Switzerland may not be as well-known for the quality of its bread—in comparison to chocolate and cheese, for example—but it should be. With over 200 different types of Swiss bread—delicious crusty loaves, saffron-tinted breads, flatbreads topped with cumin seeds and many more—you can always find a new one to try. As an American living in Switzerland, I especially enjoy learning about the history of individual breads, and particularly those with strong regional connections. My latest discovery is a sweet, yeasted bread roll made with raisins and lemon zest from the Swiss canton of Graubünden known as Bütschella.
I first learned about Bütschella during my stay at the historic Hotel Waldhaus Sils-Maria in Switzerland’s Engadine Valley. The expansive breakfast buffet at the hotel features many local food products. As I considered my options that morning, I came across a basket full of these enticing bread rolls with raisins, each topped with a generous sprinkle of coarse-grained sugar. The card in front of the basket identified them as “Bütschella.”
When I returned home, I started searching for more information about Bütschella. According to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse, Bütschella has existed in Graubünden for over 400 years. It goes by multiple names and comes in various sizes, depending on where you live and how you make it. This bread is popular during holiday celebrations, like Easter and Christmas, but can also be found throughout the year. Ingredients such as white flour, butter, eggs and raisins for this bread, which seem quite common today, were once considered to be luxury items in this region of Switzerland and reserved for special occasions.
One of these special occasions is Chalandamarz, which takes place every year on March 1st in Graubünden. Boys and girls from the towns and villages in this canton dress in traditional costumes and ring cowbells to help drive out winter and usher in the season of spring. In the streets of St. Moritz for Chalandamarz, Confiserie Hanselmann hands out Bütschella to all the children participating in this festive celebration, a tradition that has spanned four generations for this local bakery, since 1894.
The description of Bütschella from Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse compares them to the Rosinenweggen, a loaf of bread that also has raisins from the canton of Nidwalden in central Switzerland. Unlike the Bütschella, which is traditionally made with water, Rosinenweggen contains milk. In my opinion, Bütschella also resembles Taillaule, a brioche-style bread with raisins and lemon zest from the canton of Neuchâtel. Taillaule gets its name from the French verb tailler or “to cut.” Before baking, you take a scissor (or sharp knife) and make deep, horizontal cuts in the top of the dough.
Since I cannot find Bütschella in my corner of French-speaking Switzerland, I wanted to try making it at home. To develop my own recipe, I borrowed from a regional recipe for these bread rolls shared by the talented Swiss food blogger, Einfach Essen. This recipe comes from a 1964 cookbook entitled, Bewährte Kochrezepte aus Graubünden (Proven Recipes from Graubünden). I like these rolls when they are still a bit warm and slathered with butter.
Allergens: eggs, gluten, milk and wheat
- 200 ml water, very warm
- 7 grams (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 575 grams (4 cups) flour
- 100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
- 113 grams (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 3 eggs, slightly beaten
- zest of one lemon
- 75 grams (1/2 cup) raisins
- 1-2 tablespoons coarse-grained sugar
- Add the yeast to the very warm water. Set-aside and let the yeast fully dissolve.
- In a large bowl, measure and add all the following ingredients: flour, sugar, lemon zest and salt. Whisk together until well combined.
- To the flour mixture, add the butter, 2 eggs (reserving the third egg for later) and the yeast mixture. Stir until a dough forms.
- Knead the dough—either by hand or use an electric mixer with a dough hook—for about 10 minutes. When the dough is almost ready, add the raisins and knead them into the dough until they are evenly distributed. The dough should be smooth and elastic—when you press the dough and make an indentation with your finger, it bounces back.
- Place in a bowl and cover with a hand towel. Let the dough rise for at least an hour or until doubled.
- Divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Form each of the pieces into 12 round rolls and place on a baking sheet (or two) covered with parchment paper.
- Cover the rolls with plastic wrap and let them rise another 30-60 minutes.
- Remove the plastic wrap and using a pastry brush, apply a thin coating of the beaten egg to the rolls. Then, sprinkle them with some coarse-grained sugar.
- Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes in an oven preheated to 180ºC / 350ºF, until they are golden brown.
- Place the rolls on a wire rack to cool. They are best eaten the day they are made.
For more information:
- Bütschella, Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse
- Schweizer Brot / Pain Suisse – National association for Swiss bread, flour and cereals.
Where to buy: Here are two examples of bakeries in Graubünden where you will find Bütschella.
- Confiserie Hanselmann, Via Maistra 8, 7500 St. Moritz, +41 (0)81 833 38 64
- Laagers, Plazzet 22, 7503 Samedan, +41 (0)81 852 52 35
Please note: This article is part of a paid partnership with Schweizer Brot / Pain Suisse. However, as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are purely my own.