[If using a bread machine] Combine all the ingredients (except for the garnishing and glazing ingredients) in the bread making machine. Select the dough setting and press start. When the dough is done, skip to Step 6.
[If kneading by hand] In a bowl, combine warmed up milk and the ingredients marked with ◆. Mix until the yeast dissolves completely. Add the lemon zest and the eggs, then set aside.
Place the flour in a separate bowl and pour in the mixture from Step 2. Knead it for 5 minutes.
Add the butter and salt. Continue kneading about another 10 minutes. It might be tough to knead, but be patient and keep kneading.
[First proof] This dough is quite soft, but once the dough comes together, allow it to rise for 40-50 minutes. Cover it with tightly wrung out damp cloth to prevent it from drying up.
[Check with your finger] When the dough rises up to about twice the size that it was originally, dust your finger with flour and push it down to make a hole. If the dough stays down like a belly button, it is done rising.
Dust the working surface with flour for easier handling.
In this recipe, we are going to make a braid with 6 strands, so divide the dough into 6 parts and roll it out to 40-45 cm long. Start braiding.
Secure the beginning and the end of the braid tightly.
Place the dough onto a cookie sheet, cover it with a tightly wrung out damp cloth and allow it to rise for the second time. It will take about 30 minutes and the dough should be 1.5-2 times bigger than its original size.
It should look like this after the second rising. Preheat the oven to 200℃.
Glaze the dough with the beaten egg.
Decorate the dough with a plenty of almond slices and nib sugar.
Bake for 15 minutes at 200℃. Reduce the oven temperature to 180℃ and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Adjust the time if necessary.
This is the cross section of the bread. It is tasty as it is, but it is normally eaten by spreading on some butter and jam.
I made 2 smaller loaves with the same amount of the ingredients above. The left loaf has some cranberries in it. At Step 7, divide the dough into half and add 30 g of cranberries into one.
Here is a 6-strand braid.
[Chocolate and orange zopf] Substitute 20 g of flour with 20 g of coco powder. Use orange zest instead of lemon zest. Also substitute a part of soy milk with some squeezed orange juice. Bake it the same way.
Story Behind this Recipe
I was practicing making Zopf to serve it at Easter and it finally came out well after much trial and error. Zopf is a traditional loaf from my husband's hometown, Schwäbische. It is slightly sweet braided bread that is served at a baptism ceremony or on Easter. Many of them contain raisins or nuts.