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Several Easter’s ago, a friend brought the most gorgeous braided bread ring to our dinner. It was probably one of the most amazing things I’ve seen. Everyone ooooh and ahhhhed.

This is not that recipe.  I have tried that recipe on several occasions and the combination of my poor bread making skills and simply not being as awesome as that friend has produced some less than awesome bread rings.

So I went in search of something more my speed (read: easier and requiring no skill) and I found it here. Simple ingredients, not very much hands on time . . . yeah, this was the recipe for me.

I promise, promise, promise you, you can do this as well. If you need to impress this Easter Sunday, make this and let people assume you slaved for hours. Then help yourself to an extra piece with lots of butter as a reward.

Note: This dries out quickly after you cut it. If you are serving it to a group I suggest you either let people cut their own or keep it covered with a towel. And if it does dry out, don’t worry, it makes great french toast the day after.

Swiss Zopf Bread 

Honey in the dough and in the egg wash gives it just enough sweetness.

  • This will take 3 hours and 15 minutes start to finish, with about 10 or 15 minutes of actual hands on time. Plan accordingly.
  • 3 3/4 bread flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 4 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 egg (scrambled)
  • For egg wash: 1 egg white, tsp. honey, 2 tsp water. You can also use just one egg yolk, this will make the bread more pretzel like.
  1. Mix together the wet ingredients, except the egg. I usually melt the butter in the microwave in a pyrex measuring cup, then add the milk and honey and heat just 20 or 15 seconds at a time, until the milk feels warm (not hot or you will kill the yeast) to my finger. Add yeast and stir, then let set for 15 minutes until the yeast is dissolved.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together bread flour and salt. Make a well in the middle. Add egg and milk/yeast mixture. With a spoon or your hands, mix until just pulled together.
  3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead five minutes, until smooth and elastic. OR, use your dough hook and knead in your mixer 4-5 minutes until smooth and elastic.
  4. Place dough in a clean bowl and cover. Let rise in a draft free, warmish place until doubled (about 2 hours, but it will depend on where you live).
  5. Punch the dough down and divide into thirds. Form three ropes, equal length between a quarter and half dollar thick. Make sure you take into account the length or your baking sheet/stone. Pinch the ends together and tuck under and braid (cross right over middle, left over middle and so on). Pinch other ends together, place on greased baking sheet or parchment and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 375. Mix together egg white, 2 tsp. water and 1 tsp. honey. Brush over entire loaf. Bake for 25-40 minutes (I do 25 because I like mine a little more chewy. Be careful you don’t over bake).
  7. Note: I usually have three or four pieces of dough left over from making the ropes the same length. You can use those to make little dough knots or sticks, bake them right along with the loaf.

Yes, I have a spoon to mix, but I didn't' use it. I used my hands. Sue me.

If you decide to knead it by hand, make sure you really use the heel of your hand. It's where you get the most bang for your buck.

Yes, I leave my dough to rise on the dryer. It's warm, it's dark and it's out of the reach of prying little fingers. And no, my bread has never ended up tasting like Snuggle.

The braiding is definitely a piece of the action to let your kids in on. It doesn't have to be perfect. And if you can't get it, just twist them together the best you can. The shape doesn't affect the taste!

Whether you use an egg yolk wash or the egg white wash, make sure you get it in all the nooks and crannies. That's what forms a beautiful crust on the outside and keeps it soft in the middle.

Oh, crusty goodness!

Butter and warm bread. Goes together like wine and chocolate. You thought I'd say like peanut butter and jelly or something, right? Not in my world.