6-Ingredient Zopf Bread Recipe (Sunday Bread): So Good It's Switzerland's National Bread by Ann Marie Patitucci

6-Ingredient Zopf Bread Recipe (Sunday Bread): So Good It's Switzerland's National Bread

My kids often ask me hypothetical questions, such as “If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?” My answer: bread. I must have inherited this from my parents, who, now in their 70s, will still drive far out of their way to get “good bread.” Bread is a big deal in our family!

Over the years I’ve become interested in international bread recipes and their origins. Switzerland is on my bucket list of trips, so I have paid attention to their cuisine for some time. Swiss zopf, or butterzopf, is the country’s national bread. It is a golden, braided bread served on Sundays. The word zopf literally translates to “braid.”

While it is considered a celebratory bread, zopf is connected to the legend of a rather macabre ancient burial ritual that dates back to the 15th century. When a woman’s husband died, it was her duty to be buried alive with him in the tomb in order for their souls to be reunited in death. This tradition was later abandoned and replaced by a much more humane one; the wife would cut off her braided hair and bury it with her husband. Over time, the tradition of leaving the braided hair in the tomb eventually developed into leaving a loaf of braided bread instead. While this tale is popular in Switzerland, a more likely origin of zopf bread is the development of bakers’ guilds in the 15th century.

You may find zopf, also known as Sunday bread, similar to challah in terms of shape and taste. If you want to eat your zopf as the Swiss do, slather it with butter and top it with jam or honey.

Cuisine: Swiss
Prep Time: 3 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 1/2 hours
Servings: Makes 1 loaf



  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 eggs (reserve 1 yolk for egg wash)

Egg Wash

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon water

Here's how to make it: 

  1. Put the sour cream into a bowl and microwave until just warm. Add the butter and stir until melted. 
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast and salt. Stir in the sour cream-butter mixture, 1 egg and 1 egg white. Stir until mixture forms a shaggy dough. Set aside for 15 minutes. 
  3. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, adding more water or flour if needed. Put the dough into an oiled bowl, cover and let it rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size. 
  4. Put the dough onto a floured work surface and knead for about 3 minutes. Divide the dough into three equal pieces. Roll each piece into an 18-inch "log." Braid the logs together and pinch the ends to secure. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Let the bread rise for about 45 minutes. 
  5. Whisk together the egg yolk and water to make an egg wash. Brush the egg wash over the dough. Bake in a preheated 375-degree F oven for about 30 minutes or until it is golden brown. 

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Swiss Cookbooks $5 & Up
Yeast $4 & Up
Flour $3 & Up

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Bring on all the easy bread recipes. Love the story behind this bread!
I don’t like it when people profess to know how to cook/bake foreign food, but don’t really know what they are taking about, and/or make unsubstantiated claims. The name “Zopf” is simply the German translation of ‘Braid’, and is not in any way connected to pre-historic live burials of widows fables.
Second, traditional Swiss Zopf does not contain any sour cream or water. It requires flour, yeast, salt, butter, milk, and one egg yolk. That’s it
Ann Marie Patitucci
Hi, Andreas. Thanks so much for following our recipes at @30seconds. I was surprised to learn this "legend" myself. I think you may be surprised by how many sources report the same story when you research the origins of zopf bread; I know I was! Thanks for your note about traditional Swiss Zopf. If you have a more traditional recipe, we'd love to publish it under your name! If you're interested, please click "submit a tip" at the top right side of the site. We welcome your contributions!
Brenda Barringer
my granny and Papa came from Switzerland and she made it every Christmas and Easter or whenever she felt like it. I make it for Christmas and love it. She made it as you said, no sour cream or water either. Thanks for clearing it up :)

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