This Easter Zopf should be part of every Easter brunch. Best when baked on Sunday morning or the night before, your kitchen will be filled with the sweet buttery scent of the freshly baked Easter Zopf made with raisins and lemon glaze. Enjoy it just plain or with butter and marmalade. This delicious bread can be eaten for breakfast, as a snack or even with your afternoon coffee.
The recipe for Easter Zopf with raisins is a family recipe which has been passed onto me by my mother. I now bake the Zopf every year for my family as it reminds me of my childhood. Some of my favourite Easter activities growing up were egg colouring , and the Easter egg hunt.
And of course all us kids in the family eagerly looked forward to the Sunday Easter Brunch which my mother prepared every year along with this Easter bread.
What is 'Zopf'?
For those who might not be familiar with 'Zopf', it basically translates into braid in english. The Zopf is a type of bread made with white flour, milk, eggs, butter and yeast. I am not sure of the exact origin but it is a big part of our German tradition. Though the same recipe can also be found in East Europe, Russia and even Israel where it's called "Challah".
Making the Easter Zopf is not that difficult if you have the right recipe. Just like any bread with yeast, you will need to give the dough time to proof. Meanwhile you will have plenty of time to do other tasks. The only tricky part is making the braid for which I have you covered with my step by step recipe😉
A Traditional Easter Zopf Recipe
For making the Easter Zopf with raisins and lemon glaze, you will need the following ingredients:
- Plain wheat flour
- Yeast - I wanted to use fresh yeast but I couldn't find any so ended up using 1 pkt (7g) of dry yeast which would have been 21g fresh yeast.
- Full fat milk
- Medium size free range eggs
- Caster sugar
- Unsalted butter - Don't use butter straight out of the fridge, leave it outside to soften at room temperature. Also, do not use the microwave to soften the butter as it can make the dough sticky.
- Raisins - If you don’t like raisins, replace them with dried apricots, nuts or poppy seeds. My grandmother would mix grounded hazelnuts, sugar, egg, cinnamon and milk to her Zopf
- Vanilla essence - It can be replaced with a packet of vanilla sugar or fresh vanilla bean
- A pinch of salt
- Lemon juice and icing sugar for the glaze, will make it sweet and tangy which is super delicious
- Toasted shaved almonds as toppings, can be replaced with just pearl sugar (looks like rock salt).
Note: As a vegan option use margarine instead of butter and almond milk instead of cow's milk, leave the eggs out.
How to make an Easter Zopf in 4 steps
Read the below recipe carefully before you begin. The whole process from start to finish takes about 2 hours, so make sure you haven’t planned anything during that time. If you have a busy schedule for Easter, you can also prepare the dough the night before.
Leave it covered in the fridge and the next morning you will just have to make the braid and let it rise once more before baking.
Step 1 - How to make the Dough
Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature before you start making the dough.
First, you want to get the yeast going so warm the milk and add the yeast with a teaspoon of sugar.
Now place the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the yeast mixture inside the well and add a bit of flour from the sides. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Now add the remaining ingredients except the butter and raisins
Step 2 - How to knead the dough
Use an electric kitchen kneader for 3 minutes at low speed. Increase the speed and slowly add the butter cubes one by one. Keep mixing for another 4 minutes at high speed.
Lastly place the dough on a working surface and add the raisins. I like to knead the dough by hand for another 5 minutes as that will help with the elasticity while rolling it out. Now the dough needs to be covered with a damp cloth and placed in a warm spot to rise for 1 hour.
The day I made the Zopf, I struggled with the temperature so had to switch on the oven 😒 I placed the dough inside and kept monitoring it by opening and closing the oven door constantly. Not ideal but it was a rainy day and it was just too cold for the dough to rise at room temperature.
Step 3 - How to 'Braid' the Dough
Place the dough back onto a working surface and knead it for a few minutes. Roll out the dough and cut it into three parts. Roll each part into a ball.
Now roll the three balls out individually into 50 cm long strands. Lay them next to each other with the sides touching.
Next, separate the outer strands and lay them into a V shape. Secure the ends of the strand together. Start with the right strand and fold it over the middle one. Now fold the left strand over the middle strand.
Continue folding the right strand over the middle one and then the left strand until you come to the end. It's just like braiding a plat😊. Press the end of the strands down with your thumb.
The braided dough is now ready to be placed on a baking tray lined with baking paper. But just before we put it in the oven, we will let it rise one more time for another 45 minutes. Cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm spot.
Step 4 - How to bake the Zopf?
The braid should now be a little more puffed up. Brush the dough with an egg and milk mixture and then bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C (350°F) for about 25 minutes.
If you see the colour of the zopf getting too dark, cover it with an aluminium foil for the last 5 minutes.
Remove the baked Zopf from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature on a cooling rack. Lastly, Brush the braid with the lemon and sugar mixture and sprinkle toasted almonds on the top🤗
Step 5 - How to store the Zopf?
The Easter Zopf lasts normally for 2-3 days for a small family like ours. Wrap the Zopf with cling film or keep in an airtight container for storage but leave it at room temperature.
Similar to a raisin brioche, you can toast the sliced Easter Zopf the next day. It will taste as fresh as it was when you first took it out of the oven! You can also freeze the Easter Zopf if you want to keep it longer, just make sure it's not warm when you put it in the freezer.
Making this Easter Zopf Recipe with raisins and lemon glaze takes time and love - kneading, resting, proving, baking, glazing but once you have gone through the process, the end result is so satisfying.
Easter Zopf with Raisins and Lemon Glaze
For the Easter Zopf
- 500 g plain flour
- 8 g dry yeast or 21 g fresh yeast
- 125 ml full fat milk
- 75 g sugar
- 2 eggs free range
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 1 pinch of salt
- 100 g unsalted butter
- 75 g raisins
For the Glaze and topping
- 100 g icing sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon water
- 20 g toasted shaved almonds
For the Easter Zopf
- Warm the milk. Place the flour in a deep bowl and make a well in the centre. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk with a teaspoon of sugar.
- Pour the milk mixture inside the well and add a bit flour from the side. Mix with a fork into a thick dough and let sit for 15 minutes.
- Add the remaining sugar, eggs, pinch of salt and the vanilla essence.
- Use an electric dough hook and knead the dough at low speed for 3 minutes. Increase the speed and add the soft butter cubes one by one. Keep kneading for another 4 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and add the raisins. Knead by hand for about 5 more minutes and place it back in the bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm spot for 45 minutes.
- Knead the dough once again and portion into 3 even balls. With your palms roll the dough into strands, about 50cm long. Lay them next to each other.
- To make the braid seperate the outer strands and lay them in a V shape. Press the ends down with your thumb securing the strands. Start from the right strand and fold it over the middle one. Now fold the left strand over the middle one. Continue folding the right strand over the middle one and then the left strand over until you come to the end. Press the end down with your thumb.
- Place the braid on a baking tray lined with baking paper and let rise under a moist cloth for another 45 minutes at a warm spot.
- The braid should be puffy now and ready to be baked. Brush with a milk and egg mixture and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C (350°F) for 25 minutes.
- If you see the colour of the braid getting too dark during the baking process you can cover the braid with aluminium foil for the last 5 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let cool at room temperature on a cooling rack.
- Brush the braid with the lemon and sugar mixture and sprinkle with toasted shaved almonds.
For the lemon glaze
- For the glaze mix the icing sugar, lemon juice and warm water together and glaze the braid with a brush.