Breads of Europe | Birnenbrot (pear bread)

SWITZERLAND

This pear bread comes from an old, established tradition that even today is interpreted differently in each of the Swiss cantons.

One version is made with bread (yeast) dough, another with pastry (oil) dough, yet another with puff (butter) pastry – the latter being preferred by many bakeries because of its lightness.

There are three distinct shapes – thick with filling, like a boat, thin with filling like a wedge (birnenweggen) or like an oblong bread with bits of fruit and nut scattered throughout the crumb.

It has taken us many years to determine the actual difference between birnenbrot and birnenweggen, and to decide on a recipe that has a fidelity to the old tradition. In the end we decided to adapt a recipe from a 1938 cookbook. The dough is a variation on the recipe for the spiced bread rolls called gewürzzopf.

We also added a splash of fruit brandy.

Dough

  • 500 g Zopf flour (or 200 g strong white wheat flour, 200 g white spelt flour, t630, 100 g white wheat flour, t550, large pinch of barley malt flour)
  • 225 ml milk, full-fat, warmed to 38ºC
  • 60 g butter, softened
  • 45 g yoghurt
  • 30 g thick pear juice
  • 20 g yeast
  • 15 g brown sugar
  • 7 g salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, ground
  • ½ tsp cardamom, ground
  • ½ tsp cloves, ground
  • ½ tsp nutmeg, ground
  • ½ tsp turmeric

Dissolve yeast in the milk and sugar. Mix the flours, salt and spices. Pour yeast mixture into the flour, add butter, knead into a rough dough. Combine the pear juice and yoghurt, add gradually, about 10 grams at a time, working it into the dough to make it smooth. Leave to rise for an hour, degas, rise for a second hour, degas again.

Filling

  • 450 g pears, coarse-mashed (cored weight from hard and soft pears)
  • 125 g walnuts, crushed or halved
  • 125 g sultanas
  • 100 g candied lemon and orange
  • 100 g sugar
  • 50 g dried apricots reconstituted in 150 ml pear juice, , chopped into small pieces
  • 50 g dried pears reconstituted in 150 ml pear juice, , chopped into small pieces
  • 30 ml fruit brandy (optional)
  • 25 g birnbrotgewürz (pear bread seasoning)

Combine all the ingredients. If using the brandy stir into the mixture at the end and leave to permeate for an hour.

Preheat oven to 200.C.

Divide dough into four equal pieces. Divide filling into four equal amounts. Roll each piece of dough into an elongated rectangle, arrange the filling along one side of the doughs, fold over and brush with water to seal the edges. Place on greased baking trays.

Bake for about 35 minutes.