SCHWÄBISCHER ZOPF

A classic, sweet yeast braid with nuts and cinnamon which in the south of Germany is often enjoyed with a cup of coffee for breakfast or in the afternoon. In my family it is also part of any birthday as we like to invite friends and family for Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) on birthday afternoons. You make a fancy cake, an apple pie, serve some Brezeln and a Schwäbischer Zopf. Something for every taste. And even if there is no afternoon birthday party I still end up making at least one of these on Brians birthday for him to take to work - which is another very German thing to do. But truly I make one of these for just about any Sunday and if I don't, I really should. It is one of my all time favorites.  

For the dough

  • 4 cups all purpose flour (500 g) 
  • 1 packet of dry or fresh yeast
  • a scant 1/2 cup sugar (80 g)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk (180 ml) 
  • 1 stick of butter (100 g) cut into cubes 
  • zest of one lemon
  • a pinch of salt

For the filling

  • 6 tablespoons butter (75g)
  • 1 2/3 cup almonds  (170g)
  • 1 cup sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

For the glaze

  • 3 tablespoons of apricot jam or
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar

Dissolve the dry yeast in a bit of warm water to activate it. Or, if you are using fresh yeast, sift the flour into your mixing bowl, press a little hole into the top of the flour, crumble the yeast into the hole and sprinkle the yeast with a little sugar to activate it. Let stand for 10 minutes.

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In the meantime, gently heat the milk together with the butter in a heavy saucepan to lukewarm, just until the butter is melted. Add the sugar, eggs, lemon zest and salt to the flour in your mixing bowl, together with the yeast. This is a sticky yeast dough. I use my electric mixer for this dough fitted with the pastry hook. I set the mixer on low speed and add the milk in a slow stream until the dough is well combined. Then I set the speed of the mixer to medium high and let the machine work the dough for a couple of minutes. If you do not have an electric mixer I recommend that you use a wooden spoon to combine this dough, work it well! It will be sticky. Scrape the dough off the sides of the bowl and form the dough into a ball with floured hands. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

When the dough has risen well, divide it into 2 equal portions. Roll each portion of dough into a rectangle on a floured surface, dusting with flour if necessary, but try to use as little additional flour as possible. Melt the butter for the filling. Brush the butter onto each rectangle and evenly sprinkle with almonds and cinnamon sugar (we use a lot of cinnamon sugar in Germany and I always keep a pint jar of mixed cinnamon sugar in my pantry). Roll the dough rectangles up and carefully transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.  

Cut the 2 rolls lengthwise and then carefully braid the 2 strands around each other. Try to keep the cut sides facing outward. Brush the braid with a little more butter and let it rise one final time while the oven preheats to 375°F.  

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Bake at 375°F for 40-50 minutes until golden brown. In the final minutes of baking, prepare the glaze. Either heat 3 tablespoons of apricot jam in a heavy saucepan until smooth and brush-able (I try to avoid any big fruit pieces. You may want to strain the heated jam through a fine mesh sieve). Or heat 3 tablespoons of sugar with just a little water in a heavy saucepan until the sugar is melted and the liquid is clear. When the braid is finished baking, brush it with the glaze immediately. 

Let the braid cool completely before cutting. This braid is best fresh but still tastes very good the next day, or even the day after. 

Die besten Wünsche zum Geburtstag an Falk und an alle die heute mit mir zusammen Geburtstag haben. 

SOURCE: ADAPTED FROM A FAMILY RECIPE
PUBLISHED ON MARCH 30th, 2014

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