Last Updated on 3 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.
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.
Braided Bread (‘Hefezopf’)
- 250 grams (8.8 ounces) whole milk, lukewarm, at about 30 °C (86 °F)
- 1 egg, size L
- 8 grams (0.28 ounces) salt
- 25 grams (0.88 ounces) sugar
- 15 grams (0.53 ounces) fresh yeast
- 500 grams (17.6 ounces) white soft wheat flour (German Type 550)
- 75 grams (2.65 ounces) butter, at room temperature
- Whisk together the warm milk and egg. Reserve 2-3 tablespoons for brushing the loaf before baking. Stir the salt, sugar, and yeast into the remaining milk-egg-mixture.
- Add the liquid mixture to the flour. You can either knead the dough by hand or by machine. If using a stand mixer, knead the dough for 2 minutes on the low setting followed by 4 minutes on the high setting. Then add in the butter and knead for another 3-4 minutes on the high setting or until smooth. If kneading by hand, knead the dough until smooth, then incorporate the butter and continue kneading until it is smooth again.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1-1.5 hours. Briefly knead the dough to deflate it and divide it into 4 evenly sized pieces. Cover with plastic wrap and leave them to rest for 10 minutes. Now you can roll them into 4 strands, about 1.5 inch (3.8 cm) in thickness. Shape the dough into a braid pattern. If you’re unsure how to do it, check my blog post for a visual guide. Cover the braided bread loaf with plastic wrap and let it proof at room temperature on a parchment-lined baking sheet until doubled in size, about 30-45 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 200 °C (390 °F).
- Shortly before baking, brush the proofed loaf generously with the reserved milk-egg-mixture. Bake the loaf for about 25 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown on top. Let it cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing into it.
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!
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.
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.
Thanks, Rebecca. I didn’t know that. Very interesting and a great info for our readers. I’m glad you pointed my error out – Tim
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
wielange muss der Hefezopf im Ofen sein??
Etwa 25 Minuten. Bis er goldbraun ist😊