Culture Street

Danielle Hawkins shares a Hawkins family Christmas tradition

Danielle Hawkins grew up on a sheep and beef farm near Otorohanga in New Zealand, and later studied veterinary science. After graduating as a vet she met a very nice dairy farmer who became her husband. Danielle spends two days per week working as a large animal vet and the other five as housekeeper, cook and general dogsbody. She has two small children, and when she is very lucky they nap simultaneously so she can write. She is the author of the critically acclaimed novel, Dinner at Rose's. Chocolate Cake for Breakfast has just been released.

By Danielle Hawkins

The Hawkins family don’t generally have chocolate cake for breakfast, but they do have something just as good.

At our place special breakfasts (actually, most normal breakfasts, too) are all about Zupfe. Zupfe is a Swiss bread, usually plaited, with optional sultanas and compulsory butter, egg and milk. It’s soft and luscious, keeps beautifully and is really easy to make, and if you master it you earn a pleasing, though undeserved, reputation as a brilliant cook. This is my Grossmutti’s recipe:

Mix:     Half a cup of warm water

Half a cup of warm milk

50 grams of melted butter

1 heaped tablespoon of yeast

1 tablespoon of sugar

1 beaten egg (hold a teaspoon or so back to use as a glaze)

Leave for ten minutes or so, until frothy, then add about 3 cups of flour and 1 teaspoon of salt. If you’ve got a breadmaker, just throw all the ingredients in and run the dough cycle, but if not, knead to a nice soft dough.

Rise the dough for an hour in the hot water cupboard (if you’re feeling efficient, you can make it the night before and sling it in the fridge to rise slowly overnight, but for goodness sake don’t leave it somewhere warm overnight or it will take over the kitchen) and then cut it into three equal-sized lumps. Roll each lump into a cylinder about 30 cm long, and plait them together into a loaf. Brush the top with a little beaten egg to make a classy-looking glaze.

Purists would rise the loaf for another half an hour and then bake it at 180 degrees, but you’ll get away with putting it straight into the oven at the same time as you turn it on. The dough rises as the oven heats. Bake for 30-40 minutes.

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