For Valentine’s Day 2015, my husband bought me an electronic waffle iron for making Swiss bricelets (in French) or bretzeli (in German). Yes, I know this might seem like a strange gift, but for someone who loves learning about traditional Swiss foods, I was thrilled. Bricelets are thin and crispy wafers that can be made sweet or savory. My very Swiss waffle iron imprints patriotic symbols on the bricelets, like the geographic shape of Switzerland or the cross from the flag.
According to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse, the earliest documented evidence of bricelets in French-speaking Switzerland dates back to around the mid-16th century. Today, you can find bricelets throughout Suisse romande, as well as the canton of Bern. I first tried them as part of a dessert course at Festin Neuchâtelois. After that, I started noticing them at major Swiss supermarkets and at our local farmers’ market.
Bricelets can look like the flat ones I’ve been making at home, or they can be rolled into cylinders. I haven’t tried rolling them yet, since it takes more time and patience (two things I don’t usually have much of, especially with the kids running around). You must roll the bricelets while they’re still warm and pliable (and very hot, so you need to be careful!), otherwise they’ll crack and break.
A friend who grew up in Suisse Romande (i.e., French-speaking Switzerland) remembers making bricelets as a child at Christmastime. I recently tried her mother’s recipe, which calls for fresh lemon zest and a teaspoon of kirsch. Another sweet recipe I’ve seen from Neuchâtel calls for equal parts white wine and sour cream.
To make bricelets, you can use a more liquid batter that’s poured onto the griddle or a thicker dough that’s rolled into balls, for example. I’ve tried both types of recipes, and from my experience so far, the thinner batter makes crispier and more delicate bricelets.
While I love sweet bricelets, the savory version I made with whole cumin seeds and a pinch of white pepper was also excellent. My kids ate them up and kept reaching for more! Sesame seeds and poppy seeds are also used in savory bricelets.
There are many different variations for these thin and crispy cookie-crackers, and here’s my latest bricelet experiment with fresh limes that I’m taking along to a children’s birthday party today.
Lime Zest Bricelets
Recipe adapted from the book, Neuchâtel à Table, by Marcel North and Jacques Montandon (1973).
(Contains: milk, egg and wheat)
100 grams unsalted butter, softened
125 grams sugar
zest of 2 limes
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (or vanilla paste or extract)
250 grams all-purpose flour
1. Cream the butter and sugar together until well-combined.
2. Mix in the eggs, one at a time until the mixture is smooth and the eggs are fully incorporated. Then, stir in the lime zest, lime juice and vanilla sugar.
3. Stir the flour in two batches until a dough forms. Let the dough sit in the fridge for about an hour.
4. Remove the dough and roll it into small balls (follow the instructions given for your waffle iron). Follow the directions for your iron and cook the bricelets until very lightly browned. Please note: They cook quickly, so keep an eye on them. They get brown very fast!
5. Carefully remove the cooked bricelets from the iron and cut immediately into the intended shapes while still warm. Let them cool on a wire rack, so they are completely flat.
6. Store them for a week or two in a sealed container (mine never seem to last a week!).
What’s your favorite way to make and serve Swiss bricelets—sweet or savory? Do you have a favorite recipe to share? Please leave a comment below. Thanks so much for visiting my new blog!
Updated: December 28, 2022