Baking the Perfect Swiss Zopf Bread with Sarah Brunella

Bread baking is on the rise. Many of us are eschewing plastic-packed loaves from the supermarket and choosing to have a go ourselves. So we talked to baker and photographer, Sarah Brunella, to get her bread baking tips. And also her delicious Swiss Zopf recipe.

Sarah asks us to excuse the cliché. But her Italian grandmother really did teach her how to bake. During school holidays, Sarah spent hours in the kitchen watching her grandma at work. And her first bakes were an attempt to recreate her grandma’s creations back at home.

Then Sarah began to relish the challenge baking posed. “Bread baking is considered quite difficult because of the action of the yeast. But I wanted to get better,” Sarah tells us. “Bread is food par excellence. It’s food for all five senses. I feel like if I can bake good bread, I have the ability to cook or bake whatever I like.”

What tips does she have for baking bread? “Patience, tenacity, a good oven and good scales. That's a decent place to start from. Measurements can be tricky and baking requires precision.”

“Flour is also hugely important,” she continues. “You'll never find a recipe that will be perfectly precise for everyone because every flour has different protein levels.

“This means that the gluten develops differently and the flour also absorbs a different volume of liquid. So try to use the specific flour a recipe suggests in order to avoid mistakes, at least until you feel more confident.”

“And lastly, don't be afraid of using your hands. Touch, stretch, knead the dough and learn how it changes as you work it.”

Her biggest challenge to date, Sarah tells us, has been baking sourdough. “Making my own starter from scratch, feeding it, strengthening it. Trying to get that crunchy crust and that amazing open crumb...” But the greater the difficulty, the greater her pride when she bakes a loaf to perfection.

Sourdough is up there, says Sarah, as one of her favourite breads. But, in honour of her Swiss roots, it’s the Swiss Zopf, a braid soft with milk and butter, that steals her baker’s heart.

“I love Zopf because it brings back so many memories. I used to play tennis as a child. And once my training session was over, my dad and I went to the store, bought a freshly baked Zopf and ate it together on our way back home."

Here Sarah shares her recipe for Swiss Zopf – a soft, pillowy milk bread that tastes just as good as it looks.

Sarah’s Swiss Zopf Bread Recipe


(makes 1 Zopf braid)

  • 500g all-purpose flour
  • 60g butter (at room temperature)
  • 10g kosher salt
  • 20g granulated sugar (or honey)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 200-220ml full fat milk (at room temperature)
  • 5g instant yeast or activated dry yeast (Activated dry yeast needs to be dissolved in water before using. I tend to use instant.)

For the egg wash:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1tbs cream or milk



1. In a bowl or in your stand mixer, whisk flour, salt, sugar and the yeast.

2. Add the egg and milk a little at a time. And (with the hook attachment if you’re using a mixer) knead, until the dough is combined.

3. Add the softened butter. Knead until the dough is silky and smooth. It should be completely attached to the mixer hook or come away easily for your work surface. (If the dough is too dry, add 1-2 tablespoons of milk. If it is too sticky add the same amount of flour.)

4. Knead the dough for a minute with your hands. Make a ball and put it in a bowl (at least 3 times bigger than the dough). Cover it with cling film and let it rise in a nice, warm spot in the kitchen until it has doubled in size.

5. Take the dough, divide it into six lengths. Then shape the braid. Cover it again and let it rise for another 45-60 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F). Mix the egg yolk with the cream (or milk) and brush it onto the bread.
Put your Zopf in the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until it’s golden brown.

Big thanks to Sarah for sharing her Swiss Zopf recipe and photography with us. You can see more of her baked creations on Instagram and find more recipes over on her website.