In January, Sunday mornings are particularly sweet times in Sarah and Alban’s apartment. There is no rush to get out of bed. Blinds are gently lifted to let the Swiss winter light in and time in the kitchen preparing breakfast is an unhurried, beautifully shared ritual. There will be stove top espresso coffee with frothed milk and a thoughtfully arranged table spread with soft boiled eggs, jams and butter. And from the oven will come a prettily plaited, warm baked loaf of zopf.
I’ve been meaning to introduce you to Sarah. After all, she is one of my dearest, most loved friends. Although always living on opposite sides of the world (Sarah is Swiss), we have remained close. Always finding time to meet, to travel together and to share many meals.
Sarah is the friend that I catch trams with. Walk the streets of Paris, London, Istanbul and Berlin with. We laugh and chat and behave like sixteen year olds and never ever does there seem to be enough time together. She lends me shoes, takes me to gallery openings and educates me on movies, music and art. She reminds me of all things graceful and clumsy, serious and silly. She is creative beyond means, has the most wonderful memory and bears the kindest and most considerate soul there is. When I’m sick, she brings me tulips, lemon tea and a thermometer. She is the friend that hosts mid-week dinners, uses every last item in her fridge, loves Pavlova and golden syrup and all things Australian. She dislikes Edith Piaf on Saturdays and being wasteful. She introduced me to Danish furniture, parquet floors, and living without a TV. She speaks perfect English, writes the most beautiful letters and her handwriting is like no one else’s I’ve seen.
Some of the fondest memories I have of Sarah are with her husband Alban in their apartment in Basel. Most of them are situated around all of us making food in the kitchen, gathering around their dining room table for dinner with friends, or on a slow Sunday morning, just us. I fondly remember being introduced to Zopf (which I forever referred to as Sunday bread) and the novelty of this simply beautiful, traditionally Swiss food.
Sometimes a little earlier on a Sunday, Sarah would ride her bike into town to pick up a loaf of zopf and place it in the oven to warm ready to have with breakfast. I also remember her baking a loaf once, to take down to her neighbor as a peace making gesture. For some reason it stuck with me. An unusual but fond memory of Switzerland perhaps.
During my recent stay with Sarah and Alban, we made sure to spend one breakfast together baking and eating zopf. Again, I couldn't get enough of spending time at their table, simply eating, enjoying the morning, waking up to a gentle Sunday start.
One thing to learn from these two dear friends is how to live minimally and sentimentally, to enjoy food prepared thoughtfully and together and how to appreciate all that is humble and true about taking time.
More memories made, more time together. And more eating and sharing zopf.
Here is Sarah’s recipe:
Zopf (Sunday Bread)
cook time: 3 hours 15 minutes total (including 2 hours rising time)
yields: 4 servings
7g dry yeast
500g plain flour
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, separated
Warm the milk and butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it just reaches body temperature. Stir in the yeast and allow to stand for a few minutes until the yeast begins to bubble.
Combine all of the ingredients except the egg yolk in a large bowl. Turn out onto a flat, lightly floured surface. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic - about 10 -15 minutes. Place the dough back in the bowl and leave to rise in a warm place for about two hours or until doubled in size.
Once the dough has risen, evenly separate the dough into two halves. Roll each half into a sausage shape until they are approximately 60cm long, allowing the dough to become a little thinner at one end.
Begin plaiting the dough by making a cross, placing one piece over the other in the center. Continue to pick up and cross over the underneath pieces, two at a time, until you reach the end of the dough (see photos above). The plait will grow upwards, towards you. Once all the dough has been plaited, tuck the four ends into the plait to finish it off.
Place the zopf on a baking tray and evenly brush the egg yolk over the top of the plait. Turn the oven to 220°C/425°F and place the zofp in straight away, un-preheated. This will allow the zopf to rise a little more as the oven preheats. Once the oven is at full temperature, bake for 35-45 minutes or until a knock on the bottom of the bread sounds hollow.