Zopf (Swiss Bread)

Zopf Bread - Brownie Box
There is something very therapeutic about baking bread, all the mixing and kneading gets me in a good mood. I was intimidated at first from the idea of making bread from scratch because most of us are used to the store bought ones. But you’ll be surprised at how easy it is! I even took pictures of every step to facilitate the process of explaining this recipe.

Zopf is a rich and flavorful bread that is excellent with butter, jam, or cheese. Its name literally means “braid” in German. It is also ideal for sandwiches because it doesn’t contain sugar and it’s very soft and light.

1

The first thing you need to do is sift the flour onto a working surface, make a well in the center, and add the yeast, soured cream, milk, egg, butter, and salt.

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Little by little, work the dough into a ball and start kneading.

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When I’m too lazy I use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook to knead the dough for 20 minutes (Remember the more you knead the dough, the more the gluten will develop, and the softer the bread!)

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Wait an hour for the dough to rise.

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Divide the dough into three equal parts, then shape into thick ropes.

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Braid the ropes, pressing together the ends.

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Using the same plastic wrap that was used earlier, grease it with olive oil and cover the dough (to prevent the dough from drying)

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Bake for 40 minutes, and you’re done!

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I’m going to talk about the ingredients that are used in this recipe and explain their role in making the perfect Swiss Bread:

  • Yeast is an essential ingredient in bread making and there are two types you can choose from: fresh yeast (a firm, moist block stored in the refrigerator), or dry yeast (small granules– sold in packets). Once the yeast comes into contact with flour, the billions of microorganisms begin to nourish themselves from the sugar of the starch molecules. So they multiply and produce carbon dioxide which gives a fluffy texture to the bread. That’s why raising the dough is one of the most delicate phases in the preparation of bread, and it should be placed in a controlled warm environment (you can use your oven).
  • Olive Oil prevents the dough from drying and forming a crust
  • Salt is crucial to the flavor of bread. It shouldn’t come in contact with the yeast during the initial phase of mixing because it compromises the rising. You can make a small well for the salt in the outside portion of the mound of flour and add it at the last minute.
  • Herbs, Oats, or Dried Fruits give a great aroma and taste. You can add them to the dough before it is left to rise or after the first rising

Did you ever try baking your own bread? I’d love to hear your thoughts or comments!

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Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 2 hours for rising. Baking time: 40 minutes.

Ingredients: (adapted from Classic Breads)
Juice of Half a Lemon
2/3 cups (150 ml, 5 oz) cream, lukewarm
5 cups (600g) all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp (30g) fresh yeast or 3 1/3 tsp (10g) dry yeast
2/3 cups (150ml, 5 oz) milk, lukewarm
1 large egg, room temperature
7 + 3/4 Tbsp (110g) softened butter, cut in small pieces
2 tsp (12g) salt
Extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice with the cream and let sit for 5 minutes. (The mixture will thicken)
2. In the meantime, sift the flour onto the work surface, make a well in the center, and add the crumbled yeast.
3. Steadily pour the milk and the soured cream mixture into the center of the well and mix with your fingertips to dissolve the yeast.
4. Add the egg, the softened butter, and the salt (pour the salt outside of the well- explanation above).
5. Mix and then knead for 20 minutes (you can also use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook)
6. Place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour in the oven. The dough will double in size.
7. Transfer the dough to the work surface and, without kneading it, shape into a ball and then divide it into three parts of equal weight.
8. Shape into thick ropes.
9. Lightly flour the work surface and lay the ropes out in front of you lengthwise.
10. Join them at one end and then braid. Finish by pressing together the three ends.
11. Place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap greased with oil and let rise for 50 minutes.
12. Brush with the beaten egg. You can enrich the bread by patting on oat flakes, sesame seeds or poppy seeds.
13. Bake in an oven preheated to 355F (180C) for 40 minutes.

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Moist Orange and Lemon Syrup Cupcakes

orange and lemon syrup cupcakes_4

This is my favorite Orange and Lemon Syrup Cupcake recipe. It’s light, fluffy, incredibly moist, and bursting with citrus taste. It’s not topped with frosting, so it’s very light and not too sweet. The zest is a very important ingredient because it gives a wonderful flavor: using a grater, just scrape the outer colored skin of the orange and lemon (don’t grate the white part because it has a bitter taste).

orange and lemon syrup cupcakes_1

It is a very easy recipe, it took me less than an hour to do these cupcakes. Seriously, you just need to mix all the ingredients together, fill the cupcake liners with the mixture, then make simple syrup for the baked cupcakes. So if you’re too lazy to work in the kitchen or simply don’t have time to whip up something yummy and homemade, this is the perfect recipe.

orange and lemon syrup cupcakes_3

I was really surprised at how moist and fluffy they are. At first I was skeptical about pouring a lot of syrup on the cupcakes because I was afraid that they will turn out too sweet. But it actually enhanced the orange lemon flavor and gave the cakes a super tender and light texture.

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Bon Appetit 🙂

Ingredients: (adapted from the book Cupcakes, a fine selection of sweet treats)
125 g (4 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, chilled and chopped
230 g (8 1/2 oz , 1 cup) caster sugar, superfine
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (1 big lemon)
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest (1 big orange)
3 large eggs, room temperature
125 ml (4 fl oz, 1/2 cup) milk
185 g (6 1/2 oz, 1+1/2 cups) self-raising flour, sifted (or check this substitute)

Lemon Syrup
100 ml (a little less than 1/2 cup) water
115 g (4 1/4 oz, 1/2 cup) caster sugar, superfine
Zest of 1 lemon, thinly sliced (or grated)
Zest of 1 orange, thinly sliced (or grated)

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F / Gas 4)
2. Line 18 muffin holes with paper cases.
3. Place the butter, sugar, and lemon and orange zests in a saucepan
4. Stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved
5. Transfer to a large bowl
6. Add the eggs, milk and flour and beat with electric beaters until just combined (I used a wooden spoon instead)
7. Divide the mixture evenly among the case.
8. Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake
9. Transfer onto a wire rack to cool
10. To make the lemon syrup, place the water and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved
11. Add the lemon and orange zests, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionnally or until golden and syrupy.
12. Strain the syrup, pour over a little of the syrup on each cake (You can also decorate with some reserved strips of zest).

Strawberries and Cream Sponge Cake

strawberry cream cake 5
My sister turned 25 this past weekend and she came all the way from Switzerland to celebrate her birthday with friends and family. And what was I supposed to do the day before her birthday? Oh yes. Bake my first layered cake. Did you think that I was going to let my mother buy a cake from a patisserie?

I always bake vanilla or chocolate cakes for birthdays, so I decided to try something completely new. I found this gorgeous Strawberry Shortcake recipe at The Candid Appetite. I must admit, I really enjoyed looking (gawking) at the step-by-step pictures. They were really helpful in understanding the process of whipping up the cake batter, baking it into two separate pans, making the syrup, then perfectly assembling the cake with whipped cream and strawberries. I read the whole post twice and I thought– hey this is easy, the cake will be done in no time! Well it was not that drama free. It took me about 4 hours to finish everything, but then again it is my first time baking a layered cake that I’ve never tested before– for a birthday party. I only had this one chance to make it perfect. You see, I don’t have all the equipments: just one mixing bowl, and one 23 cm (9 inch) cake pan. So I had to clean the mixing bowl about 3 times and bake the cake batter in two separate batches…  It’s definitely easier to have all the baking equipments and your ingredients ready before starting.

The sponge cakes required beating the egg whites until stiff peaks form then folding them into a sugar/egg yolk mixture. I’m so happy that they came out beautifully on my first try! Next, I had to evenly brush the Rum Syrup on the baked cakes. It might seem like a lot of syrup at first, but it really gives the cake a great flavor, so don’t skip this step! For the whipped cream, I put my metal whisk in the freezer for 15 minutes to make sure that the cold cream will whip up perfectly. Then I swathed the sponge cakes with dollops of whipped cream and slices of deep red strawberries. I finished it all off with more strawberries at the top (you can also add sliced almonds on the sides of the cake). Yum. It’s a really light and slightly sweet cake, perfect for the spring season!

strawberry cream cake 3

No birthday should pass without a fine bottle of champagne (Not bad huh?).
I thought it would be nice to share with you all a few pictures of the cake.

strawberry cream cake 1.jpg

Ingredients: (adapted from The Candid Appetite)

Sponge Cakes (yields two 23 cm-9 inch cakes)

  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
  • 1 cup (200 gr) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) water, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (140 gr) cake flour, sifted (I used a substitute here)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • About 4 cups (600 gr) of fresh strawberries, rinsed and sliced (reserve 8 whole berries for the top)
  • 2 cups (90 gr) sliced almonds for decoration (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven at 160 degrees Celsius (325 F)
  2. Separate the eggs into two mixing bowls.
  3. Start by beating the egg yolks until very thick and lemon colored.
  4. Beat in sugar gradually.
  5. Add water and vanilla extract.
  6. Mix in the sifted cake flour/ or its substitute (above)
  7. In another bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Then add salt. Beat mixture until whites form stiff peaks.
  8. Fold the whipped egg whites mixture into yolk mixture, carefully, so as to not deflate the egg whites. Do not over-mix.
  9. Pour the batter into two 23 cm / 9 inch pans lined with parchment paper.
  10. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  11. Allow the cakes to cool on a cooling rack, then invert the cakes.
  12. Place one of the layers on a serving plate or stand. Brush on the Rum Syrup (recipe follows) evenly and heavily onto the first layer. Dollop with a spoonful of the whipped cream (recipe follows) and spread evenly over the cake layer. Arrange the strawberry slices over the cream. Top with another spoonful of cream and spread once again.
  13. Top with the second layer of sponge cake, and brush with more of the Rum Syrup. Place a large dollop of the whipped cream. Spread out evenly over the top. Using an offset spatula cover the cake completely with the whipped cream. Smooth it out, removing any excess cream.
  14. Cover the sides of the cake with the sliced almonds. Arrange reserved strawberries at top of cake. Store in the fridge.

Rum Syrup (yields 1 cup)

  • 1 cup water (250 ml)
  • 1 cup sugar (200 gr)
  • 1/4 cup rum (60 ml)
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and the water over medium-high heat.
  2. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture reaches a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes more.
  4. Remove pan from heat, and stir in rum.
  5. Let cool to room temperature. Once it has cooled completely, the syrup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Whipped Cream (yields 3 cups)

  • 3 cups (750 ml) very cold heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup (80 gr) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a large mixing bowl, pour the heavy cream and mix on low-medium speed for several minutes.
  2. Once the cream has frothed and slightly thickened, add the sugar and vanilla.
  3. Continue to whip on medium-high until soft peaks form. Don’t over mix or the cream will turn buttery.

Chocolate Cookies Stuffed with Nutella

Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Cookies | Bronie Box11
I grew up in a very health conscious household and I always preferred healthy food over junk food or packaged snacks. It’s no wonder why I never tasted Nutella during my childhood. I bought a Nutella jar the other day, but I wasn’t going to eat the whole jar all by myself! So I decided to bake these cookies.
Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Cookies | Bronie Box13
First I looked up the history of this yummy chocolate spread (typical me). It was first manufactured in 1946 by Pietro Ferrero in Italy, under the name “Pasta Gianduja”, but it wasn’t until 1963 that “Nutella” was introduced to the market. It is so popular today to the point that the number of jars sold annually (if lined up) would wrap around the moon four times! … Impressive huh?!
Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Cookies | Bronie Box10
The cookies turned out delicious, especially when they are warm and oozing with pure Nutella filling. It’s the texture that truly won me over: slightly crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.
Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Cookies | Bronie Box4
Don’t these look ridiculously irresistible?
Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Cookies | Bronie Box6
Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Cookies | Bronie Box8

Assembling the cookies take more time than making the dough itself. I also found it much easier to show you a step-by-step tutorial on how to stuff the dough with Nutella:
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First, roll out a teaspoon of dough into a ball.

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Then form an indentation with your index finger

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Spoon Nutella on the dough – as much as it can hold 😉

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Take another teaspoon of dough and flatten it with the palm of your hands to seal the cookie. Then bake for 10 minutes! These rich cookies should be soft when you take them out of the oven. They will firm up as they cool, so be careful not to over-bake them.

Did you try baking these? Do you have another favorite recipe for Nutella cookies? I’d love to hear your comments!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (110g) butter
1+1/2 cups (350g) packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (55g) cocoa powder, sifted
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups (260g) all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup Nutella (more or less)

Directions:
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Melt the butter in a saucepan then take off the heat (you could microwave the butter instead).
3. Stir in the brown sugar, cocoa powder, eggs and salt until well combined.
4. Add the baking soda and flour and stir until just combined.
5. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes at least (it becomes easier to work with)
6. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 F)
7. Roll 1 teaspoon of dough into a ball, use your finger make an indentation in the center.
8. Fill the indentation with Nutella (approx. 1/2 tsp), top with a flattened teaspoon of dough, and pinch the edges.
9. Bake for 10 minutes. (Do not over-bake, the cookies will firm up as they cool). Let cool for 2 minutes on baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack.

Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Cookies | Bronie Box1