Saturday, 3 March 2012

Striezel (Austrian Yeast Braid)


I’ve tried it once, and the result was an utter, uneatable disaster. Now, I’m not an overtly ambitious person. But my sister (my sister!) sent me a photo of HER Striezel, which was perfectly shaped, golden brown and just looked as fluffy as it should (and surely was) that I couldn’t bear the (personal) shame and humiliation. So I tried it once again. And behold, dear readers! I did it! I baked a wonderful, traditional Allerheiligenstriezel (literally All Saints Striezel) that not only could have been prepared by a professional but also tasted as yummy as can be.

Now, for your information, in the Southern regions of German-speaking countries (Austria, parts of Switzerland and Southern Germany), we call Striezel a sweet Yeast Bread that is either shaped like a braid (this is also called “Hefezopf” or Yeast Braid) or like a wreath (“Hefekranz” or Yeast Wreath). This bread was traditionnally prepared for All Saints Day and given to one’s godchildren; it was a token of good luck. Today, we often buy a Striezel for our Saturday and Sunday breakfasts.

What you need: 
  • 500 g of wheat flour 
  • 7 g of salt 
  • 60 g of granulated sugar 
  • 60 g of smooth, warm butter 
  • 8 g of vanilla sugar 
  • 2 packets of dry yeast 
  • 1 egg yolk 
  • 1-2 teaspoons of rum (I’d suggest dark rum) 
  • 1 lemon (or orange) 
  • 270 g of warm milk 
  • Some milk and an egg 
  • Decorating sugar or almond slivers 
How to proceed: 
  • Sift the flour. 
  • Wash your lemon (or orange). That means do not only rinse it with clear water; no, use a brush and scrub it good. Today, too many chemicals are used in agriculture and you have to make sure the lemon peal is really clean. 
  • Make sure butter and milk are warm but not warmer than body temperature (again, we will use yeast, so keep in mind ingredients that are too hot will destroy the yeast cells). 
  • Mix the flour, salt, vanilla sugar and sugar with the lemon (or orange) zest, butter, milk, 1 egg yolk, yeast and rum. Use a paddle and mix for 7-8 minutes until the dough is smooth. 
  • Cover with a clean dishcloth and let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes, in a dry and warm place. If you leave it longer, that’s even better (last time, I cleaned my flat in the meantime, but you can do something else; go and walk your dog, write an opera, call your mom for instance). 
  • When you uncover the dough, you should discover that it has doubled in size. 
  • Try to cut it into 3 equally sized chunks. 
  • Form a long “cord” with each chunk. 
  • Put them on a sheet of baking paper upon which you will have spread some flour beforehand. 
  • Weave the three “cords” into a nice braid. 
  • Let it rest for another 10 minutes. 
  • Preheat your oven (160°C). 
  • Whip up an egg and some milk. 
  • Coat your yeast braid with the entire egg-milk-mixture (“All of it, George!”, as John Malovich would say). 
  • Spread decorating sugar or almond slivers on your Striezel
  • Bake it for 40 minutes at 160°C. 
This is just absolutely divine! Cut a thick slice for breakfast (or whenever you feel a craving for something sweet and delicious), butter it good, add some jam, and you will be in (breakfast or craving) heaven! 

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