This is halfway between a cake and a sweet bread, depending on your tastes. In Southern Germany you serve it with coffee and tea in the afternoon, sometimes with butter (unsalted) and jam. It’s delicious whatever the occasion, especially around Easter, when yeast-based breads are everywhere. For the cake in the pictures I used Hagelzucker, which is a coarse and grainy sugar you can get in German shops, but using granulated sugar tastes just as nice.
- 1kg plain flour
- 200g soft unsalted butter
- 180g sugar
- 2 tsp dried yeast
- 2 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 1tsp salt
- roughly 150ml milk at room temperature
- grated peel of 1 unwaxed lemon
- 1tsp ground aniseed (optional)
In a large bowl, beat the butter until soft, then mix in the yeast and the milk and beat until the yeast is well dissolved. Add the rest of the ingredients and knead to a firm dough: add more milk if necessary. With yeast dough you need to knead until the dough comes off the walls of your bowl; you will also notice bubbles forming. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rest in a warm place for an hour or until it is roughly double the size. I leave it beside the radiator in winter or in an unheated oven to protect it from draughts.
After it has reached the required size you knead it again and split the dough into three pieces. which you roll into even strands. On a sheet of baking paper braid them the way you would braid hair: take the left strand and cross it over the middle strand, then take the right strand and cross it over the middle strand. Repeat this until you reach the end.
Use an oiled ovenproof dish to arrange your plait around to keep the hole in the middle throughout the baking process. Tidy up the ends by working them into the ends at the beginning of your plait. I used a springform to keep the outside of the braid in shape, but it looks also pretty if left to its own devices on a flat baking sheet. Cover the finished crown with a tea towel and leave to rest for another 30 minutes.
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tbs milk
- granulated sugar, flaked almonds to taste
Heat the oven to 200C. Mix the egg and milk and glaze the cake evenly. Sprinkle over the granulated sugar and the flaked almonds and bake for 50-60 minutes. You might need to cover the cake with some tinfoil to prevent it from turning too dark.
Serve when it is still a bit warm if possible. It will keep for a few days and can be easily frozen. I freeze it already sliced so I can take out a few slices at a time: they defrost quickly or can be heated up in a toaster.