Switzerland has so many different bread styles and shapes, and my newest favorite is Pfilenbrot, a round loaf with multiple curlicues and a 4-strand braid in the middle.
Philenbrot originated in the canton of Appenzell Innerhoden, and it falls under the category of Bröötis, according to the inventory of Swiss food products, Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse.
One possible theory for this bread’s name is that Pfile is a variation of the Greek word, philo for friend (brot means bread in German). This fits with the custom of giving Pfilenbrot at holidays, particularly at the end of the year.
If you would like to buy Pfilenbrot in Switzerland, I’ve read that you can find them at Gschwend in St. Gallen. Otherwise, you can use the recipe below. Honestly, I find that making the 4-strand braid for this bread is easier than braiding a loaf of Swiss Zopf!
How to make it:
Recipe adapted from Notre Passion (2012).
Makes one round loaf of bread.
Contains: egg, milk, wheat
– 450 grams white bread flour
– 10 grams salt
– 250 ml milk, lukewarm
– 7 grams active dry yeast
– 50 grams unsalted butter
– 1 egg
1. Add the flour and salt to a large bowl and whisk until blended. Make a well in the center of the mixture. Set aside.
2. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk. Pour this mixture into the middle of the bowl with the flour and salt. Then, add the softened butter. Still until a dough forms.
3. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic. Return the dough to the bowl and cover it with a damp kitchen towel. Let it rise for at least 60 minutes, until it has doubled in size.
4. When the dough is ready, use a kitchen scale to measure out 360 grams of the dough. Use this to form the outer ring of the bread. Form a large cylinder and place it on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and connect the two ends to form a ring.
5. With the remaining dough, divide into 10 pieces of equal size. Take four of these pieces and form long cylinders. Braid the four strands together. Place the braid inside the ring of dough that you already prepared. Each end of the braid should be touching the inner edge of the ring.
6. Form the remaining 6 pieces of dough into shorter cylinders and then shape them into curlicues or “S”-like shapes. Place three on either side of the braid inside the dough ring. It should look something like this:
7. Cover the dough and let it rise for another hour. When it’s done rising, whisk together an egg in a small bowl and then lightly coat the top of the bread with the beaten egg with a pastry brush.
8. Make 4 cuts into the outer ring of the bread with a very sharp knife (use the photo above as a guide).
9. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 200°C (400°F). The bread should be nicely browned and sound a bit hollow when you tap it on the bottom.
Updated: December 29, 2022