Braided Bread: German “Hefezopf”

One of the staple foods, at least in the southern part of Germany: Hefezopf – a type of braided bread made with yeast (rather than baking powder), which is sweet but not too sweet – still goes well with eggs, pickles, smoked meet, just give it a try!

To prepare, follow these instructions:

(1) Let 1 kg of wheet flour (general purpose non-bleached flour is prefered), 2 eggs, 125 g of butter warm up to room temperature. If there is no time to let the butter warm up – just cut into small pieces and add to the heated milk later.

(2) Take the 1 kg of flour and put into a large plastic bowl. Using a spoon, make a little hole and add 25 g of yeast (half a standard cube of fresh yeast; add 1 tablespoon of sugar). Alternatively, thoroughly mix with 1 bag of active dry yeast. No need to add too much yeast!

(3) Take 480 mL (about 480 g) of milk and heat to a warm temperature. It should be warm to hot, not just lukewarm.

(4) If fresh yeast is used, add some of the milk, like half a cup, to the yeast and stirr to form a semi-liquid starter; cover with some flour and let sit for 15 minutes to activate the yeast. Skip this step if active dry yeast is used.

(5) Add 125 g of butter, 160 g of sugar, 1/4 tablespoon of salt, 2 eggs and the remaining milk to the bowl. Mix thoroughly, knead for for a few minutes; best done by hand. Add a bit of milk (or warm water) if dough is too stiff. Dough should be rather soft.

(6) Cover with a towel and let rise for about 60 minutes. Avoid air drafts – keep at a warm place. Dough should rise to about double its size.

(7) Knead properly, add a bit of flour if needed.

(8) Split into 4 equal sized strands, and form braided bread.

(9) Pre-heat oven to 165°C, circulating hot air type oven; 180°C, regular oven.

(10) Let braided bread rise for about 15-20 minutes. If golden crust is preferred, cover with a mixture of egg yolk and water (1:1).

(11) Bake for about 30-35 minutes.

(12) Let cool. Don’t cut while still hot!

Not the most beautiful braiding, but, delicious:

Note: this type of braided bread is ideally suited for freezing – just put in plastic bag. For best taste, don’t store for more than 6 months.

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