Hefezopf (Striezel) Recipe

 

My friend Mariel and I decided to have a friendly Challah versus Hefezopf (Austrian: Striezel) bake-off this weekend.

Mariel's Challah with Poppy Seeds
Mariel’s Challah with Poppy Seeds

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.

Part of my Monster Striezel
Part of my Monster Striezel – Make sure to divide the dough into 2 parts…

Hefezopf / Striezel Ingredients

Sponge

  • 110g strong white flour
  • 200g milk, lukewarm
  • 10g dried yeast

Main Dough

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 8g vanilla sugar
  • 80g butter at room temperature, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 20g oil
  • 100g milk, lukewarm
  • 7g salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 490g strong white flour
  • 1 tbsp chopped almonds
  • Zest of ½ lemon and ½ orange
  • Optional: 50g raisins soaked in 20g rum overnight

Topping

  • A little milk and 1 egg to brush
  • 3 tbsp flaked almonds

How to make Hefezopf / Striezel

  1. Start by combining the sponge ingredients in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rest in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  2. Combine the sugar, vanilla sugar, butter and oil and use a hand mixer to combine until creamy.
  3. Add in all other dough ingredients including the sponge and combine with your hands until you have formed a rough dough.
  4. Knead for 5 minutes.
  5. Cover and leave to rest for approx. 1 hour. Alternatively, leave to slowly rise overnight in the fridge which will improve the flavour.
  6. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.
  7. Divide the dough into two equal parts and set one part aside while you braid your first Striezel.
  8. 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).
  9. Place the four strands vertically in front of you and pinch the ends together at one end.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Repeat the braiding process with the second part of the dough.
  13. Place the braided loaves on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  14. Cover and rest in a warm place for approx. 1 hour.
  15. Preheat the oven to 160°C (gas mark 3).
  16. Mix some milk with the egg.
  17. Brush the dough with the mixture and sprinkle the flaked almonds on top.
  18. Bake for approximately 25 – 30 minutes.
  19. Cool on a wire rack.
French Toast made from Challah
French Toast made from Challah

Rye Bread Rolls Recipe – Austrian Schusterlaberl

 

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.

Bäckerei Sporrer Gilgenberg Austria
Bäckerei Sporrer Gilgenberg, Austria

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 - Fragrant Austrian Rye Bread Rolls
Schusterlaberl – Fragrant Austrian Rye Bread Rolls

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

  • 160g sourdough
  • 100g rye flour
  • 325g white wheat flour
  • Approx. 250g water, lukewarm
  • 15g malt extract
  • 12g salt
  • 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

Schusterlaberl Dough

How to make the rye bread rolls (makes 12)

  1. Mix the sourdough prepared the previous day with the other dough ingredients and knead for 15 minutes.
  2. 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.
  3. Prepare a clean kitchen towel and dust well with flour.
  4. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a clean work surface.
  5. Shape into a sausage, divide into 12 pieces (approx. 70 – 80g each) and form into a rough mini boule.
  6. Cover with cling film and rest for 20 minutes to relax the dough.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 220°C.
  11. Place the baking tray in the oven on the middle rack.
  12. Bake the rolls for approx. 20 minutes until golden brown.
  13. 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.

Schusterlaberl (Austrian Rye Bread Rolls)
Austrian Rye Bread Rolls Showing Their Beautiful Open Crumb

 

Vinschgerl Recipe – South Tyrolean Flatbreads

 

Vinschgerl (also sometimes Vintschgerl) are rustic palm-sized flatbreads which originate in South Tyrol. Blue fenugreek (Brotklee, Schabziger Klee, trigonella caerulea) adds a very distinctive, slightly spicy flavour to these delicious breads and the flat shape ensures that there is a lot of surface for the strong crust to form.

Vinschgerl - Rustic, aromatic flatbreads.
Vinschgerl – Rustic, aromatic flatbreads. Great to serve with a charcuterie board!

Vinschgerl Recipe

Ingredients – Makes 12 Vinschgerl

  • 400g fine rye flour
  • 200g wholewheat flour
  • 15g of rye sourdough
  • 1½ tsp of salt
  • 1 package of dried yeast (7g)
  • 1 tbsp of honey
  • ½ tsp blue fenugreek
  • 350g water, lukewarm
  • 200g natural yoghurt (not straight from fridge)
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed with pestle and mortar
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed with pestle and mortar

How to make Vinschgerl

  1. Mix the wet ingredients (water, honey, yoghurt) in a small bowl.
  2. In a large bowl mix the flours, sourdough extract, yeast, salt, blue fenugreek and the crushed seeds together.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to form the dough (using your hands for this will be easiest). The dough should be quite soft and gooey due to the high rye content. Add some more water if necessary but don’t add any more flour.
  4. Leave to rise in a warm place for up to 6 hours. The dough will have a less sticky, ‘cleaner’ consistency after this long rest and you will be able to shape it into a rectangle (approx. 2 cm high) on a clean work surface. If it’s still too soft, just shape it into a rectangle with wettish hands.
  5. Take a knife to divide the dough into 12 smaller rectangular pieces.
  6. Put the pieces onto two separate pieces of baking parchment (6 each). Place two pieces each right next to each other – this is the traditional way of baking them.
  7. Carefully dust or rub the surface of the dough pieces with a little rye flour, then cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. (This will make the delicious cracks in your Vinschgerl more visible.)
  8. Leave to rise in a warm place for another 1 – 2  hours.
  9. ½ hour before baking – preheat the oven to 220°C (Gas 6).
  10. Bake for 35 minutes.
  11. Cool on a wire rack.
A pair of Vinschgerl, baked in the traditional way.
A pair of Vinschgerl, baked in the traditional way.

Also try this rye flatbread recipe for South Tyrolean Schüttelbrot.

Walnut bread recipe in four variations

 

Having been home in Austria for Christmas, I brought back a big pack of shelled walnuts from the trees in my parents’ garden. A good time to experiment with walnut bread! Try my walnut bread recipe below – a sourdough walnut loaf using white wheat and wholegrain rye flour.

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My walnut bread is a slightly sweet bread and as such makes a great accompaniment to cheese boards with grapes, apricots or figs.

Walnut Bread Recipe – In Four Variations

Walnuts are super versatile and can be incorporated into bread in various different ways. Although the main walnut bread recipe remains the same, have a look through the walnut preparation options below to pick your favourite before starting.

Walnut bread
Walnut bread

Ingredients

Sourdough

  • 50g rye sourdough starter
  • 100g wholegrain rye flour
  • 100g water

Main dough

  • 350g strong white flour
  • 50g wholegrain rye flour
  • 8g salt
  • 190g water, lukewarm, if using the walnut paste (described below) OR
    260g water, lukewarm, for the other variations (as below)
  • 1 tbsp walnut oil (optional)
  • 200g walnuts in either of the below variations (e.g. 100g lightly crushed walnuts, 100g walnut paste or 200g caramelised walnuts). Lightly crushing your walnut halves with a rolling pin makes it easier for the oils to be released into the dough.

Four different ways of preparing the walnuts –

Caramelised walnuts
Finely chop fresh rosemary leaves, you need 1 tbsp. Dry-roast 200g walnuts in a frying pan (i.e. without any oil). Add the finely chopped rosemary and 2 tbsp of honey and caramelise the walnuts. Be careful not to burn them. Let them cool on a plate.

Mixed nuts with rum
From the book Rustikale Brote aus deutschen Landen by Gerhard Kellner.
For this recipe, you need 100g of walnut halves, lightly crushed, as well as 100g hazelnuts.
Dry-roast the hazelnuts in a frying pan (no oil). Pour over 35ml of lukewarm water once finished roasting. In a separate pan, dry-roast the walnuts and cover with 3 tbsp of rum.
Leave to soak overnight and drain any excess liquid.

Walnuts soaked in milk
Heat some milk until boiling – you’ll need enough to cover 200g walnuts in a small bowl. Cover the walnuts with boiling milk and leave to cool.
Once cooled, drain any excess liquid.

Walnut paste
As per Dan Lepard’s book ‘The Handmade Loaf’.
Make 100g walnut paste and also add 100g of halved or crushed walnuts into your final dough.
For the paste, you need 50g of walnuts, 50g of water, 2 tbsp of honey, 20g melted butter (lightly browned) and a pinch of salt.
Place all ingredients into the bowl of your hand blender and blend until you have a soft, smooth paste.

How to make walnut bread

Day 1

  1. Combine the sourdough ingredients in a medium bowl, cover and leave to rest at room temperature for 16 to 24 hours.

Day 2

    1. Combine 200g of sourdough (the rest goes back into the fridge for your next bake) with the main dough ingredients and walnut paste if using, but don’t add the whole walnuts at this point.
    2. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. 
    3. Shape into a ball, place in a lightly floured bowl, cover and keep at room temperature for an hour or so. The dough should have visibly expanded during this time.
    4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface.
    5. Use your fingers to flatten the dough and sprinkle the (lightly crushed, caramelised or soaked) walnuts over the surface.
    6. Work the dough to distribute the nuts evenly.
    7. Shape the dough into a round and place into a pre-floured proofing basket.
    8. Leave to rise for several hours at room temperature until fully proofed.
    9. Preheat the oven to 200°C and preheat your La Cloche baking dome at the same time (from cold) if using.

Transfer the bread from proofing basket to the La Cloche plate or onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.

  1. With a sharp knife, make a few criss-cross cuts into the loaves just before baking.
  2. Bake for about 50 minutes. Take the La Cloche lid off for the last 10 minutes if using.
  3. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.

I love baking with walnuts. If you’d like to try a different walnut bread recipe, take a look at these posts also:

 

Hausbrot – Traditional Austrian Bread Recipe

 

At home in Austria for the week, I was keen to bake some traditional Austrian Schwarzbrot (black bread) with my family. It was a good team effort! My grandmother provided the recipe for Hausbrot, my mum prepared the rye sourdough and got the various ingredients ready and I did the dough work.

There are many different recipes for Austrian Hausbrot (‘bread of the house’) but all of them have the following ingredients in common –

  • A variety of flours whereby rye flour is always used but usually mixed with wheat or spelt flour
  • Sourdough
  • Yeast
  • Austrian bread spices
Rye-heavy Hausbrot Closeup
Hausbrot (Austrian rye & wheat bread) with a nice even crumb and a hearty crust

Typically, proving baskets/bannetons (called Simperl or Gärkörbchen in German) made of cane or rattan are used to rest and prove the bread and mould its final shape. These bread baskets come in round or oval shapes and different sizes. Proving baskets are perfect for soft and loose doughs and give your bread loaves uniform-ish shapes.

Hausbrot Austrian Schwarzbrot Recipe

A true taste of Austria, try this Austrian bread recipe (my grandmother’s authentic family recipe) with a creamy Austrian potato soup or hearty Goulash soup.

Hausbrot ingredients

Sourdough

Sponge (preferment)

  • 1g dried yeast
  • 150g wholemeal wheat flour
  • 150g water

Remaining dough ingredients

  • 150g plain wheat flour
  • 100g white rye flour
  • 8g salt
  • 3g dried yeast
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed with a pestle and mortar
  • 1 tablespoon Austrian bread spices

How to make Austrian black bread: Hausbrot

24 hours before the bake

  1. Prepare the sourdough and preferment in two separate bowls and cover. Keep at room temperature for about 16-24 hours.

Baking day

  1. Combine 500g of the sourdough (the rest goes back into the fridge for your next bake), the preferment, plain flour, rye flour, salt, yeast, fennel seeds and Austrian bread spices to make a soft dough.
  2. Knead for approx. 10 minutes. The dough will be quite sticky due to the high rye flour content in this recipe but should be manageable.
  3. Shape the dough into a ball and place it into a bowl, cover and keep at room temperature until it has doubled in size (approximately 1 to 2 hours depending on the temperature of the room).
  4. Prepare the proving basket by lightly dusting it with flour. If you don’t have such bread baskets to hand, you can also use a bowl lined with a kitchen towel and flour. This technique will support the shape of the dough and will ultimately avoid that the dough flattens when it expands.
  5. Give the dough another quick knead and form a loaf.
  6. Cover the dough surface with flour (I tend to do this on a floured work surface and with floury hands) and place it in the proving basket.
  7. Leave to rest for another 2 hours or so for the bread’s final prove. Again, this may take longer depending on your room temperature.
  8. 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 250°C. If you have a La Cloche baking dome, preheat this in the oven from cold at the same time. If you don’t have a baking dome, preheat a baking tray.
  9. Turn out the loaf from the proving basket onto the hot baking dome plate or baking tray (line the tray with baking parchment first).
  10. Score the dough with a bread scoring knife and cover with the baking dome if using.
  11. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes at 250°C and for another 50 minutes at 200°C.
  12. Cool on a wire rack.
  13. Wait until the next day to cut and eat the bread.
Austrian bread - Hausbrot
Austrian bread – Hausbrot

Salzstangerl – My favourite Austrian Kleingebäck

 

Kleingebäck or Kleinbrote are the German words and classifications for small breads weighing 250g or less. In Austria, Switzerland and Germany there is a huge variety of Kleingebäck – every region and, in fact, every bakery will have their own selection.

Kleinbrote are usually eaten for breakfast or as part of the Jause (Austrian German – a snack or small meal usually eaten mid-morning or in the early evening) and works equally well with sweet or savoury toppings. Salzstangerl are my personal favourite Kleingebäck.

Salzstangerl Ready to be Eaten
Salzstangerl

Making Salzstangerl at home is easier than you might think. Go and give it a try!

Salzstangerl Recipe

Ingredients – 12 Salzstangerl

  • 500g plain white flour / bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of dried, instant yeast
  • 250ml lukewarm milk
  • 50g melted butter
    (Note: If you would like a lighter end product replace the milk and butter with lukewarm water)
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Caraway seeds

 How to make Salzstangerl

  1. Add 100ml of the lukewarm milk, sugar, yeast and 2 tablespoons of flour into a large bowl and mix together. Don’t add the salt or butter at this stage!
  2. Leave to rest in a warm place until the volume has doubled.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to make the dough and leave to rest again.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  5. Divide the dough into 12 equal parts.
  6. Use your palms to form a ball for each of the parts.
  7. Lightly dust a work surface with flour.
  8. Roll out each dough ball into a very flat oval shape.
  9. Hold onto the bottom part of the oval shape with your left hand while rolling the dough from the top part towards the bottom part. The more you squeeze the dough with your right hand while rolling, the longer the Salzstangerl will be.
  10. Put all the pieces onto baking paper onto a baking tray.
  11. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave to rest (and grow) in a warm place for 15 mins.
  12. Spray with water and sprinkle with sea salt and caraway seeds.
  13. Bake on the middle shelve of the oven for approximately 15-20 mins.
  14. Cool on a wire rack.
Salzstangerl Rolled Dough
Salzstangerl – Rolled, Rested and Ready to be Baked
Salt Caraway Seed Mix
Salt & Caraway Seed Mix to Sprinkle on Top

If you want to freeze the Stangerl, parbake them for 10 mins, fully cool them, then freeze. You can then take them out of the freezer whenever you feel like Salzstangerl, put a little water on top and finish baking them in a non-preheated oven.

You can also freeze fully baked Salzstangerl for up to a month.

Bread Spices (Brotgewürz) – The taste of real Austrian rye breads

 

My bread baking journey with The Bread She Bakes is firmly rooted in the delicious flavours of Austrian rye breads I missed so much when I moved to the UK. A lot of dark breads in Austria, Germany (particularly in the South), Switzerland and South Tyrol are made with Brotgewürz (bread spices) which are both great for the taste of the bread and also really good for your digestive system.

Bread spices (Brotgewuerz)
Bread spices (Brotgewürz)

Recipe for an Austrian bread spice blend

The basic seeds and spices used are caraway seeds, anise, fennel and coriander seeds.

Bread spice ingredients for a 1 kg loaf of bread

  • 2½ tsp of caraway seeds
  • 2 tsp of fennel
  • 1 tsp of anise
  • ½ tsp of coriander seeds

You can also experiment with small quantities of allspice, fenugreek, sweet trefoil, celery seeds and cardamom – or just use one of these ingredients for your bread e.g. just caraway seeds or just coriander seeds. The taste of your bread will be very different depending on your bread spice choice.

Caraway seeds
Caraway seeds
Coriander seeds
Coriander seeds
Fennel seeds
Fennel seeds
Anise seeds
Anise seeds

How to make a bread spice mix (Brotgewürzmischung)

Put everything together into a coffee & spice grinder or just use a pestle and mortar to crack and crush the seeds.

The finer you crush or grind the spices, the subtler the taste.  You can use all of the spices whole if you like.

Bread spice whole
Bread spice whole

How to use bread spices

Simply add the spice mix to the dough ingredients. I usually use bread spice in dark breads made with 50 – 70% rye flour, 2 tablespoons of bread spice per kg of flour.

If you make larger quantities, keep the bread spices in an airtight container but it’s way better to make a fresh portion every time you need it!

Why not bake this delicious Austrian Hausbrot with your freshly assembled Brotgewürz 🙂 Enjoy!