Hefezopf (German Sweet Bread)

A Delicious Hefezopf Recipe To Try Out For Easter – Or Anytime Of Year Really!

Want to make a yummy sweet bread? Hefezopf is for you!

Also known as German Easter Bread, this classic braided bread is lightly sweet and soft on the inside and finished with almonds or sugar crystals on the top!

German sweet bread is usually enjoyed with a little butter, some fruit jam, or both. Some people also like eating it on its own or with other breakfast spreads.

german sweet bread hefezopf on white marble with jam behind
Hefezopf – soft inside, golden outside!

In Germany, this bread is typically called Hefezopf (yeast braid), but sometimes it’s also called Hefekranz (yeast wreath) when the bread is shaped like a wreath.

As mentioned, Hefezopf is also so known as Easter bread since it is often eaten for Easter. This is a classic bread that Lisa grew up eating around this holiday in Germany.

In English, Hefezopf is also sometimes known as sweet bread due to its taste or braided bread due to its shape.

This German Hefezopf is similar to a Hungarian kalács – a sweet bread eaten at Easter. The wreath version is called Húsvéti kalácskoszorú (essentially “Easter bread wreath”).

Recipe Tips & Substitutions

Before you tackle this Hefezopf recipe, consider these recipe tips so you’ll know what to expect:

  • Since you’re working with yeast, make sure that your yeast is still good and hasn’t expired yet. Also, make sure that the milk isn’t too hot, or else you may harm the yeast and the dough will not rise.
  • This recipe is not difficult to make but it’s important to give the dough enough time to rise. So please be patient when making this recipe.
  • Rolling out the dough can sometimes be a bit tough. In this case, wet your hands with a touch of water. It will help the dough sausage from contracting as much.
  • In Germany, you typically decorate this bread with sugar crystals called Hagelzucker, but since that is difficult to get in North America, we usually use sliced almonds.
braided german sweet bread on white marble with slices cut
Our German sweet bread sliced perfectly…

How to Make Hefezopf – Step by Step Instructions

To make this German braided bread, you can find the recipe card with exact measurements at the bottom of this post.

For those wanting to follow along with visuals for the recipe steps, you can check out the recipe process photos in this section.

This way, if you have questions about how things are done, you can refer to the photos as visual aids!

sugar and flour in silver mixing bowl on counter
Add flour, sugar, and salt to a bowl.

Add the flour, sugar, and salt to a large mixing bowl. Give everything a stir with a spoon.

dry ingredients with yeast on top in mixing bowl
Add the yeast.

Next, add the dry instant yeast.

milk in red mug on counter top
Heat the milk.

Heat up the milk in the microwave or in a small pot on the stove. It should be warm but not hot as this might harm the yeast bacteria.

Mix the contents in the bowl together with the spiral dough hooks of your electric mixer while slowly adding the warm milk to the bowl.

egg and flour and butter in silver mixing bowl
Add the egg, soft butter, and vanilla extract.

Next, add the vanilla extract, egg, and soft butter while continuing to mix with your electric mixer. Make sure that the egg and the butter are at room temperature since you are working with yeast.

Keep mixing for around 5 minutes until all the ingredients have combined and your dough has an elastic consistency that doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl.

If the dough is too crumbly, add a little bit of milk. If it is too sticky, add a tiny bit more flour.

risen hefezopf dough in silver mixing bowl
Shape the dough into a ball.

Shape the dough into a ball with your hands, then place it back into the bowl.

Cover the bowl with a dishtowel or lid and place it in a warm spot without a draft in your house. Allow the dough to rise for approximately 60 minutes.

hefezopf dough on counter top with flour around
Knead the dough.

Once the dough has sat for an hour and noticeably increased in size, sprinkle a little bit of flour onto your countertop. Briefly knead the dough with your hands.

three pieces of german sweet bread dough sitting on counter top
Cut the dough.

Then cut or rip the dough into three equally sized pieces.

hands rolling sausage of sweet bread dough on counter top
Roll the dough into sausages.

Roll the pieces of dough with your hands until they become sausages that are around 20 inches long.

Make sure all three pieces are the same length. If it’s difficult to roll the dough, wet your hands a little bit with some water.

braided german hefezopf on parchment paper on counter
Braid the bread.

Use the three pieces of dough and braid them as you would braid hair. Gently press the ends together.

You can even use a little water as “glue” to help stick the ends to one another.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and gently place the braided bread on top of the parchment paper.

Cover it with a dishtowel and let it sit in a warm spot for around 30 minutes.

beaten eggs with fork in white bowl on counter
Prepare the egg wash.

Towards the end of the 30 minutes, crack the egg for the egg wash into a small bowl and whisk it with a fork until uniform in color.

Also, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

german braided sweet bread covered in egg wash on parchment paper
Egg wash the bread.

Once the 30 minutes are up, remove the dishtowel from the braided bread and gently brush it with the egg (you probably won’t need the whole egg).

sliced almonds covering braided german sweet bread on white parchment paper
Add sliced almonds or other decorations.

You can now sprinkle the bread with sugar crystal, sliced almonds, or other decorations of your choice.

cooked german hefezopf on pan with parchment paper
Bake the bread.

Bake the bread in the oven for approximately 30 minutes until cooked and nicely browned.

Watch it towards the end to make sure that it doesn’t get too brown or burns. If you’re worried about that, cover the bread with aluminum foil for the last few minutes of baking.

Remove the baked bread from the oven and let it cool so it will be easier to cut. You can eat it slightly warm or cold.

sliced german hefezopf bread on white marble board
Slices of Hefezopf just waiting for butter or jam!

Serve the bread as part of (Easter) brunch. As mentioned, it is often eaten with butter, some fruit jam, or other breakfast/brunch spreads.

Storage Tips

This yeast bread tastes best fresh in our opinion, so we would recommend making it the day of or maximum a day before.

You can store any leftovers in a plastic container with a lid in a cool and dry place such as your basement or the garage. This way, the bread doesn’t dry out too much. Eat the leftovers as soon as possible though since it is best fresh.

You can also cut off a portion of the bread and freeze it in a sealed freezer bag.

To reheat the bread (if you want to eat it warm), you can cut a slice and place it in the microwave for a few seconds until warmed through.

FAQ

What is Hefezopf?

Hefezopf is German Sweet Bread that is usually enjoyed at Easter. Topped sugar crystals and/or sliced nuts, Hefezopf is made from braided yeast dough and can be shaped into a loaf or a circular wreath.

How to braid a Hefezopf bread?

You braid Hefezopf like you would three chunks of hair. Tuck the ends in at each end to ensure a uniform look to the loaf. To make a wreath, you’ll need longer lengths of dough that will be able to form a circle around an object – like a bowl.

Related Recipes

If you are searching for more great sweet recipes, try these classics on for size:

  • Milchreis – Delicious German rice pudding you eat for dinner
  • Ice Cream Coffee – German Eiskaffee is the perfect treat on a hot summer day
  • Bavarian Cream – A classic, custardy dessert with fruit puree on top!
sliced german hefezopf bread on white marble board

Hefezopf (German Sweet Bread)

Yield: 12
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Hefezopf - also called German Sweet Bread - is a beautiful addition to the table. This braided bread, usually enjoyed at Easter time, is slightly sweet, covered in delicious sliced almonds or sugar crystals, and serves well with butter or jam!

Ingredients

The Dough

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 4 teaspoons instant dry yeast
  • 1 cup milk, warm
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 medium-sized egg, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup butter, at room temperature

The Topping

  • 1 small egg (for egg wash)
  • sugar crystals, sliced almonds, or similar

Instructions

  1. Add the flour, sugar, and salt to a large mixing bowl. Give everything a stir with a spoon, then add the yeast and mix everything together with the spiral dough hooks of your electric mixer while slowly adding the warm milk.
  2. Next, add the vanilla extract, egg (at room temperature), and soft butter while continuing to mix with your electric mixer. Keep mixing for around 5 minutes until all the ingredients have combined and your dough has an elastic consistency that doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too crumbly, add a little bit of milk. If it is too sticky, add a tiny bit more flour.
  3. Shape the dough into a ball with your hands, then place it back into the bowl. Cover the bowl with a dishtowel or lid and place it in a warm spot without a draft in your house. Allow the dough to rise for approximately 60 minutes.
  4. Once the dough has sat for an hour and noticeably increased in size, sprinkle a little bit of flour onto your countertop. Briefly knead the dough with your hands, then cut or rip it into three equally sized pieces.
  5. Roll the pieces of dough with your hands until they become sausages that are around 20 inches long. Make sure all three pieces are the same length. If it's difficult to roll the dough, wet your hands a little bit with some water.
  6. Use the three pieces of dough and braid them as you would braid hair. Gently press the ends together. You can even use a little water as "glue" to help stick the ends to one another.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and gently place the braided bread on top of the parchment paper. Cover it with a dishtowel and let it sit in a warm spot for around 30 minutes.
  8. Towards the end of the 30 minutes, crack the egg for the egg wash into a small bowl and whisk it with a fork until uniform in color. Also, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  9. Once the 30 minutes are up, remove the dishtowel from the braided bread and gently brush it with the egg (you probably won't need the whole egg). You can now sprinkle the bread with sugar crystal, sliced almonds, or other decorations of your choice.
  10. Bake the bread in the oven for approximately 30 minutes until cooked and nicely browned (but make sure it doesn't get too brown or gets burned - if you're worried about that, cover the bread with aluminum foil for the last few minutes of baking).
  11. Remove the baked bread from the oven and let it cool so it will be easier to cut. You can eat it slightly warm or cold.

Notes

  • Make sure to use yeast that hasn't expired yet.
  • When preparing the yeast, make sure that the milk is warm but not too hot since this might harm the yeast bacteria and the dough might not rise.
  • Instead of braiding it into a long bread, you can also braid it into a wreath. Some people like to this and then place colored eggs into the middle of it for Easter brunch.
  • In Germany, this Hefezopf is often decorated with sugar crystals called "Hagelzucker". Since this type of sugar can be very difficult to find in North America, we like decorating with sliced almonds when making it on this side of the ocean.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 300Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 40mgSodium: 73mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 2gSugar: 9gProtein: 8g

This nutritional information has been estimated by an online nutrition calculator. It should only be seen as a rough calculation and not a replacement for professional dietary advice.

Did you like this recipe?

Pin it to one of your boards on Pinterest so you can come back to it any time!

Leave a Comment

Skip to Recipe