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 / Austrian Striezel Recipe
Below is my recipe for Austrian 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.
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.
1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed with pestle and mortar
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed with pestle and mortar
How to make Vinschgerl
Mix the wet ingredients (water, honey, yoghurt) in a small bowl.
In a large bowl mix the flours, sourdough extract, yeast, salt, blue fenugreek and the crushed seeds together.
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.
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.
Take a knife to divide the dough into 12 smaller rectangular pieces.
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.
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.)
Leave to rise in a warm place for another 1 – 2 hours.
½ hour before baking – preheat the oven to 220°C (Gas 6).
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
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.
Prepare the sourdough and preferment in two separate bowls and cover. Keep at room temperature for about 16-24 hours.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Give the dough another quick knead and form a loaf.
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.
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.
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.
Turn out the loaf from the proving basket onto the hot baking dome plate or baking tray (line the tray with baking parchment first).
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.
Making Salzstangerl at home is easier than you might think. Go and give it a try!
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
How to make Salzstangerl
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!
Leave to rest in a warm place until the volume has doubled.
Add the remaining ingredients to make the dough and leave to rest again.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Divide the dough into 12 equal parts.
Use your palms to form a ball for each of the parts.
Lightly dust a work surface with flour.
Roll out each dough ball into a very flat oval shape.
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.
Put all the pieces onto baking paper onto a baking tray.
Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave to rest (and grow) in a warm place for 15 mins.
Spray with water and sprinkle with sea salt and caraway seeds.
Bake on the middle shelve of the oven for approximately 15-20 mins.
Cool on a wire rack.
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.
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.
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.
How to make a bread spice mix (Brotgewürzmischung)
My friend Felix from Munich frequently impresses guests with his delicious Flammkuchen, a type of German flatbread with a delicious sour cream, bacon and onion topping. He provided all his Flammkuchen baking insight to me yesterday, so what better way to finish a long week than unwinding with a freshly baked Flammkuchen and a nice glass of Austrian Weißburgunder, watching a movie on the couch wrapped in a cosy blanket. Here is his Flammkuchen recipe for all of you to enjoy!
What is Flammkuchen?
Flammkuchen (or Tarte Flambée in French) is an Alsatian dish – it’s easy to make and you’ll only need a few ingredients. The traditional Flammkuchen toppings are sour cream (Felix recommends crème fraiche as it’s thicker), onions and bacon. I’m planning to experiment with different toppings, but to start with, I go all traditional on this recipe.
Before I jump into the Flammkuchen recipe instructions, a few additional notes on what Flammkuchen is and what it’s not.
Flammkuchen is often referred to as ‘German pizza’, so I just wanted to set the record straight on this one.
Flammkuchen and pizza use the same base dough. The key difference is that Flammkuchen uses a base of sour cream or crème fraiche while pizza comes with tomato sauce. Flammkuchen is also not to be confused with white pizza which is pizza with a cheese base. Cheese is not traditionally used as a topping for Flammkuchen and the bread dough crust is generally thinner when compared to pizza. And… the Flammkuchen shape is usually rectangular or oval rather than round as it is for pizza.
This delicious Flammkuchen recipe is easy to prepare and rewards your work with delicious flavours. The quantities below are for 4 portions.
Course Main Course
Prep Time 2hours30minutes
Cook Time 15minutes
Dough resting time 2hours
Total Time 2hours45minutes
Flammkuchen dough recipe
500gflourI used 400g strong white flour and 100g wholemeal flour; however if you can get your hands on strong 00 flour this will work even better
7g dried yeast
A little olive oil
Flammkuchen sauce and toppings
12 strips of baconcut into small squares or cubes
2onionsfinely sliced into rings
250gcrème fraicheor sour cream
230gnatural Greek Yoghurt
Freshly ground black pepper
How to make Flammkuchen
Combine all dough ingredients in a large bowl to form a rough dough.
Knead the dough for 10 minutes until you have a smooth, elastic, stretchy and velvety dough.
Place the dough back into your bowl and cover with a lid.
Leave to rest for 1 to 2 hours at room temperature (or overnight in the fridge).
Preheat the oven and a baking tray to 250°C (the highest temperature possible) 30 minutes before the bake. If you have a pizza stone, preheat the oven and the pizza stone 1 hour before.
Divide the dough into 4 parts (8 parts for smaller sized Flammkuchen). I use a dough scraper to do this.
Shape each part into a ball and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
Combine the crème fraiche and yoghurt in a small bowl, add the nutmeg, salt and pepper and mix well.
Roll out the dough pieces (2-3 mm) and transfer to sheets of baking paper.
Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave to rest for about 15 minutes.
Fry the bacon strips briefly until almost cooked, don't let them get crispy.
Fry the onion rings in the same pan until slightly browned.
If you are making all 4 (or 8 small) Flammkuchen but baking only one, two (or a few) at a time, don't add the topping to all of them at once. One by one works better as the topping doesn't melt into the dough that way.
Evenly and generously spread the cream mixture onto the dough (you want a really thick coating in order for the finished product not to be too dry), leave a small border around the edge (this will turn golden-brown and crispy).
Scatter the onion rings and bacon on top and sprinkle with thyme.
Slide the sheet of baking paper with the prepared Flammkuchen onto the preheated baking tray and bake for about 12 minutes or until the edges are nicely browned and the bottom is crisp. Repeat until all Flammkuchen are baked.
If you have leftover dough, you can refrigerate this in cling film and bake more Flammkuchen the next day.
If baking the next day is not an option, you can freeze it too. Roll out the dough into a base and par-bake (for about 3 mins). It needs to be fully cooled before you freeze it. When you feel like a cheeky Flammkuchen, simply take out the base, add the topping and bake again.
Hope you enjoy this Flammkuchen recipe as much as I do, it’s perfect for a night in!
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