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Braided Swiss Bread: A Classic Recipe

Written by Natalie Hoch

Although I grew up in Westchester, New York, I was born in the small Swiss mountain town of Vevey during one of my family’s stops around the globe as part of my dad’s work for Nestle.

I was only 9 months old when we moved away, but Switzerland has stayed with us—particularly in the kitchen.

Our time in Vevey and the deep Swiss roots from my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins have defined our family to this day.

braided Swiss bread with honey butter
Photo: Casey Barber

We put candles on our Christmas tree and use old ski socks for fireplace stockings as Swiss holiday tradition dictates. I love to ski—most of the Swiss do too.

I have an impressively high threshold for large quantities of melted stinky cheese after growing up with deliciously gooey Swiss meals.

I adore good quality chocolate, from Nestle (of course) to Toblerone and Teuscher.

braided Swiss bread with honey butter
Photo: Casey Barber

And the Hoch family’s Swiss culinary specialties run the gamut from smooth raclette and fondue to creamy veal geschnetzeltes, from crisp potato roesti to spicy Christmas cookies, and oh so many hazelnuts!

Right now, the blustery cold wind whipping through Brooklyn makes me want warm, rich, eggy bread, the kind I remember my dad making by hand on Sunday mornings.

We always ate it warm for breakfast, with honey butter (room-temperature butter blended with equal parts honey), which is so damn good.

braided Swiss bread with honey butter
Photo: Casey Barber

But this Swiss bread could also accompany a hearty stew, some soft cheese and fig spread, or any charcuterie, really.

We call it Tresse, French for “braid.” But any way you slice it (hee), I promise you’ll love it.

Editor’s Note: This Swiss bread is similar to that of many egg breads found in many cultures around the world, from challah to brioche to the braided breads tucked with colorful eggs made in both Russian Orthodox and Italian Easter traditions.

Even if you don’t have this particular bread as part of your cultural history, you’ve likely enjoyed it somewhere along the line!

Braided Swiss Bread
Braided Swiss Bread

Braided Swiss Bread (Rich Egg Bread From Berne, AKA Berner oder Emmentaler Zopf)

Yield: 1 loaf
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Rising Time: 3 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours

Braided Swiss bread is similar to challah and has the same eggy, sweet texture and flavor. Serve with honey butter, fig jam, charcuterie, or cheese.

Ingredients

  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water (105-110 degrees F)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm milk (105-110 degrees F)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, gently stir the yeast into the lukewarm water and let it stand until the yeast "blooms," about 5 minutes. You'll see the surface of the liquid becoming slightly frothy and opaque.
  2. While the yeast is blooming, divide 2 of the eggs.
  3. Place 2 egg yolks + 1 whole egg in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Reserve 1 egg white in a separate bowl and discard the remaining egg white.

To knead by hand:

  1. Whisk the lukewarm milk, sugar, salt, and dissolved yeast mixture into the eggs until blended. 
  2. With a silicone spatula or dough whisk, gently mix in the flour until almost fully incorporated.
  3. Transfer the dough to a clean, floured workspace (or Roul'Pat) and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. 

To knead with a stand mixer:

  1. With the paddle attachment, stir the lukewarm milk, sugar, salt, and dissolved yeast mixture into the eggs until blended. 
  2. Add the flour a few spoonfuls at a time until a shaggy dough forms.
  3. Switch to the dough hook and beat on medium-low speed for 5 minutes.

Rise, braid, and bake:

  1. Lightly grease a large, clean bowl with vegetable oil and move the kneaded dough to the bowl, rolling gently to fully grease the dough on all sides. 
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm area until doubled in bulk, at least 2 hours.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
  4. Punch the dough down and cut into 3 equal pieces. 
  5. On a lightly floured workspace, roll each piece of dough with your hands into a 14-inch-long rope. Put the 3 ropes on the baking sheet and braid them as you would hair, pinching the ends and tucking them under to keep the braid intact.
  6. Brush the braid with the melted butter. Let the loaf rise once more until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. 
  7. While the dough is proofing, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 
  8. Whisk the reserved egg white with 1 tablespoon water. Brush the egg wash over the risen loaf. 
  9. Bake the loaf for 25 to 30 minutes, or until deeply golden brown.

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