Swabian Cuisine – Yeast Plait {Hefezopf}

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Hello, I hope you’ve had pleasant Easter holidays! I’ve had a relaxing four days off, and I’ve also had an ambitious list of things to cook and bake during that time. Of the seven items on my list – all from scratch stuff – I managed to make four. One of these things was Hefezopf, another Swabian recipe. Hefezopf dough is a bit like brioche dough with less eggs and less butter.

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Hefezopf is made from a sweet yeast dough that’s plaited with three strands. Traditional  Hefezopf is topped with eggwash, crystal sugar and slivered almonds, and it contains raisins. However, if – like me – you don’t like raisins, bakeries cater to that as well, and you have a choice of with or without raisins. Despite my dislike of raisins (in baked and cooked food), I will sometimes buy the raisin version because they make the finished product more moist (and then I pick them out…). The one thing you don’t want is a dry piece of Hefezopf.

To eat Hefezopf you disregard the cake fork and eat it with your hands. It is often served with butter, and where I grew up Hefezopf as well as Butterbrezeln are two things you can rely on to be served at a wake after a funeral. I think people would look at you askance if you if you were to serve any other cake instead.

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So, how did my first try turn out? Great! It was very fluffy inside and not dry at all, despite the lack of raisins. I ate a couple of slices while it was still warm, and it was just as good plain as it was buttered. As I didn’t have slivered almonds at hand, I used chopped pecans, and that worked very well. Considering that the maxim with Hefezopf for a lot of people is the more butter, the better, I’m surprised how good and buttery this turned out with only 65 g of butter.

Seeing as how this was so quick (discounting proofing time, of course), hassle-free and easy to make, I’m definitely going to make this for guests, too.

Swabians like to dunk their baked goods in their coffee, especially day-old baked goods, and that’s something I’ll definitely be doing with this yummy plait tomorrow morning.

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Hefezopf {Swabian Yeast Plait}

  • Time: approx. 15 mins prep + 50 mins proofing + 30-40 mins baking
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Dough
500 wheat flour
50 g sugar
65 g butter, at room temperature, cut into slices
1 egg
1 egg yolk
45 g fresh yeast
5 g salt
225 ml full fat milk
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp ground vanilla

Decoration
1 egg
handful of crystal sugar
handful of slivered almonds

Warm milk (just slightly), take off heat and add the yeast, best to crumble it, then stir until yeast has dissolved. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Place all dough ingredients into a large bowl, then add the yeast milk. Mix well, either with your hands, handheld mixer, or kitchen machine. [I used a handheld mixer until everything was combined, then kneaded by hand.] Once the dough looks and feels elastic, put in a slightly floured bowl, cover with cling film or a tea towel, and leave for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces [best to weigh – my eye measure got it totally wrong!] and plait. Transfer the plait onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper and leave for 60 minutes [no covering necessary].

After the 60 minutes are up, jpreheat oven to 180°C / 350°F. Crack egg into a small bowl and stir until yolk and egg white are well combined. Generously brush the plait with the egg, then sprinkle with crystal sugar and slivered almonds. Brush with egg again, then bake at 180°C / 350°F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 160°C / 325°F and bake for a further 30 – 45 minutes [my plate was done after 40 minutes].

Remove from oven and let cool. Serve either lukewarm or completely cooled down. Can be served with butter.

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