Monday, April 4, 2011

Hefezopf (braided sweet yeast bun)

Baking with yeast has always been like Russian roulette for me.
Sometimes the dough turned out perfectly soft and fluffy, but more often it was tougher than concrete.

Luckily the April issue of German food magazine Essen&Trinken has a special on how to make the perfect Hefezopf and therefore how to work the evil yeast dough.

The Hefezopf recipe is fantastic.
Besides the ingredients all you need is a stand mixer or a well trained biceps and stamina.


250 ml warm milk
20g fresh yeast
75g sugar
1 large egg
1.5 tsp salt
500g bread flour  (NO all-purpose flour!)
75g soft butter
coarse sugar
flour for the worktop

Crumble the yeast into a bowl and mix with sugar and some of the warm milk until smooth.
Whisk the egg. Put aside 3 Tbsp of the egg-mix and set cool.
Add the rest of the egg and milk such as salt and flour to the yeast,sugar, milk-mix and knead it with the dough hooks attached to the stand mixer (hopefully) on lowest speed for approx. 3 minutes. 
Increase the speed and knead for another 5 minutes. 
Cube the butter.Thoroughly knead butter cubes into the dough. 
On highest speed knead another 5 minutes.

Cover the bowl with a damp towel and in a warm place let it rise for about an hour.
On a lightly floured worktop knead the dough with your hands and divide it into 3 equally sized pieces.
Cover them up and let them sit for 10 minutes. 
Roll them out into three strings of approx. 40cm of length, very loosely braid them and put the now "Hefezopf" on a baking paper covered baking sheet. 
Again cover the whole thing and let it sit and raise for another 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (Gas 3).
With a brush apply the remaining egg-mix on the Zopf, sprinkle it with the coarse sugar and bake it for 25 minutes. Check after 15minutes. You might want to cover the Zopf with tinfoil to prevent it from getting too dark.  

Best when served warm on a sunny afternoon!

PS: Here are a few tips and tricks on how your yeast dough turns out perfectly (also found in Essen&Trinken magazine).

1. Only use warm milk. Hot milk kills the yeast bacteria. Using cold milk will only extend the time for the dough to rise.
2. You have to be patient. If the dough hasn't doubled its size after one hour, let it sit a bit longer  (I waited for two hours) 
3. Use bread flour. It contains more gluten than all-purpose flour and by retaining gas it helps the dough to rise.
4. Use fresh yeast.
5. Knead excessively and passionate!

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