Baking recipes from Switzerland

Preparation is one half of the baking recipe.Preparation is one half of the baking recipe.

For some, baking recipes are a favourite hobby whereas for others, they are an onerous duty whenever any celebrations are around the corner. Birthday cakes are usually single-handedly baked and adorned by mothers for their children with loving care and ambition. Very often, children have particular preferences such as teddy bears or locomotives. Luckily, nowadays there are many shapes, templates and recipes that are of great use to housewives and mothers.

In ancient times, baking was part of daily routine. Whereas flat cakes were all that were known at the beginning of the human craft of baking, today, given the variety of bread and bread rolls, it is virtually impossible to say how many different kinds of bread exist worldwide, to say nothing of the numerous types of cake and pastries and the associated baking recipes. Many baking products are typical of certain regions, like Switzerland, and are thus regarded as specialities in that area. Nevertheless, there are also certain kinds of bread that have acquired universal popularity.

According to tradition, the first gingerbreads were baked around 1000 AD at the same time as the first leaven breads and yeast breads. In the eighteenth century, it was possible to grind significantly finer flour, since milling technology had made considerable progress by then. This is when the first sponge and shortcrust pastry recipes were invented. This is because sugar had become more affordable through cheaper manufacturing processes, and this soon became an indispensable element of every recipe. Now, baked goods were even refined with a sweet sugar icing.

Baking recipes: braided bread and a gruesome legend?

Delicious golden-brown baked braided bread is a favourite on the Sunday breakfast table in Switzerland. However, a sombre legend surrounds this aromatic bread. As soon as a husband had departed this world, his wife had to follow him to the grave. Since it was customary to cross over to the afterlife together. Later on, it sufficed if widows cut off their braided hair and deposited it with the burial objects. Eventually, this sacrifice in itself became no longer necessary.

The joy of baking The joy of baking
The dough is part of it The dough is part of it
Eggs as an ingredient Eggs as an ingredient

Now, instead of hair, it sufficed to hand over a braided loaf. However, this theory has not been proven. It is no more than a gruesome story that is recounted. What has been proven in any case is the fact that there was already a Basel baker’s guild in existence from the thirteenth century onwards and that other cities in Switzerland followed this example. The delicious loaves of braided bread have been successfully sold in bakeries throughout Switzerland since 1430, made according to old baking recipes. They were given as Christmas or New Year’s presents. They were also highly regarded as tokens of love. Not least because it was even possible to reaffirm wedding vows with a loaf of braided bread.

Baking recipes: home-made braided bread for breakfast

In Switzerland you can either bake braided bread for yourself or buy it fresh from the baker. Here, there are regional preferences. In eastern Switzerland, the braided loaves sold are long and thin whereas in the canton of Berne they are preferably blunt and wide. Whether braided bread is enjoyed with or without a glazing is something that is entirely a question of individual taste. Butter, honey or jam go very well with baking recipes. Slightly sweetened braided loaves are a good accompaniment for cheese or other hearty garnishes. Braided bread is especially enjoyable if it is still warm.

Anyone wanting to give braided bread as a present and who wishes to try his or her hand at baking will certainly find baking recipes that are easily reproducible. If it doesn’t work out well the first time, this may be due to several reasons. Too much butter may be the reason why the dough widens out during the baking step. Before baking according to a recipe, it is important to allow the dough to approximately double in size. The finger test can be used to check whether the dough has ‘risen’ enough. Simply press your finger into the dough.

If the depression slowly springs back then the dough is ready. There are several options when it comes to braiding. If the braid has been shaped, the dough must be allowed to rise once again. This may take between 15 and 30 minutes depending on the firmness of the dough. The braided bread is baked for between 30 and 45 minutes on the lower shelf of the oven at 200º C. And don’t forget to preheat.