Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Golden Braid of Bern #BreadBakers

Called a "Golden Braid of Bern" in my mom's cookbook, this buttery braided Zopf is a Swiss treat made with a blend of whole wheat, rye and all purpose flour plus a touch of honey. Spread a slice with cultured butter or top with a slice of aged cheese for a delicious side to any meal!

The fall is a weird time for me. While I love (love) the colours all our trees turn in October, apple picking, pumpkin patches and pies, I really and truly hate the cold. N rolls his eyes at me because for me, "cold" is 17C and below - what can I say? I'm definitely not doing my Scottish and Indigenous heritage proud with that logic!

That said, the cold weather also opens up the possibilities of baking for me - I don't have to worry that cranking up the oven will overheat the house and cause our A/C to cry (or die like it did this spring), and when soup and stew are on the menu a hearty loaf alongside is never a problem. The other great thing about bread baking in cooler weather is that the rising time is slowed down, which allows a better flavour to develop and the flours to hydrate more. The result is some of the best bread I bake all year!

This loaf is one I wish I had started baking a lot earlier in my career as a food blogger, but the reality was Zopf wasn't on my radar at all until N mentioned a bread that his Swiss colleague missed from home. I immediately paged through my mom's Reader's Digest Recipes from Around the World, hoping to find a recipe that matched the description I was hearing: rich, slightly sweet, braided and with a little spice of some kind. On the very last page of the "Switzerland" section, I spotted it - Zopf, haughtily titled the "Golden Braid of Bern". Perfect.

Now, being the nerd I am, I didn't just take the recipe and go. I researched actual Swiss recipes for the loaf, and found out that traditionally there is an actual "Zopf flour" that is used in the recipe. The closest approximation I could find was a mixture of white, whole wheat and rye flours, which I have noted in the recipe below. In addition, I used honey instead of white sugar to improve the flavour, and mayonnaise instead of the eggs - a trick that I initially used because I had run out of eggs, but now continue to use because it works and incorporates a bit better in my opinion (you can certainly use 2 eggs, I find the mayo tenderizes the crumb a bit more). A tiny amount of cardamom and ginger add a delicate fragrance without creating a "spice bread" and work really well with the butter permeating the whole loaf. 

When the loaf is baking, your home will be filled with the aroma of toast (it's the best way I can describe it) as the whole grains and butter heat and fuse together. The hardest part is waiting for it to cool before slicing a chunk off, but then again I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that N has torn a piece off while it was still a bit warm from the oven! The flavour is well suited to salty and tangy flavours, such as cultured butter, cream cheese, or aged Cheddar and sliced smoked ham. I've also heard that slightly stale slices make amazing French toast - that is, if there is any left to get stale!

This week the Bread Bakers group is making brown breads, perfect to serve alongside the heartier meals of the Fall and Winter seasons. Check out the blogs below and say hi!
Golden Braid of Bern
Makes 1 large loaf
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 tsp cardamom 
2 tsp instant yeast (I used SAF Gold)
1 1/4 cups warmed whole milk (just above body temperature)
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 cup melted, salted butter
1 tsp salt 
canola oil, to brush
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or, if you're my mom, our enameled aluminum "bread bowl"), whisk together the flours, cardamom, ginger, and yeast.
  2. Stir together the milk and honey and add to the flour mixture.
  3. Mix on low speed or by hand with a wooden spoon until flour is moistened. Cover and let rest 10 minutes.
  4. Add the honey, mayonnaise, butter and salt and mix on low speed until the dough is cohesive.
  5. Knead (by hand or with the mixer) for 8-10 minutes, until the dough is smooth, supple and elastic.
  6. Transfer to a greased bowl, cover and let rest 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled.
  7. Knock dough down and divide into three pieces. Cover and let rest 5 minutes. 
  8. Roll each piece into a rope and loosely braid them together, tucking the ends underneath. Place loaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment or SilPat.
  9. Brush with canola oil, cover and let rise 45 minutes-1 hour, until almost doubled.
  10. Heat the oven to 375F.
  11. Bake the loaf for 40 minutes, until golden brown and measuring 190F in the centre.
  12. Cool completely before slicing.