challah - or the sweet version of swiss "zopf"

A typical sunday morning starts with a sunday newspaper - that i read in bed... - a hot bath, some fresh orange juice and "zopf". "zopf" is a breaded white bread - just like the challah in the jewish religion. (which i though was so funny... when i had my first friday dinner with my jewish friends and i thought they eat "zopf" for dinner - when we always have it on a sunday morning!). in switzerland, a "zopf" is something typical for the region of berne but is known and loved all across the country since the 15th century.
there is this myth that women used to cut off a braid of their hair and buried it with their husbands. as time went on, they buried a loaf of "zopf" (as a braided bread) instead of their hair. nowadays we bury husbands in good glothes - and keep our hair.
usually a "zopf" is not flavoured (apart from a pinch of salt and sugar). but since "zopf" is served with jam or honey anyways, i though it might just fiddle around with the recipe a bit and add some vanilla (makes people happy!). but if you like your sunday brunch with ham and cheese, simply add some fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary or sage to the dough. you migh even put some bacon-cubes into the dough.
baking a "zopf" is a wonderful thing to do. it slows down a hectic saturday evening and brings the most beautiful scent into your home.

RECIPE
500g zopf/challa flour - or just plain white flour
20g fresh yeast
2,5 dl milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
80g soft butter, cut in cubes
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
1 egg yolk & a tiny pinch of sugar for glaze

mix the flour with salt and sugar and put in the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook attached. add the butter cubes. now mix the milk with egg, fresh yeast and the vanillaseeds and add to the dry ingredients. start mixing on low speed, then increase and mix for about 10 minutes until you end up with a nice and smooth ball of dough. remove dough hook, form dough into a ball and let rest in a bowl - covered with plastic wrap for about an hour (or until the dough has doubled in size).



then cut dough in half and twiddle into about 60cm long and even rolls. lay the 2 ropes of dough over each other - so that they form a cross. start braiding, then pinch the ends together tightly and tuck them under. plache on sheet lined with parchment paper. let rest for 20-30 minutes.

heat oven to 220c°. mix the egg yolk with a tiny pinch of sugar and glaze the bread.
bake challah/zopf in the middle of the oven until golden brown on the outside and sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom of the challa.
let cool on a wire rack, then serve with raspberry or strawberry jam or loads of runny honey.

PS: if you have any leftovers - toasted slices of this challah/zopf make a wonderful base for a clubsandwich!!