“The true spiritual home of the teapot is surely in a softly-lighted room between a deep armchair and a sofa, two cups only, awaiting their fragrant infusion, whilst the clock points nearer to six than five, and a wood fire flickers sympathetically on the hearth.” (from ‘Tea-Time and Some Cakes’ in Kitchen Essays by Dame Agnes Jekyll, first published in 1922, republished in 2008)
The Christmas season is a time of much busy-ness, planning and high celebration. In the midst of so much festivity, an evening hour of pleasant talk and quiet enjoyment over cups of tea before the fire, is not only restful, but restorative. Here is an Occasional Menu involving nothing more elaborate than a quick bread, a loaf of braided bread and something to put on them. Yet, all three loaves are worthy of the season and a quiet celebration of being together.
The essential components of this Occasional Tea-Time Menu for Two are a loaf of bread, a pot of tea and a “Thou” with whom to share them. Bake bread, arrange the tea table, light the fire, and sit down beside it with someone you love…And may you enjoy, in whatever small corner of the great wide world that is home, the blessing of peace. Merry Christmas and God bless us everyone.
Zopf (Züpfe) ~ for one large loaf
Note: To print this recipe, or any other diplomatickitchen recipe, go to the bottom of the page, at the end of the post, and click on the icon: Print & PDF. You will have the option of printing in smaller text size and without photos.
- 1 Tablespoon of Instant-Dry Yeast
- 1/4 cup plus 1 cup of Warm Milk
- 4 cups of Unbleached White Flour
- 2 teaspoons of Salt
- 6 Tablespoons of Softened Butter
- 1 Egg, beaten, for the dough
- 1 Egg, beaten, for the glaze
- a small Bowl in which to dissolve and proof the yeast
- 2 large Mixing Bowls: one for mixing the dough and another in which to let it rise. One of these may be the bowl of the mixer if you mix the dough in it with a paddle attachment
- Optional: The dough may be mixed using a Mixer with a Paddle Attachment
- a Pastry Board and Rolling Pin
- a Parchment-lined Baking Sheet
- a Pastry Brush may be used for glazing the loaf, or you might prefer to spread the glaze over the loaf with your fingers
I. Making the Dough:
1. Heat the milk to the point where it feels quite warm but not hot. Put 1/4 cup of it into a small bowl, add the yeast and dissolve it. Let it stand until it it foams.
2. Pour the flour and salt into the bowl of the mixer or the mixing bowl. Mix them together well. Form a well in the center and pour in the proofed yeast mixture and the rest of the milk.
3. Begin mixing the flour, yeast, and milk in the mixer using the paddle attachment or by hand with a wooden spoon. Add the butter and 1 of the beaten eggs. Continue mixing in the mixer until the mixture leaves the sides of the bowl cleanly and forms a soft, elastic dough. (If mixing by hand, once all the ingredients have been combined together in the mixing bowl, turn the mixture out onto the pastry board and knead it until it forms a soft, elastic dough.) In either case the finished dough will look like this:
4. Put the dough in a floured, dry bowl, cover it and let it rise until it has doubled in size:
II. Braiding and Baking the Loaf:
1. Divide the dough into two equal amounts. On the pastry board, roll out one of them into a rectangular shape about 18 – 20 inches wide. (The measurements are approximate. Long ropes are easier to braid than short ones.) Then roll it into a tight rope. Roll the rope between the palms of your hands to a length of about 24-inches long:
2. Form a second rope out of the second half of dough in the same way–also about 24-inches long;
3. Find the midpoints of the two ropes and cross them one over the other at their midpoints:
4. Pick up the ends of Rope #2 (the one underneath the top rope) and cross over Rope #1 (the top rope) with it, left hand over right hand:
5. Pick up the ends of Rope #1 and cross them over the segment of Rope #2 that is nearest you, right hand over left hand:
6. Pick up the ends of Rope #2 and cross them over the segment of Rope #1 that is closest to you (the one to your right), left hand over right:
7. Pick up the ends of Rope #1 and cross them over the segment of Rope #2 that is nearest you (the segment to your left), right hand over left hand:
8. If there is a enough rope remaining, pick up the ends of Rope #2 and cross them over the segment of Rope #1 that is nearest you (the one to your right), left hand over right:
9. At the end of the braid, squeeze the four ends together and tuck them underneath the loaf:
10. Transfer the Zopf to the parchment-lined baking sheet and let it rise for about 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 while the loaf rises.
11. Brush the loaf all over with the beaten egg glaze, using a pastry brush or the tips of your fingers:
12. Bake it for 25 minutes, or until it is golden-brown. Conventional wisdom has it that a loaf of bread must be cooled before it is cut….but this one is awfully good fresh from the oven:
A Suggestion: The Zopf which is not eaten by two at Tea-Time, will be very good the next morning for a larger number of fortunate breakfasters:
A Note: Zopf (Züpfe) is included in the Occasional Menu: A Loaf of Bread and Thou ~ Christmas Season Tea-Time for Two. It is the first of two braided loaves to choose from for this Menu, slices of either one to accompany a quick loaf: Chocolate Bread, which will be described in the next diplomatickitchen post.
An Invitation: You are invited to request suggestions from the diplomatickitchen for your own menus for any occasion by clicking on the feature ‘Ask and Tell’ here or in the Menu at the top of the page. Do you have a menu concept with a gap or two that wants filling…or perhaps you are an expat looking for ways to adapt your recipes to what is available in your temporary home…maybe you are just looking for a new way to use a familiar ingredient or would like suggestions on how to adjust quantities of a recipe from the diplomatickitchen for smaller or larger groups…Replies will be published in ‘Ask and Tell’ or sent by email if you prefer.
© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2012