Pain de Pâques: Easter Bread from Neuchâtel

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). I have read about this bread for several years now and even tried making it at home. Today, however, I finally bought one of these loaves—which can only be found during the Easter season. It came from a well-known Neuchâtel bakery, Boulangerie-Pâtisserie Mäder.

What is Pain de Pâques? 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, however, it takes a rounded form, resembling an oval—or more appropriate to the season, an egg. After lightly coating the loaf in egg yolk to give it a golden brown color, a 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 mid-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, though, these loaves have become very popular at Easter. They are not typically made at home, and instead purchased from a local boulangerie. A slice of Pain de Pâques is delicious with butter and jam.

Happy Easter / Frohe Ostern / Joyeuses Pâques / Buona Pasqua

6 replies »

  1. Hi from a Swiss residing in the U.K., who has just discovered this fab page, full of recipes from my beloved Switzerland. Do you by any chance have a tried and tested tresse recipe you would be willing to share? Failing that, I shall try to make one with this recipe. Thank you

      • Hi Heddi and thank you for the helpful reply; I shall look into both. Interestingly, I made some petits pains au lait at the weekend and most recipes I found called for a part of light spelt flour (farine d’épautre claire) but I only had regular spelt flour – could I have used that? I eventually remembered I have my old school cookery book, which contains a lot of traditional Swiss bread recipes and I made some delicious and nostalgic petits pains, using just regular bread flour. Thank you also for the great content on history and tradition on your site as my Mother was born in the Fribourg region and we grew up visiting her family at Bénichon time, eating things like cuchaule, moutarde de Bénichon etc. She will be delighted if I can replicate some of these dishes on a future visit to Switzerland as she is now unable to travel to her birth Canton. All the best

      • Thanks again for your nice messages, Nathalie! I’m glad you found a recipe for Petits pains au lait that worked for you! I make these with some whole wheat flour. You can substitute light for regular spelt flour, you just may need to adjust the liquid amount (perhaps adding a bit more?). And, Cuchaule is one of my favorite Swiss breads – although I have many favorites. 😉 Best wishes, and happy baking!

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