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Swiss-Style Zopf Bread Loaf

A recipe from one of our Pizza Taste Testers, Samantha Gehrig, this Swiss-Style Zopf Bread Loaf is traditionally just called ‘zopf’ in Switzerland. A soft-textured bread that’s brushed with egg yolk before baking, it has a deep golden crust, and is prepared with a braided design – the size and shape of the braid is up to you!

Makes 2 loaves

5.3oz (150g) unsalted butter, cubed and room temperature
35.3oz (1kg) all purpose flour
2½ cups (590ml) whole milk, warmed
1½ tbsp active dry yeast
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 egg, beaten

In a small bowl, mix together the yeast, sugar and half a cup of the milk. Allow the mixture to rest for 10 minutes or until it has started to foam.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and butter. Once roughly incorporated, slowly add the remaining 2 cups of milk, and then the yeast-milk mixture.

Lightly flour your work surface and knead the dough by driving the base of your palm into the dough and flipping the dough over repeatedly. Knead for about 6-8 minutes, or until the dough is well combined and smooth.

Place the dough inside a large, clean bowl and cover with a warm, damp tea towel. Allow the dough to prove (rise) in a warm spot for 30 minutes, or until it is roughly doubled in size.

Remove the bread from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Knead by hand for a few more minutes before dividing into equal parts - this will depend on how many strands you want your braid to have. For a more simple braid, we’d recommend dividing the dough into 6 portions, in order to create two loaves using 3 strands of dough each.

Knead each section of dough again, pushing as much of the air out of the dough as possible – the dough should ultimately be quite dense. Roll out each section into tubes to use as strands for the braids, each 1-2 inches thick and equal in length.

To make the first loaf, place 3 strands side by side, and pinch the top of the strands together. Braid the strands together by taking the outermost strand on the left hand side and laying it across the central strand; repeat this step with the outermost strand on the right hand side. Keep repeating this until the braid is complete.

Take each end of the braid and wrap it into a crown, pinching the ends together so that they stick together in a circular shape. Traditionally, zopf is baked as a long loaf, however when cooking in your Ooni, the circle shape allows for a more even bake.

Repeat this process with the remaining 3 strands to form the second loaf.

Place the loaves on a floured surface, and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave to rise for 30 minutes, or until the loaves have roughly doubled in size again.

Fire up your Ooni pizza oven. Aim for 450˚F (230˚C) on the stone baking board inside. You can check the temperature inside your oven quickly and easily using the Ooni Infrared Thermometer.

Brush the beaten egg all over the surface of the loaves.

Extinguish the flame in your Ooni by closing off the chimney and all doors, or switching off your gas burner. If using wood or charcoal as your fuel, wait until any visible flames have gone out before proceeding. Place a small skillet of water inside the oven, at the very back of the oven – this will create a more moist environment for the bread to bake in.

Lightly flour your Ooni pizza peel and place the loaf on top. Launch the loaf into the oven and onto the stone baking board, and place the door onto the oven. After 5 minutes, or once the loaf starts to turn golden brown, rotate the loaf to ensure it’s cooked evenly on all sides. Place the door on again. After 5 minutes, or once a dark crust has formed, wrap the top of the loaf in aluminum foil, return to the oven and put the door on the oven.

Continue baking the loaf for a further 20 minutes, then check the bread temperature with a food thermometer – it should have reached 190-200ºF on the inside of the loaf.

If you do not have a food thermometer, there are two additional ways to check that the bread is cooked. Firstly, the crust should be dry, very firm, and a deep golden brown color. You will notice the braid strands pulling apart from each other as they expand. Another way to check the loaf is to remove it from the oven and turn it upside down, then give the bottom of the loaf a firm couple taps with your knuckles. The bread is done when it sounds hollow.

Remove the loaves from the oven and serve warm – this loaf is delicious sliced and topped with butter, jam or honey.

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