My friend Mariel and I decided to have a friendly Challah versus Hefezopf (Austrian: Striezel) bake-off this weekend.
Challah versus Hefezopf / Striezel
Challah (Hebrew for ‘loaf’) is a traditional leavened and plaited Jewish bread eaten on Sabbath and holidays. Striezel (in Austria) or Hefezopf (in Germany) is also a plaited yeast bread.
What makes them similar?
Both breads look very decorative with a rich and dense texture and a glossy finish. In both cases the dough is rolled into rope-shaped pieces which are braided and brushed with egg wash before baking to add a golden sheen.
What makes them different?
While Striezel is of a sweet brioche-like nature and usually covered in almond flakes or coarse sugar, challah is less sweet and traditionally sprinkled with poppy or sesame seeds. Striezel is a great dessert bread; challah makes a perfect accompaniment to meat dishes.
Unlike the enriched dough used for Striezel, traditional challah is usually ‘parve’ i.e. it doesn’t contain dairy products (oil and water are used instead of butter and milk).
Hefezopf / Striezel Recipe
Below is my recipe for Striezel (Hefezopf). Mariel’s thoughts on our baking venture can be found here.
Hefezopf / Striezel Ingredients
110g strong white flour
200g milk, lukewarm
10g dried yeast
100g caster sugar
8g vanilla sugar
80g butter at room temperature, cut into 1cm cubes
100g milk, lukewarm
490g strong white flour
1 tbsp chopped almonds
Zest of ½ lemon and ½ orange
Optional: 50g raisins soaked in 20g rum overnight
A little milk and 1 egg to brush
3 tbsp flaked almonds
How to make Hefezopf / Striezel
Start by combining the sponge ingredients in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rest in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Combine the sugar, vanilla sugar, butter and oil and use a hand mixer to combine until creamy.
Add in all other dough ingredients including the sponge and combine with your hands until you have formed a rough dough.
Knead for 5 minutes.
Cover and leave to rest for approx. 1 hour. Alternatively, leave to slowly rise overnight in the fridge which will improve the flavour.
Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.
Divide the dough into two equal parts and set one part aside while you braid your first Striezel.
Divide this part of the dough into four equal parts and roll out into rope shapes (start in the centre and move your hands out in a rocking motion to lengthen the pieces of dough).
Place the four strands vertically in front of you and pinch the ends together at one end.
Starting on your left hand side number the positions of the dough strands as 1, 2, 3, 4. Please note that as you go through the braiding process, it is not important which strand was originally number 1, etc. The dough strands will not keep their number so as far as braiding goes, number 1 is always the left-most strand of dough.
Cross strand 1 over strand 3. Cross strand 2 over strand 3. Cross strand 4 over strand 2. Repeat until you get to the end of the strands, then pinch all loose ends together. Try to keep the braiding as regular as possible to avoid ending up with a pear-shaped loaf that is fat on one end and narrow on the other.
Repeat the braiding process with the second part of the dough.
Place the braided loaves on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
Cover and rest in a warm place for approx. 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 160°C (gas mark 3).
Mix some milk with the egg.
Brush the dough with the mixture and sprinkle the flaked almonds on top.
Schusterlaberl (also Schusterloaberl or Schusterlaibchen) which translates as ‘shoemaker loaves’ are fragrant Austrian rye bread rolls and have always been a favourite of mine. The smell of these freshly baked rye rolls is mesmerising and brings back childhood memories of stepping into the village bakery (now unfortunately closed) in Gilgenberg.
Rye Bread Rolls Recipe (Schusterlaberl)
Full of nostalgic feelings, I’ve been trying to bring the delicious Schusterlaberl back to life in my own kitchen in Edinburgh. Here is my recipe for these unrivalled rye bread rolls. Admittedly, I still have to work on the roughness of the crust, but in terms of flavour and overall taste, I’m happy to say that I have succeeded to evoke the flavours of my childhood memories with the recipe below.
Schusterlaberl are made with both rye and wheat flour. Natural sourdough and yeast are used as leavening aids and spices such as ground coriander seeds, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, and anise seeds give the rolls their wholesome flavour. The rye rolls are characterised by their rustic look, crisp, their crunchy crust and chewy, dense centre.
Day 1 – Sourdough
20g sourdough starter
40g rye flour
40g white wheat flour
80g water, lukewarm
Combine the ingredients for your sourdough in a bowl, cover and leave to mature for approx. 16 hours at room temperature.
Day 2 – Main Dough
100g rye flour
325g white wheat flour
Approx. 250g water, lukewarm
15g malt extract
2g dry yeast
1/2 tbsp ground spices (caraway seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, anise seeds – combine according to personal preference, I like to use a larger part of caraway seeds)
Extra rye flour for shaping
How to make the rye bread rolls (makes 12)
Mix the sourdough prepared the previous day with the other dough ingredients and knead for 15 minutes.
Shape into a ball and leave to rest for 2 hours (in a plastic bowl, covered) until doubled in size. You can also choose to slow-prove the dough in the fridge overnight.
Prepare a clean kitchen towel and dust well with flour.
Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a clean work surface.
Shape into a sausage, divide into 12 pieces (approx. 70 – 80g each) and form into a rough mini boule.
Cover with cling film and rest for 20 minutes to relax the dough.
Now we get to the process called ‘schleifen’ in Austrian baker speak. Here is a great video to show how this is done – http://www.homebaking.at/wachauer-schleifen/ Make a small indent to the bottom side of each piece, dip the bottom side in rye flour and shape in circular movements inside your cupped hand on a clean linen towel. Dip the bottom side in rye flour again and place each of the shaped rolls (rough bottom side down) on the kitchen towel and leave to prove.
Cover again with cling film/plastic (to prevent them from drying out) and leave to prove for approximately 40 minutes. Depending on the temperature in your room, this could take longer.
When still slightly underproved, place the dough rolls on a baking tray lined with baking paper (rough bottom side up this time). Leave enough space between the rolls – they should be at least 5 cm apart as they will rise some more and you don’t want them to touch. Leave to prove for another 20 minutes (or longer depending on the temperature in your room) to complete the proving process.
While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 220°C.
Place the baking tray in the oven on the middle rack.
Bake the rolls for approx. 20 minutes until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack.
Schusterloaberl are best the day they are baked but can be frozen for later (first cool completely, then wrap well). Defrost, then warm through at 180°C for 5 to 10 minutes.