Setting up home in a new place is always hard, but it’s especially harder in a new country. I’ve moved around so much in the first two decades of my life, I thought I’d get used to it at some point, but sadly, I never did and think I never will. I hate saying byes. I despise that word so much that I wish I can delete that word from every person’s vocabulary if I can. It’s such a hopeless and useless word, there is really nothing ‘good’ about saying goodbyes.
One of my biggest and most difficult move to date was my move to Switzerland a few years ago. I’d be outright lying if I told you that I love it here, but that doesn’t mean I hate it here either. Besides those moments when I feel like an elephant in the room, I usually manage alright. I just keep trying; trying to learn the language, walk under new weather conditions, and go, see, do as much as I can. It’s not easy though. If I’m completely honest with you, it’s really tough. However, one of the most valuable things I’ve learnt to bridge cultures is through food. The world always seems like a better place when everyone’s bellies are full with delicious food. I’m all about the food. Oh, and flowers. I’ll probably end any kind of war if my opposition offered peace with those two little things.
One of the first things I learnt to bake when I arrived in Switzerland was a very traditional Swiss bread called the Zopf. It’s an incredibly delicious loaf of bread which can be braided into different shapes and sizes using either one or up to four strands of dough at a time.
Tradition has it that the Swiss love eating this particular bread every Sunday morning for breakfast, so upon hearing that, I baked Zopf every Saturday for an entire year to help me embrace Switzerland as my new home. That year, I managed to really hone in on my Zopf baking skills and earned an imaginary seal of approval from a number of satisfied Swiss bellies.
Unlike the white loaf I usually bake (recipe here), this bread is so soft and buttery that if you’re anything like me, there is a chance of mistaking it for piece of cloud if you’re not fully awake in the morning. S loves to enjoy his slice of Zopf with even more butter and raspberry jam on top. Well, and me? Pure Nutella, period.
Since we’re a two-person household, I like to bake mini versions of the Zopf, also known as the Mini Zöpfli in Swiss German (little braided breads). However, I find that the quickest and most easiest way of making Zopf is using two rows of dough. For those wanting to attempt making the Zopf, I recommend watching this short clip. Although it’s in Swiss German, you’ll get the idea of how to weave the Zopf in visual form.
Betty Bossi’s Zopf Recipe
(click here for the original recipe in German)
- 500g Flour
- 3/4 Tbsp Salt
- 20g Yeast
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 60g Butter, softened
- 300ml Milk
- Plus, 1 x Egg yolk mixed with 1tsp of milk to brush over dough
- In a big bowl, mix the flour and the salt together.
- Make a well in the middle and combine the rest of the ingredients.
- Knead well, let it rise for about 1-2 hours until the dough has doubled in size.
- Divide the dough into two long strands (about 70cm in length). The centre should be thicker than the ends. Plait it into shape (watching this video).
- Brush over the dough with an egg wash, leave aside to rise once more for 30 minutes.
- Brush over the dough once again with the egg wash before popping it into the lower half of the oven at 200°C for 30-35 minutes.
Remember, practice makes perfect. It’ll take a few tries to master the weaving technique, but it’s a handy trick to have up your sleeve if you want to impress a Swiss crowd coming over for brunch. Offer them homemade Zopf, and smile. Don’t be like “here, now be my friend”, but use food as a way to open up conversations and connect.