Baked, Bread, Swabian, Vegetarian

Braided Bread (‘Hefezopf’)

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Last Updated on 4 years by Tim

No Easter holiday is complete without braided bread. In Germany, it’s called Hefezopf while Jewish people refer to it as Challah. It’s very different in taste and texture than typical German bread. It’s soft, fluffy, rich, and slightly sweet.

Some might call it a cake, but I think it’s closer to American or Asian-style bread. It tastes similar to a French brioche and the most common way to serve braided bread is with jam. It’s traditional to eat Hefezopf on New Year’s Day and on Easter Monday. However, in my family, we eat braided bread all year round.

What you need for braided bread

The key ingredient to great braided bread is fresh yeast. It’s even in the name. ‘Hefe’ is the German word for yeast. I know that outside of Europe, fresh yeast can be really hard to source. But once you start baking with it, you will never go back to the dry stuff.

It’s so much easier and more reliable to work with fresh yeast. And I think the taste of bread made with fresh yeast is better. However, you can also substitute dry yeast if there’s no way for you to get fresh yeast.

The butter you incorporate into your dough should be soft but not molten. Don’t melt it in the microwave. If it’s molten the dough will be too soft and sticky to work with.

How to shape your Hefezopf

As with every bread, you will have to let your dough rise until doubled in size, deflate it, and then shape your braided bread. It’s easy to braid bread. You just do it like you would with a girl’s hair. There are many different methods for it and I use the one with four strings.

Braiding the strands
Braided Bread

Before baking your Hefezopf, you need to let it proof until it has doubled in size again. Otherwise, it will come out too dense and heavy. Brush it generously with egg wash before placing it in the hot oven to give it a beautiful crust.

Always leave the braided bread to cool down for at least 20 minutes before slicing it. It’s best to eat it within one to two days as it will dry out very quickly. But with many hungry eaters during the Easter holidays, I guess you won’t have a problem with that.


  1. Manuela Fletcher

    We eat German Zopf all year round, sometimes with a nut filling. And if it’s a few days old we make bread and butter pudding with the leftovers.

    • Thanks for your comment, Manuela! I also love bread pudding made from Hefezopf. Such a nice and simple dessert, especially if you add sour cherries. Yum!

  2. My Family Loved it. I am definitely sharing Guys, Thanks For sharing this Great Recipe. this recipe and this website with my friend. Hope they also love it. Thank you again for sharing such a great recipe.

  3. Just FYI, challah is typically slightly different! Because Jewish dietary laws don’t allow for the mixing of milk and meat, challah is usually pareve (i.e. free of both meat or dairy ingredients) so that it can be consumed with meat-based Shabbat meals. Hence, challah is typically made with oil and water, and not milk and butter. The only time I’ve seen milk-based challahs is for Shavuot, which is a holiday where it’s customary to celebrate with dairy-based meal.

  4. Holger Baeuerle

    I added the butter at higher than room temperature and the dough became sticky as you warned. How do i correct that in the future?

    • Thanks for your comment Holger and sorry for my late reply. If the dough is too sticky, then you can add a little more flour or reduce the amount of milk added the next time. It’s better to add the butter fridge-cold than molten. The butter is a bit harder to incorporate if it is cold but it should work. I think the best option is nevertheless to add a bit less milk to the dough the next time. I hope this helps – Tim

  5. Hallo Tim

    wielange muss der Hefezopf im Ofen sein??

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