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Swiss New Year Bread

Bake Swiss New Year Bread

Happy New Year

Helen Stuckey Bair Kohler

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.

Sonnenberg Mennonite Cook Book
A collection of recipes from the Mennonite community where my husband grew up.

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.

Swiss New Year Bread
Swiss New Year Bread (Zupfa) braided dough before baking.


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:

  1. Start early. (If you are in a hurry, bake the Peasant bread I linked above.)
  2. Don’t be afraid of the braiding process. It probably won’t be perfect the first time–or in my case–ever.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
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Swiss New Year Bread (Zupfa)

The Swiss New Year Bread (Zupfa) is not as complicated as you might think, but it does take a long time to make because of several risings–so plan ahead.
Course Bread
Cuisine Swiss
Keyword bread, Swiss
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Resting/Rising 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings 32

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.
    Half of dough for Swiss New Year bread
  • 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.
    Braiding of bread
  • Fasten ends and tuck under securely.  Repeat the process with second half.
    Swiss New Year Bread
  • Brush the braided dough with softened butter, cover with damp cloth and let rise until double — 40-50 minutes.
    Bread dough buttered
  • 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.
    Swiss New Year Bread

Notes

Mrs. Lehman called for 7 1/4 to 7 1/2 cups of flour, which I found excessive. 
I put the bowl of dough  into an unheated oven with just the oven light on and that worked very well for the first rising periods. Just remember not to preheat the oven, until you get to the point where the braided dough is rising. You will let it rise on the counter or near but not on the stovetop while the oven heats.
When I was braiding the first loaf, at first I did not get the strands close enough together as I braided, so I had large lumps. It was not hard to unbraid it and start again.  Of course you can make the loaf longer and skinnier or shorter and fatter as you wish.
I added the 1/2 cup of sugar to the recipe because I thought a slightly sweet taste would be appropriate for this special bread.
Finally, I have to mention that I apparently let the braided dough rise a bit too long.  If you look at the final picture with the instructions you will see some strange strands. That is the sign of what is called over-proofing. Had I been aware, I could have corrected it by starting over with the shaping. Honestly, I don’t think the problem was serious enough to do all that, but it is handy to know that you can correct the problem and get a pretty loaf.
 

A Twist on a German Recipe for Buttermilk Soup

I added fish to a German recipe for Buttermilk Soup with green beans and potatoes. In Germany, you can call the original: Bohnensuppe mit Buttermilch.

Mine became a Buttermilk Soup with Potatoes and Fish and Green Beans, because I was looking for a way to use up some buttermilk, and some cod that I had on hand. I found recipes for chowder made with buttermilk that called for several kinds of fish.  I found recipes for fish soup without buttermilk.  Then I spotted the Bohnensuppe mit Buttermilch, and thought, Why not?

Unlike most of my food posts, you are seeing no illustration here.  White soup with white potatoes and white fish just is not the most photogenic dish in the world. Besides, we ate it too quickly to take pictures.

 

German Buttermilk Potato Fish Soup

Serves 6
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 20 minutes
Allergy Fish, Milk
Meal type Soup
Misc Child Friendly, Serve Hot
Website Kitchen Project
A traditional buttermilk soup recipe from a website is adapted by adding fish.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup raw green beans (Stem and cut bite-size)
  • 4 cups Red or yellow potatoes (Peel unless thin-skinned, chop into bite size pieces)
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, grated
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill weed
  • salt and pepper
  • 3/4-1lb cod or other firm fish (cut in 1" pieces)

Optional

  • medium onion (chopped)

Directions

1. Cook the potatoes and ginger in the broth until tender. (If using onions, add them and cook a few minutes.
2. Using a slotted spoon, take potatoes out and put in blender or food processors (or a bowl is you are using a stick blender). Puree until smooth.
3. Meanwhile, cook the green beans in the stock you used for potatoes, just until barely tender. Blend in the potato puree and cook 5 minutes.
4. Stir in the buttermilk and dill. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Add chunks of fish and cook another 5 minutes, until fish is done through, but not overcooked.
6. Serve with a sprinkle of paprika or a sprig of dill on top.

Note

The German name for buttermilk soup with green beans and potatoes is Bohnensuppe mit Buttermilch

I took several liberties with the recipe I found on the Kichen Project website.

The biggest change is that I added fish, which is not part of the original recipe. I also reduced the quantity of green beans to compensate for the added bulk of the fish, and more than doubled the amount of chicken broth (they called for chicken stock). If you follow their recipe exactly, I believe you will have more of a stew than a soup, and definitely the taste emphasis will be on the green beans.

The recipe specifies waxy potatoes like red, yellow or Yukon gold (my favorite for cooking). You don't want to use baking potatoes in soup because they will just fall apart and you won't get the nice smooth base that you get by pureeing the other kinds.

I freeze fresh ginger root so I always have it on hand. That makes it easy to grate into recipes and it lasts a very long time. If you do not have fresh ginger root, use powdered ginger, but cut the amount by about a third.

The original recipe also suggests adding a dash of hot sauce, which would be okay, but I wanted the ginger and dill flavors to predominate, so left it out.

It made a delicious fish soup, but I'm sure would also be delightful with just green beans and potatoes.

 

Blackberry Pie

When one of my DNA matches and I got to talking about family, she happened to mention that her grandma, Catherine Blubaugh (my 2nd cousin)   made such great blackberry pie that she won her husband, William Goode, that way.  I asked the DNA buddy if she could find a recipe, and she is trying to find it.  But when I saw big luscious blackberries in the market, I knew I couldn’t wait.

Blackberry pie close up

Blackberry pie, close up.

There’s still a chance she’ll come up with the recipe and we can compare it to this one.  I do know that great grandma used lard in the pie crust, and I didn’t–but she also made a chocolate cake, so maybe we’ll get that recipe.

Of course, it was more fun in grandma’s day because you would have that expedition into the countryside where you filled a bucket with blueberries, getting scratched in the process, eating berries as you went, and getting berry stains all over you.  However, there are many other benefits to eating blackberries.

Catherine Blubaugh

Catherine Blubaugh (Goode)

Seeing Catherine Blubaugh’s picture, I suspect it was more than just a pie that won her husband!

Like all my pies, this one starts with the Perfect Pie Crust.  If you haven’t tried this fool-proof recipe that calls for a bit of vinegar, maybe it is time.  As for me, I thought it was about time that I bake a pie with a lattice crust. So I did.  It certainly is not picture perfect, but it has the advantage of looking home-made.  You’d certainly never mistake this for a bakery pie, now would you?

Lattice top on pie

Before baking. Blackberry pie with lattice top

The Perfect Pie Crust dough is very forgiving, which makes it easy to handle for a lattice crust.  I cut the strips with a pizza cutter and after building up a higher than usual edge, started weaving the strips on the pie.

One other thing I want to show you is a recent acquisition.  You know how the edges of the pie tend to get too brown, because they stick up higher than the rest?  For decades, I have folded two strips of aluminum foil and awkwardly tucked them around the edges of the pie to protect it. Of course, when I pulled the rack out to check the pie, the hot aluminum foil fell off and it was a pain to try to get it back.

Recently I broke down and bought ONE MORE THING for my baking cupboard–a silicone edge protector.  How I wish I had one of these years and years ago. It is adjustable to fit all sizes of pie pans, and being silicone, will take the high heat you sometimes use to bake a pie shell.

Edge protector

Pie baked with edge protector.

Next time you see nice blackberries in the store, consider this pie. Even if you don’t need to win a husband. Not in the mood for pie? How about blackberry liqueur?

Let’s call it Blubaugh Blackberry Pie.

Blackberry Pie

Serves 6-8
Prep time 25 minutes
Cook time 45 minutes
Total time 1 hours, 10 minutes
Allergy Egg, Wheat
Meal type Dessert

Ingredients

  • pastry for 2-crust pie
  • 4 1/2 cups blackberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Minute tapioca
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter (cut in small dice)

Directions

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees
2. Roll out half of pie crust and line pie pan, forming a generous rim. Put in refrigerator
3. Mix sugar and tapioca, pour over berries along with lemon juice and mix gently. Let sit 15 minutes.
4. Put filling into pie shell and dot with butter.
5. Roll out 2nd half of pie crust into circle the size of the top of pie pan plus one inch.
6. Cut the circle of pie crust into 3/4 inch strips. Fasten one end of the strip along one half of the bottom crust. Fold back every other strip. Lay one strip perpendicular to the first strips, folding down the strips that are folded back. Fold back the strips that are now under the first perpendicular strip. Continue in this fashion to weave the top. Pinch the edges securely.
7. Brush top with egg yolk or milk and sprinkle with sugar.
8. Protect edges with aluminum foil or a silicone edge protector. Place pan on a cookie sheet to protect oven from drips. Bake at 400 degrees10 minutes. Turn oven down to 350 and bake until crust nicely browned and berries are bubbling.

Note

This recipe will work with any berries. You may have to adjust the sugar, depending on the sweetness, and be sure you have a generous amount of berries if you use a large pie pan I made this in a 9" pan.