Introduction: How to Make a Braid "Butterzopf" or Challah

Picture of How to Make a Braid "Butterzopf" or Challah

A step by step instruction on how to make a braided bread called "Butterzopf" in Switzerland. A wonderful treat for a breakfast or brunch. It can be eaten anytime of day of course.

Step 1: Ingredients

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For a "Zopf", you will need the following ingredients.

milk 550ml 18.6 fl oz (2 1/4 cups) U.S cups

unsalted butter 175g 6.17 oz (3/4 cup)

salt 25g 0.882 oz (4-5 Tsp)

the yolk of 2 eggs for the dough, one for "glazing"

instant dry yeast 14g 0.5 oz (4 1/2 Tsp)

all purpose flour 1000g 35.27 oz (7 1/2 cups)

A couple of things i want to say about the ingredients.
The milk i use is plain pasteurized milk. Not skimmed, low fat, high temp-treated or revitaminized. As i remember, it can be a bit tricky to get it in the U.S., at least i had troubles finding it. The flour i use is special Zopf flour. It's 90% white wheat flour and 10% white spelt flour. It has a lower gluten content than bread flour, it's also suited for Bavarian style brezen or pretzels.

A handy conversion utility:

Step 2: Preparation of the Dough

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Since i mix and knead most of my doughs in my Kenwood kitchen machine, i put the flour, the yeast and the salt into the bowl and mix it, so the yeast is evenly distributed. (Normally i use fresh pressed yeast, which i dissolve in some of the milk.)
I melt the butter on low heat, separate 2 yolks into a cup or mug. When the butter is molten, i add some milk to it and then the yolks. (I do this for the butter to cool down a little.) I use the remaining milk to flush the yolk out of the cup. I stir this mixture with a fork and then add it to the flour. Make sure, this mixture isn't too hot, otherwise you kill off your yeast. (i wouldn't go over 35 deg. Celsius or 95 deg. Fahrenheit, although the yeast should survive some more)
Then i start to mix the dough on low speed. When it is mixed, i raise the speed and let it knead for 12 minutes.
Before i got my Kenwood, i mixed it with a large spoon and the kneaded the dough manually for 15 minutes or so. Later i used my hand-mixer with the kneading hooks, but after breaking a couple of these hooks, i realized i needed something sturdier.
When the kneading time is over, i still give the dough some folds manually. So i can feel the dough's consistency.
I put the dough back into the bowl to give it the first rise. You need to cover the bowl with a plastic wrap or a damp towel, otherwise a skin will form on the dough.
When it was ready for fermentation, i looked out the kitchen window and saw my freshly finished bread and pizza oven. We just applied the finishing plaster today. The roof is still beta, but will be completed next week. By the way, i have made a instructable about it, It's in food and home.

Step 3: Shaping

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After about 1.5 hours the dough has risen to twice it's initial size. This time can vary depending on temperature, yeast amount and viability and a couple of other factors. But most of the time it's between 1.5 and 2.5 hours.
Now it's time to divide the dough to the size you like. In my household, i make 3 braids out of my dough. One will be eaten, the remaining two go bagged up into the freezer, or make wonderful gifts.
To divide, i roll the dough to a strand so i can better judge it's size to divide and i also degas the dough. Then i roll one piece of dough again and then divide it into two strands of the same size. These two strands have to be rolled, until 75cm or 30 inches long. I always roll one a bit, then take the other, roll it a bit and so on. This way the dough won't rip as easily, as if you try to roll it to length in one go. I also taper off the ends a little bit.
Then i braid it, as you can see on the video. Sorry, i should have chosen a higher resolution, and it's best to turn the sound off, i would have removed it but didn't know how...
With the picture and the video, you should be able to do it. Maybe your first braids won't look very nice, at least mine didn't. If one looks especially ugly, you can take it apart, roll the strands again and start over. Of course, the form doesn't affect the taste.(If you eat it with closed eyes....)

Step 4: Proofing and Baking

Picture of Proofing and Baking

After shaping the braids, you have to let it rise again, for 45 minutes. This rise is also called proofing the dough. In order to prevent a skin on the dough, you have to cover it. The best you can use, is a floured linen towel. I used to use a damp cotton kitchen towel until recently. But the floured linen sticks even less, especially with very moist doughs.
So after these 45 minutes, you need to brush the babies with eggwash. I take a egg yolk and a little bit of water, mix it with a fork and brush it on the braids.

Baking instructions can vary from oven to oven. For a bread of this size, a baking time of about 35 min. seems appropriate at around 170 Celsius 340 Fahrenheit with the oven preheated. My mum used to put it into the cold oven and set it to 180 Celsius 355 Fahrenheit for 40-45 min. This way, the yeast gives a last quick rise, as the oven heats. I normally use the cold oven method.
Since i can add steam in my oven, i use this feature extensively. It keeps the crust from forming in the beginning, giving it a even better "oven spring".
Since my wood fired bread / pizza oven is operational, i had to try a braid of course.

Step 5: Last Words

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The difference between a Swiss "Zopf" and a Challah:
Challah seems to come from the arabic culture. They do have much in common though. They use eggs and fatty components. In a "Zopf" it's milk instead of water and molten butter instead of vegetable oil.
Sorry for the video, that is placed as a file. I didn't receive my confirmation mail from youtube in time.
I will add the youtube version later, hopefully with a higher resolution.
I hope you try it out and enjoy it.
When you're interested in baking, see my other instructable.

Wood fired Pizza / Bread oven

Have fun



enVide neFelibata (author)2013-03-16


sunshiine (author)2011-07-11

So happy I found this. Thanks for sharing your hard work!

genericcomment (author)2008-10-04

This bread is amazing! I eat it every time I go to my grandparents house. This bread should be eaten for passover instead.

greenbean (author)genericcomment2009-07-11

Well actually, Passover is the holiday when you can't eat bread. Sorry.

beehard44 (author)greenbean2010-07-30


t.rohner (author)genericcomment2008-10-07

I'm not proficient in jewish holidays, but it sounds like passover is only once a year. Definitely not enough for this bread... ;-) Maybe the end of your comment should read "as well" instead of "instead". No blasphemy intended...

genericcomment (author)t.rohner2008-10-07

yeah meaning to replace the bowel stopping matzah, but should not be limited to passover.

rattyrain (author)2009-07-18

If I omit the spelt flour, how will it affect my recipe? I'm really just too lazy to ride to the store; can't drive yet :(

t.rohner (author)rattyrain2009-07-23

Should be not that big a deal, if you use plain all purpose flour.

rattyrain (author)t.rohner2010-07-26

I just want to say that this recipe is amazing! I'm actually making some now; I decided to put some raisins and fermented blueberries in it, so I guess I'll wait and see how it turns out!

t.rohner (author)rattyrain2010-07-27

Sounds interesting, i'm experimenting with potatoes in the bread dough. I first cook them, then i mash them and add it to the dough. I made the first test yesterday with around 30% potatoes. It worked very nicely, but the potatoes are only very slightly noticable. Today i'm using more potatoes and add some bacon and onions. I made a onion-bacon bread many years ago and it was a slammer.

greenbean (author)2009-07-11

Challah is Jewish, not Arabic.

iarkus (author)2008-10-20

Challah is a traditional jewish bread, used for bringing in the Sabbath celebration. I would not say it has anything to do with Arab culture.

greenbean (author)iarkus2009-07-11

You can say that again.

t.rohner (author)iarkus2008-10-26

You're right, i seem to have mixed up hebrew with arabic.

spicymeatball (author)2009-04-27

hey sry to be the one who has to say this but the vid isnt working other then that AMAZing instructathingy i deffinetly making some

t.rohner (author)spicymeatball2009-05-01

Download it to your desktop, then play it with VLC or Mediaplayer. It works for me, i just tried it. I know, it's not user friendly. But for the moment, that's how it is.

iarkus (author)2008-10-20

can you show the braiding of the dough too? it's been ages since I made this thing, pheew!

t.rohner (author)iarkus2008-10-26

There is a video of it at the end of step 3. You can download and play it with VLC for example.

Allowance10 (author)2008-10-06

Can you let it rise over night?

t.rohner (author)Allowance102008-10-07

Yes you can certainly do that. The difference is, you put the formed braids in the fridge to retard the final proof. Be sure to cover them with food wrap to prevent a skin from forming and taking up offtastes. In the morning, you eggwash the babies and bake them. Maybe you need to prolong the baking time by 5-10 minutes. If your crumb gets too dense, you could wait 10-20 minutes after forming, before you put them into the fridge. Taking out a dough from the fridge, or even a freezer and forming it afterwards is a bit problematic. Since the foamy consistency of a leavened dough, it insulates pretty well. That means, the core of the dough takes very long to reach ambient temperature. That in turn means the core of the loaf stays denser than the outer regions. I was thinking about heating a cooled dough evenly with a microwave, but i don't have one yet. I will try it sometime soon.

SANDYSSEWKNITS (author)2008-10-02

Hi, for the ingredients you have mills and oz's is there anyway you can break that down into cups and measuring spoons? This sounds really good but what if someone doesn't have something to measure mills and oz's....any help will be grealy appareciated. Thank you, Sandy

t.rohner (author)SANDYSSEWKNITS2008-10-07

I added the volume measures in the ingredients step.

SANDYSSEWKNITS (author)t.rohner2008-10-07

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. I really appreciate what you did not only for me but for others as well who might want the same recipe. THANK YOU AGAIN, SANDY

t.rohner (author)SANDYSSEWKNITS2008-10-04

Hi Sandy,
if you're serious about baking, invest in a kitchen scale. (Analog types start at 4 $, digital at 20$.)
If you don't want to invest, the internet is your friend. I did a search with (weight volume conversion ingredients) and came up with:

Hope this helps.

SANDYSSEWKNITS (author)t.rohner2008-10-07

OH WOW!! This is really cool. I love this. Yes I have a computer (needless to say) but sometimes I get a little brain dead and I never thought to look for what you got for me. I do so really, really appreciate the effort and the time it took for you to do this for me. Thank you ever so much and I do hope that you and your family enjoy the up and coming HOLIDAYS. THANKS AGAIN, SANDY

superlox3 (author)2008-10-03

Great instructable! I love challah, and with Yom Kippur just around the corner I should probably give this a try!

pulsed (author)2008-09-26

Every time i have had challa it has had a much darker crust than the picture is that because its baked longer or what? nice ible btw.

t.rohner (author)pulsed2008-09-26

If your crust gets too dark, try to bake with a 10-20 deg lower setting. You can't reduce the time by much. Otherwise it won't bake through. When i started, i used a old oven, that needed a higher setting, than my new convection steam oven.

pulsed (author)t.rohner2008-09-27


mrbox (author)2007-11-28

ROFL XD it looked like poop from the picture, sorry for that... great instructables and very delicious too =D.

t.rohner (author)mrbox2007-12-01

Hey there i never looked at it this way, bwahaha. But as you mention it, yeah, possibly. I'm just on my way to craft some croissants. Just bought some 40 pounds of flour yesterday, now i need some sweet butter to fold in to make a yeasted puff pastry dough. Desperate housewives would say it's too complicated to make, but hey, what's the deal. I made some last weekend, now i have to check out a different receipe to perfect it. We have a 25 person brunch coming up, where i have to bake some bread, croissants and "poop-bread" of course. I will bake it in my wood fired oven, since it will be to big for my electric household ovens, think of the three "poopies" in one piece, what a sight. I hope you tried to make them, because they are really delicious.

Zetheros (author)2007-09-29

Also, is it possible to make this with soymilk and olive oil instead? I don't really like dairy products except cheese.

t.rohner (author)Zetheros2007-09-29

You can substitute the milk with soymilk of course. For the butter i'd take a less aromatic oil than olive oil. For example sunflower oil. I'd take around 125ml or 7 tablespoons or so. If you like olive oil very much, you can try it of course. As for the version with dairy products, give it a try, you will be surprised how it tastes. The version with vegetable fats will be more of a challah, i didn't try it myself.

Zetheros (author)2007-09-29

Wow, thanks a lot for posting this, I haven't been on the site for awhile, I tried making it without this instructable, and got a half done hard tack thing, it tasted like dough XP I'll make this once I clean up the kitchen a bit!

TheREALTristan (author)2007-09-23

Challah back!

Weissensteinburg (author)2007-09-16

I sure does love my challah!

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