A traditional German Easter bread…
Osterzopf or Osterbrot is a braided yeast bun, which is traditionally baked in German as part of Easter celebrations. One explanation for baking the Osterzopf is that Christians believe the braid symbolises a close link between man and God.
Tip: Osterzopf is truly slow food and cannot be rushed. Allow the dough to rise for a generous amount of time and it will be just perfect. It is great to eat at any time of the day, for breakfast or tea.
Traditionally, the dough is prepared on the eve of Easter Sunday and left to rise overnight. People who attend early morning service on Easter Sunday put it in the oven to bake just before they leave so that it will be ready to eat on their return. Bakeries all over Germany advertise their own very special yeast breads, they are all in competition to provide the most traditional and most delicious Osterzopf.
Plaiting an Osterzopf is an art form in its own right. If you find braiding the dough difficult, simply mould it into a loaf shape or into bread rolls – these will turn out just as sweet!
The basic ingredients are flour, yeast, milk, butter, an egg, salt and sugar. After that, there is no limit to your creativity: add different kinds of nuts, as well as candied fruit and raisins.
Preparation time: about 40 minutes
- 500g strong flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 50g sugar
- 1/4l tepid milk
- 20g fresh yeast
- 75g butter
- 1 egg
- 1 lemon, zest only
- 1 tbsp milk
- 30g sugar crystals ( you can use raisins or chopped almonds)
Before you start, make sure you get an adult to help you!
Ensure that you take all of the ingredients out of the fridge early enough to bring them to room temperature. This will help make the dough smooth and fluffy and it will rise better.
Sieve the flour, salt and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Pour the milk into a saucepan and dissolve the yeast into it over a low heat. Then add the butter and stir until it has melted. Pour the milk, yeast and butter mixture into the flour and mix well. Add the egg and start to work the mixture into a dough. Add the lemon zest to the dough. If the dough is too sticky, add some extra flour.
Dust a plastic bowl with flour and place the dough into it. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel or a lid and leave it in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes to an hour.
Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead thoroughly. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and shape these into two long ropes. Plait the two sections together as if you were plaiting hair. Fold this new plait in half and plait it again into a spiral. Stick the ends to the bottom of the plaited bun so that they do not come apart while baking.
Line a baking tray with baking parchment; put the loaf on the tray, cover it again with the tea towel and set it aside for a further 30 minutes to rise. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Mix one egg with one tablespoon milk, a dash of salt and sugar and brush the mixture on to the plaited loaf. Sprinkle with sugar crystals. Put the Osterzopf into the middle of the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 175°C and bake for another 30 minutes. Cover with parchment if necessary. When the loaf is slightly brown and the sugar has caramelised, take it out of the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. It tastes best when it is still slightly warm.
If you enjoyed making Osterzopf, why not try making an Osterlamm, a cake baked in the shape of an Easter lamb!
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