Hefezopf Recipe- An Easy and Delicious Braided German Sweet Bread
My mother loves any Sweet Bread made with yeast dough. Especially at Easter. This year (after watching far too many episodes of the British Baking Challenge) I decided that I would try something fancy. A Hefezopf. This Hefezopf Recipe is an adaptation of Luisa Weiss’s “Rosinenzopf ” recipe from her fantastic cookbook Classic German Baking. Don’t be intimidated by the Yeast, or kneading. The dough comes together beautifully in the mixer… and as for the kneading? I usually have around 10 minutes of aggression in me to take out on some dough.
When I pulled out the ingredients, I was a bit irked to discover that we are out of raisins. I don’t mind, I’m not a big fan of the things, but Tech Guy loves them (he must have snacked them all away). Rather than leave the fruit out, I chopped up some dried cranberries. Maybe they aren’t “traditional” but they are quite yummy. In the back of my pantry I found the box of Hagel Zucker that I brought home from my last trip to Germany. (See…. filling up my suitcase at the grocery store in Germany does have its advantages… you never know when you will NEED it, but it’s nice to have when you do. ) This means I was able to sprinkle the crust with crunchy bits of sugar to add just an extra touch of sweetness. YUM. Don’t have Hagel Zucker (Pearl Sugar)? you can order them here–> Hagel Zucker, or use sliced almonds.
At Easter, you can use this same basic recipe and braid into a wreath shape to fill with colored Eggs… or even bake Hard Cooked Colored Eggs into the braids. (That will be something for me to try next.) A Hefezopf wreath makes a beautiful centerpiece on the Easter Breakfast table.
But any day you make the Hefezopf recipe, you can serve it up with some good German butter and delicious jam for a wonderful breakfast treat or mid-day snack. Or just eat it plain. (I find that even though I stored the bread in a plastic zipper bag, it did dry out a bit overnight… so the extra butter schmeared on it helps… especially for palates who are used to softer, sweeter baked goods).
- 1 Cup Milk
- 500 gr / approx 4 cups All Purpose Flour
- 50 gr / 1/4 cup Sugar
- 2 tsp Rapid Rise Yeast
- 1 tsp Salt
- Lemon Zest- approx 1 lemon worth
- 6 TBL Butter at room temp.
- 1 Egg
- 1/2 cup Raisins/Cranberries
- For Finishing-
- 1 Egg Yolk
- 1 tsp Whole Milk
- Few Tbl. Hagel Zucker / Pearl Sugar
- Few Tbl. Sliced Almonds
- Warm the milk up a little. (I stuck my finger in it, it felt warm, and it worked. You don't want it too hot, it will kill the yeast)
- In your mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, rapid rise yeast, salt, and the lemon peel.
- In another bowl (I just used a measuring cup) combine the milk and eggs.. give them a quick mix.
- Add the milk/egg mixture to the flour/sugar mix... then slice in the room temperature butter.
- Mix until it all comes together in a sticky dough.
- Dump the dough blob out onto a floured surface.
- Now comes the work. Don't cheat!
- Knead the dough for 10 15 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. (Note- even though I have a dough hook on my mixer, I did this by hand. I presume it can be done on the dough hook as well, I just chose to use it as a work out). Add a sprinkle of flour if the dough is too sticky.
- Put the kneaded dough into a clean bowl, and cover with a dishcloth or plastic. Let rise 1 hour in a draft-free warm spot. It should double in size.
- When the dough has risen, dump it out of the bowl and onto the counter.
- Shape it a little flat, and add the raisins/cranberries.
- Fold the dough over the fruits, then knead them in to distribute.
- Cut the dough into 3 equal pieces (I actually weighed them out... )
- Roll the pieces into 16 inch strands.
- Lay them next to each other, squish them together at one end, then braid the length of the strand. Press the other end so they stay together, and tuck up under the end.
- Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper
- Place the braided loaf on the parchment paper, cover with a cloth, and let it rise for 20 minutes in a warm, draft-free space.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- When the dough has risen, check to see if any of the raisins/cranberries are sticking out. Poke them in a bit, or remove them if they are.
- Combine an Egg Yolk and 1 Tbl. Milk in a small bowl... really mix it until its not separate looking. Use a pastry brush, and brush the whole braid.
- Sprinkle with Hagel Zucker/Pearl Sugar or Sliced Almonds.
- Bake for 25 minutes, then check. If it's getting too brown at this point, lay a piece of foil over the loaf.
- Bake an additional 5 minutes.
- Cool on a rack
- Best served the same day, but you can wrap it tightly to store for another day.
Looking for More German Recipes?
Easy German Cookbook: 80 Classic Recipes Made SimpleEasy German Cookbook SIGNEDGermanGirl Shop
Use a SCALE to Measure Ingredients
One Kitchen tool I’ve come to depend on, especially when baking German Recipes, is my kitchen scale. Honestly, they aren’t expensive, and the results really are better. For example, this recipe uses 4 cups of flour… by weight this should be 500 grams. 500 grams NEVER changes, 4 cups is different every time you measure it out… depending on how the flour settles, and how moist the air is. It’s just more accurate when you use a scale.
Pohl Schmitt Mechanical/Digital Food Kitchen Scale – Multi-Transducer Scale for Greater Precision with Auto Shut-Off (Batt. Incl.), Black
Step By Step- Hefezopf Recipe
Mix the ingredients until the dough comes together… knead for 10 – 15 minutes
Place the kneaded dough in a mixing bowl, cover and let rise in a draft-free spot for an hour
Carefully knead in the Raisins/Cranberries
Divide dough into 3 equal portions … roll those pieces into 16 inch strands … then braid
Place the Braided Loaf on a parchment covered sheet-pan. Cover and let rise for 20 minutes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Brush the risen braid with a egg yolk/milk wash… then sprinkle with Hagel Zucker/Pearl Zucker or Sliced Almonds
Bake 25 minutes, then check if it’s getting too dark. Cover with foil if it is. Bake another 5 minutes (30 total)
Let the loaf finish cooling on a rack
Slice and serve
I do not believe you should mix the yeast with the flour. The yeast should pre.rise with the milk and a little bit of sugar. Otherwise the dough does not grow and become fluffy.
To the comment above: that is true for fresh yeast… but recipe uses dry yeast. I use the following trick to get milk butter and egg to the right temperature: melt the butter carefully, then take it of the flame and mix it with milk and egg directly from the fridge… perfect temperature…
This is the best bread I’ve made this summer, out of 10+ so far. Luscious crumb, lightly sweet…maybe it’s the Lesaffre yeast and I used milk powder with dry portion instead. Exactly like store bought, I’m in heaven!
Can I use a different type of flour, or just use regular flour.? Vielen dank.
I’ve only used unbleached all purpose flour. If you try something different, can you let me know?
I had to laugh when you mentioned you substituted cranberries for raisins. I did the same for the same reason. Unfortunately i forgot to turn off the AC and had to put the Zopf in the preheated oven to rise. However although it did rise nicely it fell after i turned the heat up to 200. My recipe said 200 for 10 minutes then down to 185celsius.
I live in Florida and constantly have problems because of the AC.
Next time I’ll use your recipe and i also didn’t chop the cranberries and by the time i realized that this was necessary it was too late.
Raisins are the worst.
I do wonder how the recipes work across the US… today it’s snowing in some states, some live at high elevation, we are in the low 80s at my house (no AC)
I guess we all adjust
Well I have tried this recipe with my kitchen aid and the dough hook. Bread came out dense and did not rise well. So I decided to experiment and try my bread maker and use the dough setting. Placed the wet ingredients first than the dry and butter. The knead came out perfectly and the rise was great. Utilized higher fat milk and butter. The bread once baked came out amazing. I have been trying for years to get close to my mother and fathers hefezopf. This recipe just about does it.