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Austrian 'Striezel' or Hefezopf1 as it is called in Germany, is a sweet bread that is usually made for certain holidays. Its origins are probably in pagan times and the custom of making offerings to the gods on special days.
In Austria Striezel is available in supermarkets throughout the year but people make it themselves and eat it especially at Easter, All Hallows and Christmas. Usually Striezel is eaten with butter and/or jam, but at Easter the sweet bread is enjoyed also with various cold roast pork, ham, cheese, pickles, eggs and grated horseradish.
- 500g (17oz) flour
- 50g (2oz) warm, melted butter
- 50g (2oz) sugar
- 25g (1oz) dried yeast
- 250ml (9oz) warm milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 pinch of salt
- zest of 1 lemon
- 10g vanilla sugar or a few drops of vanilla extract
- rum (a good glug)
Mix the flour, lemon, yeast, sugar, salt and vanilla sugar in a bowl. Pour on to a table, make a well (a depression in the dry ingredients) in the middle and put the eggs, rum, butter and some milk into this well and mix it from the inside to the outside. Add as much extra milk as needed for a soft, but not sticky, dough. Knead well. You can add raisins if you like at this point. Cover the dough with a clean teatowel and let it rest for 15-20 minutes in a warm place.
Knead the dough again and then divide it into 3-6 pieces. Each piece should be formed into longish strands with the ends being thinner than the middle. The strands are braided into a plait – how many strands are used depends on the skill of the cook. The ends of the strands should be firmly attached to each other. The easiest way to make a Striezel is to make two plaits with 3 strands each and then put one on top of the other to get one big loaf, but you can also make smaller loaves with 3 strands only. Place the plaits on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and let them rest for another hour in a warm place.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at about 170°-180°C (gas mark 3/4) for about half an hour or until the Striezel is golden brown. Dissolve some sugar in a small amount of milk and use it to glaze the top of the warm Striezel, if you sprinkle coarse sugar onto it at this point the sugar will stick on top of the bread.