The reason? It was traditionally baked on Fridays and the milk and butter kept it fresh until Sunday.

Don, those treasured memories last a life time, don't they. I always encourage my students to do some form of a stay abroad, they'll benefit from it so incredibly much. And if you can convince a baker at 6am to sell you a croissant hot from the oven, then that is priceless! Any French knowledge left? :)

DonD's picture

Hi Anita,

I still have quite a bit of French left in the tank since I went to a French Lycee in Saigon.


Paddyscake's picture

of the braid.  I have never seen ca. (circa) used in reference to a recipe. Quite frequently I've seen it used for architecture. I just love learning all these new bits of trivia.

This is another bread I will bookmark to try.



tssaweber's picture


You should give it a try. The recipe is such that your Zopf will not be dry, but nice, flaky and very soft. I also use the stretch and fold method so after mixing the dough is on the wetter side, but after 3 turns it will be perfect to braid.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.


cecile10's picture

Another newbie.  I live in England and have a Swiss mother and visit Bern every year so well familiar with Zopf.  I lack the confidence to mix the dough myself so use a breadmaker dough programme and take it from there.  My Zopf gets better and better and I've finally understood how to do a four strand plait [great little film demo by Paul Hollywood available online shows just how simple it is - all diagrams have lost me after picture 4].  I use 10% white spelt flour and 90% strong bread flour.  I'm still experimenting as mine isn't bakery perfect.  Tried steam in the oven for first 10 minutes which helps the bread rise just that bit longer.  Think I need to use a little more liquid as yesterday's Easter bread was a bit groovy - could be smoother.  Would upload picture but don't know how yet.   

chouette22's picture

...after quite a while this thread got revived! :)

Welcome to TFL. Yes, once you know how to braid it's so easy and you won't ever forget it. Isn't Bern an absolutely wonderful city? I don't visit it every year since we are always with my parents in the north-east in summer.

Do a search on how to upload your pictures here, there are lots of explanations out there. Would love to see your Zopf!

Jw's picture

Which looks alright on a picture, but one of them did not turn out the way it should. Some places were too thick, not enough ovenrise. I could have mixed the (new) bread flour a bit with spelt (good tip), maybe it was too strong. Also, normally I take some use yeast apart for some 30 minutues (with lukewarm milk and sugar, just to get going), didn't do that this time around.
I have never used steam on zopf, will try that as well next time. Tx Cecile!

chouette22's picture

...and a perfect complement to an Easter brunch! I actually never use steam either when I bake Zopf and always get a very good rise.