Autumn finally made it to Nacogdoches: crisp, golden, and cool. I feel like a new woman.
Apparently my fire ant bite was followed by a baking bug bite, because I can't seem to get enough bread and cake (watch for an upcoming post: the cake flush diet!). I made a batch of gingerbread on Thursday night, and last night I baked a loaf of Zupfe, a Swiss bread akin to challah.
I would likely never have made zupfe were it not for my husband. He is no pushover in the kitchen: an excellent cook in his own right (master of of one-pot man foods such as cassoulet, chili, and beef burgundy), he also subtly, but strongly, asserts his wishes for what should top my list of kitchen experimentations.
Zupfe rose to the top about two years ago. He fell in love with it on a visit to Switzerland in college, so much so that he purchased a Swiss cookbook with said recipe upon his return. Following mention that I was in the mood to bake bread one night, he opened the book to the desired recipe and plunked it in my lap
"I think you need to make zupfe."
And so I did. That night, and many nights to follow.
Forget the whole grain flour--this is worth sticking to plain bread flour. The finished bread has a tender crumb that is delicious with soup or as the base for a sandwich, but it reaches its apex when toasted for breakfast (think strawberry jam, nutella, or a combination of both). It' s so worth the splurge. Just follow the Swiss mode and have a bowl of yogurt on the side to balance things out.
I wanted to show you step by step photos of the "braiding" of zupfe because it is really quite easy. The written directions made my brain hurt on that first run-through; it helped having Kevin walk me through it. I wanted to offer the same assistance to you.
The final loaf looks like it's braided, but it's far easier than that: you're really just alternating the crossing of two coils of dough (more upright than flat). Just when you reach the final cross, the dough will look like a sad, gooey, lop-eared bunny. Lay it on it's side, tuck the ends under, and, ta-da, you have a "braided" loaf.
The finished bread looks so beautiful, but as you'll see from my dough photos, it looks anything but along the way. Yet all the imperfections puff away in the rising and baking. Just when you think "this is going to look like two giant, mating slugs", Poof! 40 minutes later you have a gorgeous loaf of golden bread.
Schweizer Zupfe (from the cookbook A Taste of Switzerland)
This is the very recipe I've used each time. My only modification is to loosely cover the bread with a big piece of foil during the final 20 minutes of baking (to keep it from getting too brown).
1 tablespoon dried yeast
10 fluid ounces (1 and 1/4 cups) warm milk
4 cups (1 pound) strong plain flour (I used King Arthur bread flour)
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 egg, beaten
1 egg, beaten, for glaze
1. Dissolve the yeast in a little of the milk. Leave this to stand 15 minutes until yeast is proofed.
2. Place the flour and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture and the remaining milk. Add the butter and one beaten egg.
3. Mix everything to a dough and knead it on a floured work surface.
4. Return the dough to the bowl, cover it and leave it for 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.
5. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
6. Punch down the dough and knead it again.
7. Divide it into two pieces and roll each piece into a sausage-shape, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter.
8. Lay one piece on the work surface in a straight line vertically. Lay the other piece across it horizontally, to make a cross with equal-length arms.
9. Take the top part of the first piece and fold it down towards you and slightly to the right (as if at four o'clock).
10. Fold the right-hand side of the horizontal piece left over the piece you have just folded down (as if at five o'clock).
11. Take the left-hand side of the horizontal piece and fold it across over two strands of dough (as if at four-thirty).
12. Take the piece now on the far right and fold it to the left, over one strand.
13. Then take the piece on the far left and fold it to the right over two strands. Continue folding, first over one strand, to the left, and then over two, to the right, until your strands run out. Then turn the whole loaf over and seal the ends together.
14. Lay the loaf on a floured baking sheet and leave it to rise for 20 minutes.
15. Glaze it with the other beaten egg. Let stand 10 minutes. Bake the loaf for 35-40 minutes, or until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when knocked.
16. Cool it on a wire rack. Makes 1 big loaf (about 16 generous slices
Nutrition per Serving (1 slice):Calories 128; Fat 4.3g (poly 1.8g, mono 1.3g, sat 1.0g); Protein 3.2g; Cholesterol 27mg; Carbohydrate 18.6g; Fiber 0.8; Sodium 225mg)
(Note: I did the nutrition analysis using Diet Analysis Plus 7.0.1)
Eek! It looks like I have man hands in these photos :)
At this point you'll think "this is so very wrong"--it's not. Have faith, and keep crossing the dough.
You're almost there..one more cross...
Then turn it on it's side and tuck the ends under--voila!