Ticino has the Colomba di Pasqua, and many of the Swiss-German and Swiss-French cantons have a braided Zopf/Tresse on the table at Easter time, but what about the canton of Neuchâtel? It also has a special bread for this holiday season, known as Pain de Pâques (Easter bread).
In Neuchâtel, the dough for making this Easter bread is nearly identical, if not exactly the same, as the dough for a loaf of Zopf /Tresse. Instead of braiding the dough, this bread takes a rounded form, resembling an oval—or more appropriate to the season, an egg. After lightly brushing the loaf with a beaten egg to give it a golden brown color, a deep slash mark is made across the top. The result? A loaf with a rich, butter flavor and a slightly tighter crumb than a typical Zopf/Tresse.
In the 1960s, bakers in Neuchâtel first started making Pain de Pâques for a very practical reason—they take less time to shape than a braided Zopf / Tresse. Over the years, these loaves have remained popular at Easter.
Make Pain de Pâques at Home
While typically made at a bakery, here’s a recipe if you want to try making this Swiss bread at home.
– 1 g fresh yeast
– 100 ml water, cold
– 100 g white flour
– 400 g white flour
– 15 g sugar
– 9 g salt
– 50 g unsalted butter, softened
– 9 g fresh yeast, crumbled
– 200 ml milk, lukewarm
Brush on before baking:
1 egg, beaten
- Prepare the poolish. In a bowl, dissolve the fresh yeast in the cold water. Then, stir in the flour to make a wet, thick batter. Cover the bowl (with a plate, for example), and let it sit at room temperature for about 15-18 hours.
- When the poolish is ready, make the dough. In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together: flour, sugar and salt. Add the softened butter in pieces. Then, make a well in the center of the mixture and add the poolish. Set aside.
- Separately, add the fresh yeast to the lukewarm milk. Let it sit for a few minutes and then stir until the yeast has completely dissolved. Pour this mixture into the center of the large bowl with the flour mixture. Stir until a dough forms.
- Knead the dough by hand on a lightly floured surface for about 10 minutes, or use an electric mixer with a dough hook, until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
- Place the dough in a bowl, cover it with a damp kitchen towel, and let it rise at room temperature for about 1-2 hours or until it has doubled in size.
- Punch down the dough and form it into an oval shape. Place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover it with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest for about 30 minutes.
- After the dough has finished its final rest, whisk an egg until well-combined and brush it on the surface of the dough. Use a sharp knife to make a deep slash mark across the mid-section.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes at 200°C/400°F until the surface turns golden brown. Place on a wire rack to cool.
Happy Easter / Frohe Ostern / Joyeuses Pâques / Buona Pasqua
Updated March 24, 2021