An Austrian-style brioche Zopf (braid) flavored with lemon and vanilla, so impressive-looking but so easy!
A few weeks ago I participated in a baking day with the Austro-American Society. The AAS invited all TAs to become members without paying the membership fee, which is a great way to get to know more about Austrian culture. Basically about 15 of us got together an baked lots of things, mostly Austrian specialties. I picked up a lot of new recipes for my collection, and the theme was “yeast doughs,” which fit perfectly with my personal goal for the year of not being afraid of yeast. I helped make several different strudels and this brioche, which I’m sharing with you today. But before we get to the recipe, I thought you all might like to learn a bit about Austrian baked goods.
Oh, but first, I took this picture of the sticky buns some of the participants made and wanted to share it. These were made with stroop, a Dutch sugar syrup that is sort of like caramel.
Now, moving on to Austrian things. Let’s start with the very typical Apfelstrudel (apple strudel). This actually wasn’t on the menu and was a last-minute addition. Apfelstrudel is not made from a yeast dough. Rather, the dough is thin and phyllo-like, and made from flour, oil, water, vinegar, and salt. It’s mixed like pasta dough–that is, the flour is poured onto the counter and then a well is made, and the wet ingredients go into the well. Once mixed, it sits for about half an hour and then is rolled and pulled into a very thin, large sheet. This is done on top of a clean tablecloth, and the dough needs to be thin enough for the tablecloth pattern to be visible. The filling (chopped apples mixed with spices) is then placed at one end and using the tablecloth the strudel is rolled and shaped. When baked, the dough gets that signature flakiness and crispiness for which strudel is known.
I bet you didn’t know that the beloved Apfelstrudel is only one of many types of strudel. We also made Mohnstrudel (poppyseed strudel) and Nussstrudel (nut strudel). These strudels are brioche-like doughs with a swirly filling. The Nussstrudel was really good and sometime I’ll make it again and share it here.
We also had a Kärtner Reindling, a typical south-Austrian Easter bread filled with nuts, raisins, and cinnamon. The dough is rolled out then the filling spread over and it’s rolled up again. Then the whole roll gets rolled sort of the other way–coiled to make a circular loaf.
And this brioche. The recipe is from a woman named Uli who was in charge of the strudels. She actually brought the dough already mixed and risen to save time, but when people began asking questions about how to make the dough she decided to go ahead and make a new batch. When I said the Nuss- and Mohnstrudel doughs were similar to brioche, I should’ve actually said they are brioche. Austrian brioche, at least, which I think is usually softer than French brioche and is always braided (Zopf is braid in German). If you double the recipe you get one massive loaf, but I’ve taken the original down to a more manageable size. It’s light, slightly lemony, also slightly vanilla-y, and is fantastic warm spread with your favorite jam.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 0.85 oz fresh yeast cake ** I know this is a really weird measurement, but it’s 24 grams
- 3.5 oz milk (this is just under 1/2 a cup)
- 4 T butter
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- zest of 1/2 a lemon
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 2 egg yolks
- pinch salt
- egg white wash (white of one egg, beaten with a pinch of salt)
In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the milk, butter, and sugar. You don’t want it to get hot, so once the butter is half melted, remove it from the stove and let the residual heat continue the melting process. In the end you want the butter to be melted and the sugar dissolved, but the mixture shouldn’t be much warmer than room temperature.
In a large bowl, crumble the yeast cake into the flour, and add the lemon zest.
Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, along with egg yolks, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt. Stir until everything is combined and knead in the bowl for about a minute, or use dough hooks and a mixer. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 40 minutes.
Punch down the dough and shape your loaf. I did a 4-strand braid. Check here for some suggestions on braiding loaves of bread. Cover and let rise for another 30 minutes. While it’s on the second rise, preheat your oven to 350ºF.
Brush with egg white wash and bake for about 30-35 minutes. You may want to cover with an aluminum foil tent after 20 minutes.