Happy New Year
I’ll admit that I am a little late in wishing you a Happy New Year with this Swiss New Year Bread. I hope that I will get back to regular blogging, and intend to start with a collection of recipes that I used over the holidays.Welcome back and thanks for reading.
Way back in November 2016, I shared a bread recipe used by my husband’s grandmother, Helen Kohler and his mother Agnes Badertscher. They used this incredibly delicious bread dough to make either rolls, loaf bread or coffee cake. My husband’s sister, Kay, told me that Grandma Kohler called it New Year Bread.
That seemed odd, because when I looked up Swiss New Year bread, I saw images of a braided loaf, and Granda Kohler, as far as we could remember, did not make braided bread. However, when I checked the Mennonite Cookbook that I like to refer to for traditional Swiss Mennonite recipes, I found a recipe for a braided New Year Bread that was very similar to Grandma Kohler’s recipe.
What is Zupfa?
In the Sonnenberg cookbook, I discovered a bread titled Zupfa And as is the rule in small communities like the Wayne County Ohio Mennonite community, my husband immediately recognized the name of the recipe contributor. Mrs. Merl Lehman, in fact is married to one of his not-too distant cousins.
I compared the two recipes–Grandma Kohler’s and cousin Mrs. Lehman’s Zupfa. The main difference between the two was that Grandma’s recipe included 1/2 cup of sugar. Additionally, she mixed the yeast with some sugar and water to proof it before mixing it in whereas Mrs. Lehman, mixed her yeast with the dry ingredients. And the Zupfa is a braided loaf that takes more than four hours to complete when you include all the waiting for multiple rising periods.
And what is Zupfa? As you may have suspected, Swiss New Year’s bread — a braided white bread.
Bread is Simple/Bread is Complicated
Note: Everyone makes bread with the same basic ingredients: flour, salt, yeast and water. However, it is amazing how many variations of bread exist by tweaks to that basic recipe. (For instance check out this very simple peasant bread). You can add eggs or shortening/butter, milk instead of water, or sugar. And of course there are a multiplicity of flour types, and you can add in fruit, nuts and seeds to the finished product. The shapes are different, the way you handle the dough, how many times it rises–all these variations to the simple basic four ingredients can make an enormous difference.
I think some people don’t try baking bread because bread making involves a kind of “baby sitting.” You can’t just mix up some stuff, pour it in a pan and put it in the oven. Zupfa particularly demonstrates that challenge. Although the work is not extensive, the baby sitting takes up more than three hours.
So here you have Swiss New Year’s Bread (Zupfa). Just remember:
- Start early. (If you are in a hurry, bake the Peasant bread I linked above.)
- Don’t be afraid of the braiding process. It probably won’t be perfect the first time–or in my case–ever.
- I watched a couple of You Tube videos on braiding bread, and recommend you look for the King Arthur Flour video lesson. Plus a tip from another video–always pick up the bottom strand to fold over to the center.
- You’ll notice if you are searching for tips on braiding bread, that you get a lot of challah recipes. The breads are very similar in appearance.
Swiss New Year Bread (Zupfa)
- 2 pkg dry yeast 4 1/2 teaspoons
- 6-7 C flour
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 C Milk whole
- 1/2 C Butter plus some for brushing top
- 3 eggs for dough
- 1 egg for glaze
- 2 tsp water for glaze
- Mix 3 Cups of flour, yeast and salt in large bowl.
- Heat milk with butter over low heat until just warm. If you are using an instand thermometer, you are shooting for 110-115 degrees. (I think of it as the temperature of baby’s bath water.) Mrs. Lehman adds that the butter does not have to completely melt.
- Gradually add liquids to dry ingredients in bowl, Beat either by hand or electric mixer for at least two minutes.
- Add one cup of flour and blend in.
- Beat eggs slightly and add to the batter. Beat at high speed for two minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.
- Keep adding flour to handle easily, and stir in until no flour is visible.
- Turn out on a lightly floured board and knead until smooth–five to ten minutes.
- Grease another large bowl (or scrape out all remnants from mixing bowl and reuse). Shape dough in ball and turn it in the bowl so all sides are shiny with the butter. Leave sooth side up, cover with cloth or plastic wrap and let rise until double–about 1 1/2 hours.
- Punch down gently, cover and let rise again until double–30-40 minutes.
- Turn the dough out on board and divide in two parts. Make two rounds and let it rest 10-15 minutes.
- Divide in two parts, and set one half aside, covered. Divide the half into three equal parts and roll each into a 14″ strand.
- Using the three strands, place close together on lightly greased baking sheet. Braid the stands gently and loosely. Do not stretch.
- Fasten ends and tuck under securely. Repeat the process with second half.
- Brush the braided dough with softened butter, cover with damp cloth and let rise until double — 40-50 minutes.
- Brush with egg yolk glaze and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes. (190 degrees on instant thermometer inserted in center) Let rest on pan for ten minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. When totally cool, wrap tightly for storage or freezing if you are not eating the bread immediately.