When Swiss people move overseas or even just visit English speaking countries, there is one thing that almost every one of them will complain about: The bread.
To a Swiss person, Switzerland isn't so much the land of cheese or chocolate, it's the land of bread. However, if you ask most any North American or British person about the bread in Switzerland, they will tell you how they miss their soft, crustless bread from back home.
Why do these two linguistic cultures seem to bump heads when it comes to bread?
The answer to the above question lies in the crust. To build on the analogy put forth by Diccon Bewes in Swiss Watching, Swiss bread is like the personality of the Swiss: Hard on the outside.
Swiss breads are generally very crusty. Being Swiss, there is almost nothing I dislike more than going for a Cervelat or Bratwurst, getting a Büürli (traditional Swiss bun), and finding that it has a soft crust and an airy texture. I want a Büürli with a crisp crust and a dense interior!
If you love bread, Switzerland is a country for you. There are over 200 different traditional breads in Switzerland, including 22 special cantonal bread varieties. They were officially recognized in the middle of the 19th century when Switzerland officially became a democratic republic. If you are looking for a new favorite bread (and no, they are not all crispy crusted breads), here is a brief overview of the cantonal breads:
Almost every country has a city like Zurich, where the inhabitants think that the world revolves around them. However, Zurich’s influence is strong and if you’re looking for the typical “Swiss white bread” anywhere in Switzerland, you will get a Zürcher Brot with its traditional three diagonal cuts on top.
I prefer the Züri-Chorn-Brot, because it is denser. This bread was created to foster the production of wheat within Zurich city limits. The wheat is stored in Niederhasli and milled in Birmensdorf. The bread is then finally produced in a traditional bakery in Glattbrugg. In order to minimize the bread's carbon footprint, it is only sold in and around the city of Zurich.
If you want to have a traditional Swiss Sunday breakfast though, you need to serve Zopf. This braided yeast bread belongs on every family breakfast table with homemade jams and coffee.
If you already have a recipe, but are still confused about the braiding, check out the video Jack and his wife Silvia made:
Swiss bread is more than your standard bread meant for sandwiches, to dip in your soup or to accompany your grilled sausages. Included under the heading of bread are also sweet breads. Two of my favorites are:
The large Biberfladen are not filled, but the smaller ones, often called Biberli, have an almond filling. The dough is similar to a traditional German Lebkuchen (gingerbread), and they generally feature unique pictures and designs molded into the topside.
Often this might be a bear, which is the animal featured on the crest and flag of both Appenzell Innerrhoden and Appenzell Ausserrhoden. Biberli make for a great snack for hikers and runners — they are better than any energy bar!
If you are a real gourmand, you will certainly agree that a cheese platter is a must before dessert. Here’s a little secret — Bündner Birnenbrot. This bread filled with dried fruit (pears) and nuts is the perfect accompaniment to a cheese platter. Like the Appenzeller Biber, it also makes for a great food when you go on long hikes or runs.
With well over 200 types of bread for a country with a population less than that of New York City, and the average Swiss person consuming approximately 49 kg of bread a year, Switzerland really is a bread country!
Download the free guide Swiss Cantonal Breads