Ask any baker or chef in Switzerland to guess how many different breads there are in the confederation, and more often than not they will come up with the same figure — 300!
That sounds high until you consider the number of flours and flour variations that exist. Meyerhans Mill list 51 different flour mixes.
So if you want to make the popular morning breads known as gipfel and weggli all you have to do is buy the respective mixes.
Their gipfel mix contains wheat flour (types 400 and 720), starch, salt (with iodine), sugar, barley malt flour, skimmed milk powder, wheat gluten, butter powder and an emulsifer.
Their weggli mix contains wheat flour (type 550), vegetable oils and fats (partially hydrogenated), skimmed milk powder, salt (with iodine), sugar, starch, barley malt, dextrose and emulsifier.
Obviously this makes the job of baking so much easier and the result is appropriate.
Swiss Milk list 112 bread recipes.
These recipes understandably feature breads that contain butter, cheese and milk, are decorative, diversive and typically Swiss. They include:
birenbrot (the delicious bread made with pears - see Fruity Swiss) butterzopf (the braided loaf that adorns many a breakfast table - see Andrea Sprenger-von Siebenthal) dinkelbröt (spelt bread - see Spelt) kartoffelbrot (the potato bread made with brown flour) maisbrötchen (the yeast-free bread made with cottage cheese, corn and spelt flours) milchbrötchen (another popular breakfast and lunch bread roll) pligätsch (the sweet spiced fruit and nut bread made with rye and brown flours - see Fruity Swiss) rüeblibrot (the original carrot bread)
We have asked Swiss Milk for permission to translate and reproduce some of their bread recipes. We wait patiently and when they reply positively we will publish.
Among the most popular breads in Switzerland are:
bürli (the St. Gallen buns that are served with St. Galler sausage) gipfel (the crescent breads that differ subtly from their more famous Parisien cousins) mutschli (the eponymous breakfast roll - see Swiss Cheeses to find out why) semmeli (the crunchy breakfast roll) weggli (the soft breakfast roll)
The majority of bread eaten in Europe takes place early mornings to mid-day in the form of various shaped buns, flat and pocket breads, hot and cold toast and a range of pastry breads that have disputed origins.
We know some of these as croissant au beurre, pain au chocolat, croissant aux amandes, pain au chocolat aux amandes, pain aux raisins au beurre, chausson aux pommes, chouquettes … and the plain old croissant.
This enigmatic crescent-shaped pastry bread is more than mere food, it is the stuff of legend. Popularily associated with royalty and resistance, the origins of the croissant go back to ancient pastry traditions.
Whether they are Jewish, Italian, Austrian or Hungarian no longer matters.
Viennoiserie has been a success since it was introduced at the World Fair in 1867. Gradually it seduced every pastry chef from Paris to Copenhagen, where the Danes claimed it as their own.
The real irony is that a pastry bread originally made as a communal activity only to be adopted by the aristocracy is now within reach of everyone, albeit as a machine-made factory product.
The real danger is that the original waxing moon-shaped delicacy will be lost as the world decides there is only one crescent – the croissant!
This is the original crescent-shaped breakfast bread.
500 g soft white/pastry flour (or flour mix) 280 g milk 50 g sugar 50 g butter, softened 30 g yeast 1 egg yolk (optional) 5-10 g salt
Bring milk gently to lukewarm in a saucepan. Dissolve yeast in milk.
Sieve flour into a large bowl with the salt and sugar. For a salty flavour double the amount of salt.
Add yeast mixture, and work into a loose smooth dough.
Leave to rest for 15 minutes.
On a floured surface roll out the dough, dot with pieces of butter. Spread butter on the dough and fold over three times.
Place dough in a plastic bag, leave in a cool place to rest for three hours or leave overnight.
Cut the dough into 80 g pieces, roll into oblong sheets 12 x 18 cm. Starting at one edge roll tightly and form into a crescent shape.
Place on a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper, the seam underneath.
Spray with cold water, cover and leave to rise for an hour.
Preheat oven to 190°C.
Spray again with water or wash with egg yolk.
Easier than making croissants and just as satisfying, just like the sweet crescent of choice in central Europe – the perpetually popular Vanillegipfel.
250 g soft white/pastry flour 210 g butter, softened 125 g almonds, ground/grated 75 g vanilla sugar 2 vanilla pods, deseeded (optional) 2 egg yolks (optional) Salt, pinch Icing sugar, for dressing Vanilla sugar, for dressing
Made in the 19th and 20th centuries with ground almonds, butter, flour, vanilla-flavoured sugar and salt, modern trends are moving back to the older method of using grated almonds, egg yolks and vanilla seeds.
Some recipes call for the almonds to be toasted ground or whole in a dry frying pan.
Butter also plays a huge part in the success of these crescents. Soft rather than hard butters help relax the dough.
Crumble the butter into the floor, add the egg yolks, salt, sugar, vanilla seeds and finally the almonds, working quickly to make a smooth dough.
Rest dough in the fridge for two hours.
Roll out dough to a thickness of no more than one centimetre, cut into four centimetre square pieces, about 15g each, roll and shape into crescents.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Place crescents on a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper.
Bake for 12 minutes.
While still hot, roll crescents in the icing sugar then the vanilla sugar.
A 1900 recipe: 390g flour, 300g butter, 150g sugar, 150g almonds, rolled in 30g vanilla sugar while still warm.
A 2000 recipe: 175g pastry flour, 75g chick pea flour, 150g butter, 80g icing sugar, 150g almonds, 2 egg yolks, 1 vanilla pod, a pinch of salt, rolled in sugar while still warm.
Traditionally made with white flour, yeast, milk, butter, malt, sugar and salt, artisan and home made weggli are superior to the mass produced varieties that use improvers and milk powder to prolong the shelf life. Spelt gives these weggli a kick. Made with kefir instead of milk, they are mouthwatering.
350 g strong white flour (or flour mix) 150 g white spelt flour (or flour mix) 200 g kefir, brought up to room temperature 50 g butter, softened 50 ml milk, warmed 1 egg yolk, beaten 15 g honey 15 g yeast 10 g salt Milk, for glazing
Dissolve the yeast in the honey and warm milk.
Put the flours and half of the salt in a large bowl and allow it to come up to 20°C.
Crumble the butter into the flour, add yeast mixture and kefir, knead until firm and elastic.
Leave to rise for an hour. Degas, leave for a second hour. Desired dough temperature is 25°C.
Divide dough into 60 g pieces, shape into ovals and place on a greased baking tray. Leave to rise for 30 minutes.
Add a tablespoon of milk and remaing salt to the egg yolk.
Brush buns liberally.
With a dough cutter or large blade make a deep cut in each piece of dough down the middle without dividing it into two pieces. The two halves must still be joined.
Bake at 220°C for 15 minutes, or 210°C for 20 minutes for a slightly softer bread.
Adapted from The Bread with Big Holes: The Rise of Artisan Bread Making