Laughing Lemon Recipes

Zopf: US Recipe Conversion Tips

by Silvia
November 23, 2008

Our recipe conversion tips for making a successful zopf in the U.S.

Since our original posting on How To Make Zopf appeared, we have received a number of conversion questions from our readers in the U.S. – and rightfully so!

There are always a number of issues to consider, which can affect the outcome of most recipes. Different measurement standards (U.S. system of weights vs. British system vs. metric system), temperatures (C vs. F), and ingredients are the major factors to think about when reviewing a recipe.

Measurement and temperature conversions are easy enough to find or calculate, but the ingredients often require some special considerations. This is also true with our original zopf recipe as we discovered last year while attempting to make a fresh zopf in the U.S.

Here’s how we converted the recipe and produced a successful and tasty version of zopf:   read more

Suuser Festivals

by Silvia
October 6, 2008

red grapes

Suuser festivals celebrate the first product from this year’s grape harvest!

Suuser is partially fermented grape juice, and it is the first chance to grab a taste of this year’s harvest.

Suuser – or also referred to as sauser – is fruity and sweet, with a refreshing acidity and appealing fizz. It is mostly foggy in appearance, but don’t let that put you off. The cloudy look is simply the result of the juice not being filtered before its bottled.

The best suuser is sold unpasteurized, which means the juice is still in active fermentation mode. This explains why the bottles are merely covered and not completely closed. During the fermentation process, yeasts produce carbon dioxide gases, which must somehow escape the confines of a bottle. If the bottle was completely closed, then the pressure from the mounting gasses would eventually cause a rather devastating explosion. Needless to say, it is best to use a bit of caution when keeping your suuser in the refrigerator – make sure to keep the top loosely covered!

The first suuser makes its way to Switzerland from Italy, where the grapes are harvested earlier than Switzerland. The Italian suuser are made from red grapes, and they are only available for about one month. The alcohol level seldom goes over the 2% level. It is a very light and fruity drink…and a great way to get rid of some of the world’s annual surplus of wine.

The traditional October suuser season is quite a tradition in Eastern Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Each country produces and sells their own variety of sauser (called Federweisser in Germany and Sturm in Austria), which usually involve some sort of festival. read more

How To Roast and Candy Nuts

by Jack McNulty
September 21, 2008

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Candied Nuts Offer Wonderful Contrasts To Many Fall Dishes…And Great Snacks Too!

Nuts are distinctive and appealing.  They are slightly sweet, slightly fatty and slightly bitter.  All attractive qualities to the cook interested in balancing textures and tastes.

But nuts can be much, much more.

Gently roasting nuts can coax hidden aromas to emerge, transforming them into rich tasting morsels. Taking it a step further and putting a layer of caramelized sugar on them will emphasize the nut’s natural sweetness and create wonderful contrasts between sweet and savory.

Roasted and candied nuts are perfect during the fall months. They can be added to salads, tossed about with game dishes – especially if a fruit sauce is involved, pulverized and mixed together with a little flour and butter to create an interesting pie shell, coated in chocolate or simply enjoyed alone as a snack.

But difficulties await the uninitiated! read more

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Mountain Cranberry Relish

by Jack McNulty
September 14, 2008

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Fresh Mountain Cranberries Make Fantastic Preserves, Chutneys, Compotes, Sauces and Pies

One of the real special treats this time of year has to be the arrival of fresh Mountain Cranberries (Preiselbeeren). You have to be quick and persistent to find these seasonal treats as they are only available for about 2-3 weeks each year and only with a few vendors at fresh food markets – but your efforts will be rewarded.

Fresh mountain cranberries make fantastic preserves, chutneys, compotes, sauces and pies. They are a core autumn ingredient throughout central and northern Europe, often paired with a variety of game dishes.

As its name suggests, the mountain cranberry is closely related to the large American cranberry. Both fruits are extensions of the Ericaceae family tree, which also bring us the blueberry. Most of these fruits are quite tart and have high concentrations of vitamin C, dietary fiber and high levels of antioxidants.  read more

Wine Tasting on Lake Zuerich

by Silvia
September 7, 2008

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Weinpavillon 2008 in Obermeilen on the 13th and 14th of September 2008

The term terroir is frequently brought up within the world of wine, and talked about as if it were the great mysterious secret in defining wine. Everyone uses the term a bit differently, which only feeds its aura. You’ve probably heard it before when listening to wine experts explaining the subtle characteristics of a particular wine, ‘oh yes, the terroir of this vineyard has left a lasting mineral note laced with slate and chalky soil underneath the layers of complex fruit hidden between fine floral notes with just the right touch of French oak.’

Yes, terroir is a great term to use when you want to impress wine drinkers with less knowledge, and this little show is often fully displayed during public wine tastings.

So what does all this have to do with the upcoming Lake Zürich wine tasting?  read more

Graubuenden Wine Trail

by Silvia
August 16, 2008

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Yes, it is possible to go for a long hike in Switzerland without feeling like a mountain-climbing ibex. In fact, you can even enjoy a few glasses of excellent wine along the way.

The Graubünden wine trail follows the Rhine valley from Chur to Fläsch. The well-marked trail guides you through the busy wine region (and the heart of Heidiland), moving from one small village to another while passing in front of spectacular rock walls and many of the region’s innovative wineries. You can begin anywhere you like and decide for yourself which villages to visit. Switzerland’s superb public transportation system will assure that you will never be far away from a bus or train station…so you can confidently enjoy a good sampling of wine without worrying about driving.

The vineyards of the Rhine valley make up the majority of the Canton’s viticulture surface. The heart of the wine-producing area forms the area known as the ‘Herrschaft,’ which includes the villages of Fläsch, Maienfeld, Jenins and Malans. Further to the south, the villages of Zizers, Trimmis and Chur make up the remaining portion of Rhine valley wine area.  read more

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Rosemary and Fruit

by Jack McNulty
July 30, 2008

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Quick…what’s the first thing that springs to mind when thinking of rosemary?

Ok, maybe the title and picture influenced your answer, but I am guessing most people did not quickly associate fruits with rosemary.

Rosemary is by its nature quite assertive. Its sweet pine-like fragrance can enhance a variety of full-flavored dishes – usually those involving meat or strong-tasting vegetables. It naturally mixes well with smoky grill flavors, in chicken or eggplant stews or in a variety of roasted dishes – particularly in its classical pairing with lamb.

Rosemary is also an herb that works well in baking. The well-known Ligurian focaccia bathed in fruity olive oil and perfumed with onions and rosemary is simply delicious. Lesser known, but equally delectable, are rosemary-flavored buttermilk biscuits or baked polenta gnocchi with chopped rosemary butter drizzled over the top.

But rosemary and fruit?

That is usually the response I get from the unsuspecting when I introduce one of my favorite late summer or early fall dishes: rosemary-scented apples.   read more

First of May Winery Visits

by Silvia
April 20, 2008

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If you find yourself in the region around Zürich on the first of May and would like to try something new, then consider visiting a local winery.  For one day, over 130 wineries in the Cantons of Aargau, Schaffhausen, Thurgau, Zürich…and new this year…St. Gallen and Schwyz around the Zürich Lake, will open their doors and invite visitors to taste wines and have a walk around the winery.  Most of these wineries will offer a selection of food…usually involving a grill…to be enjoyed with a glass or two of their locally produced wine.  In some cases, local farmers will even offer a taste of some locally raised beef.  Wine visits and tastings are always free, although some of the wineries will charge a nominal fee for the food.  Tastings and visits run from 11:00 am until 6:00 pm, and many of the wineries will be happy to sell their wines directly.  This increasingly popular event is a great opportunity to discover some wines which are rarely available in many wine shops.

Here are a few ideas to consider in planning your day…

1. Visit your favorite winery and fill up your private cellar.
2. Select a small wine region and walk or drive from winery to winery to learn more about the region’s wines.
3. Pick a grape variety and visit several wineries in several regions to get to know the differences.
4. Combine a wine tour with a hike.  There are very nice hikes to consider around Eglisau, Hallau and Oberhallau in Canton Schaffhausen, between Stäfa and Männedorf near the lake of Zürich, and the wine region north of Frauenfeld.

You can find out more about this event and get listings of all participating wineries by visiting the official website.

You can find out more about Swiss wine and their grape varieties in the Laughing Lemon web site

How to Make Zopf…

by Jack McNulty
April 5, 2008
How to Make Zopf…

Let me start by saying, I am a border-line zopf addict.

I’m not referring to the zopf everyone can regularly buy in most store locations throughout the German-speaking parts of Switzerland, although freshly baked store-bought zopf is not bad. No, I’m referring to the real thing.

I crave that taste of real butter and full fat milk in genuine zopf. I marvel at the light and airy texture. I become utterly intoxicated whenever the aromas gently waft out of the kitchen. I drift with those aromas and begin to visualize soaking up the last bits of olive oil infused with tomatoes and mozzarella, or slathering marmalade on lightly toasted zopf…

Oops…sorry about that divergence. I suppose I should write a bit about zopf and how it’s made.

Classic zopf is a bread braided in a very specific manner to give it a unique shape (the word zopf actually means braid). It is a simple bread enriched with high proportions of milk and butter, which played an important historical role. Zopf was traditionally made on Friday and consumed on Sunday. To prevent the bread from becoming stale large amounts of fat were incorporated into an otherwise basic bread dough, and voila…a bread that stayed fresh for several days.

Zopf is not uniquely Swiss, although the tradition has survived since the mid-fifteenth century. The origin of the bread is a bit hazy, but it is not too difficult to imagine that zopf came from the widely-known Jewish Challah bread (or Hallah), which is virtually identical in its make-up but often braided differently. Challah bread was known throughout Austria and Southern Germany shortly before zopf emerged in Switzerland. The Jewish tradition of making and consuming the bread was also quite similar to the Swiss custom. The dough was formed on Thursday evening, baked on Friday morning and usually consumed Saturday night or Sunday morning.

The shape of the bread is filled with symbolism. Some say the braid represents intertwining arms and symbolize love. Others have a more biblical reference, saying the twelve humps from the braid represent the twelve original tribes of Israel. According to Swiss lore, some believe the shape grew out of the old custom of widows cutting off their braid to bury with their husband.  Over time, the braid was replaced with a fresh loaf of zopf.

Today’s zopf is mostly mass-produced and made without the use of butter or fresh milk. Instead, most commercial zopf is made with milk solids, aroma and plenty of hydrogenated fat (not exactly our idea of a fresh alternative).  But as it turns out, making your own zopf at home is not too difficult.

Have a look at our video to see how it’s done…

Our Zopf Recipe…

1 kg. Zopfmehl
1 Tbl. sea salt
1 Tbl. sugar
6 dl. milk
150 gr. butter, melted
30 gr. fresh yeast
one egg yolk mixed with 2 spoons of milk

yield: 4 loaves weighing about 400 grams each, or 2 loaves weighing in at about 800 grams each

Before you try making your own zopf, we think it is a good idea to understand the importance of each component and why we are careful in choosing specific ingredients.

The Flour: Zopf is traditionally made with a special type of flour called Zopfmehl. It is readily available throughout Switzerland. This type of flour is mostly a mixture of all-purpose white flour and white spelt (gr. Dinkel). It is especially well-suited for fat-filled doughs, because the increased amounts of protein from the spelt will improve the dough’s elasticity and help hold the shape while keeping a soft texture. If you do not have access to zopfmehl, then try making your own mixture by combining about 15% bread flour with 85% all-purpose flour.

The Fresh Yeast: We use fresh compressed yeast in our zopf recipe. Dry yeast can be substituted by using 40% of the fresh yeast’s weight (I’ll do the math for you…that would be 12 grams of dry active yeast in place of 30 grams fresh yeast). You will need a bit more time to develop the sponge if you are using dry yeast.

The Milk: We like using full fat milk in our bread recipe, which contributes to the texture, flavor, crust color, and keeping qualities. Using low fat or non-fat milk will produce lighter colored breads, which are slightly more dense.

The Butter: Butter is about 80% fat, which is very important for a good zopf. Fats tenderize and soften the texture of a dough, while adding flavor, richness and keeping qualities. We prefer using unsalted butter in our recipe, because it has a fresher and sweeter flavor when compared to salted butter. If you want to use salted butter, then make sure to reduce the amount of salt you use in the recipe. We don’t recommend the use of margarine or other types of shortening to produce zopf…we just think these fats defeat the purpose of making your own zopf.

The Salt & Sugar: Salt plays a very important role in baking. It is more than just a seasoning or flavor enhancer…it also strengthens the structure of the dough and improves the texture of the bread. Salt will also inhibit yeast activity, so never add salt directly to the liquid in which the yeast is softened. The addition of sugar will add sweetness and flavor to the dough, as well as creating a soft texture. Sugar helps yeast to ferment and retains moisture in the finished bread.

Ok, let’s get started…

Steps in Making Your Own Zopf

The first step is to create a sponge (the common term used by bakers). This step is important because it gives the yeast a head start…and it allows you to check to see if the yeast is in fact alive and well. Place the yeast in a small bowl and break it up a bit with your fingers. Add the sugar to the yeast, then add about 1 dl. of the warmed milk and mix slightly (make sure the milk is not over 40° C or you will kill the yeast). Place the flour into a large bowl and sprinkle the salt around the edges. Form a well in the middle, then add the sponge mixture, making sure to blend in a small amount of flour with the sponge. Let the mixture sit for about 10-15 minutes in a warm location to allow the sponge to develop. You will notice bubbles forming as the fermentation process gets going, and the sponge looks like…well…a sponge. You are now ready to begin mixing and kneading the dough.

Melt the butter and add it to the remaining milk (remember…keep the milk mixture warm, but not over 40° C). Mix the dough well in the bowl, then place it onto a clean work surface and begin kneading. You should knead the dough for about 10-12 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, soft and slightly moist to the touch. Place the kneaded dough in a clean bowl, lightly coat the top of the dough with oil, then cover with a clean towel and allow the dough to rise for about one hour in a warm location. The fermentation process is complete when the dough has doubled in volume. A dent will remain or fill very slowly after you press lightly into the top of the dough. If the dough springs back, fermentation is not complete. Once the fermentation process is complete, you are ready to begin rolling and braiding the bread.

Begin by splitting the dough into four equal parts if you want to make two larger breads or alternatively, split the dough into eight equal parts if you would prefer making four smaller loaves. One loaf requires two equal parts, so we will begin there.

Roll two of your portions into a long log shape (the video demonstrates an effective and simple method to rolling out the dough…even though most professional bakers would…hmm…mock our simplified approach). You are now ready to braid the bread.

Braiding is often the most difficult part of learning how to make zopf, but once you get the hang of it…well, it’s actually not that difficult. Place the logs in a wide ‘X’ shape in front of you. Pick-up the furthest end of the bottom log and bring it towards you, placing it between the bottom portion of the ‘X’ shape. Place the other end of the same log over the top to form a new ‘X’ shape. Next, pick-up the furthest end of the second log and again bring it towards you, placing it in the middle of the bottom portion of the ‘X’ shape as before. Place the other end of the same log over the top, and continue with this same process until the braid is completed. When you get to the bottom, just gather the loose ends together and tuck them under the braid. When you’ve finished one bread…well, go ahead and make the remaining breads. Simple…right?

Allow the braided zopf to rest for about 30 minutes. Make sure to keep the bread covered with a clean towel during the resting period. Meanwhile, go ahead and prepare the egg wash, which can be prepared in a number of ways. You can simply use one whole egg, or combine an egg with a bit of milk or sugar. Our preference is to use an egg yolk mixed with two spoons of milk, which we think produces a nice dark crust.

Bake the bread on a baking tray lined with parchment paper in a pre-heated 200° C oven (if you are using a convection oven, then reduce the heat to 180° C). Allow about 45-50 minutes for larger loaves and about 35-40 minutes for smaller loaves. Cool completely on a rack before slicing…if you can wait that long!

Tip: Zopf freezes very well…but, there is a trick. Don’t bake the bread entirely, but rather remove it from the oven after 20 minutes of baking and cool the bread completely. Place the half-baked zopf in a plastic freezer bag, seal tightly and freeze. To finish baking, simply place the frozen zopf directly in a cold oven, turn the temperature to 200° C and bake for exactly 20 minutes. Cool slightly before slicing and enjoy! You can keep frozen zopf in the freezer for up to six months.

än guete…

Austrian and Swiss Wine Tasting Event

by Silvia
March 19, 2008

It seems Austria and Switzerland are sharing quite a lot this year.  On Sunday and Monday, the 30th and 31st of March, there will be a great opportunity to taste some of the finest Austrian and Swiss wines at the Kongresshaus in Zürich.  The tasting is open both days from 1pm until 7pm.  Registration is free, but you have to fill out a form first and send it in to gain entrance.

This large Austrian wine tasting event takes place each year in Zürich, but this year there is the added bonus of tasting some of Switzerland’s premier wines from producers which are not easily found…but definitely worth trying.

We recommend adopting one of the following four strategies to optimize your time and experience: read more