When my husband and I went to the Berner Oberland region of Switzerland last year we would often stop at a grocery store (Migros) in the morning and purchase bread or pastries, cheese, chocolate and fruit to fill our backpacks. Our trail side snacks and lunches are some of the most memorable meals of my life, even though they were also some of the most affordable meals of our vacation. The views were fantastic, and the food was fantastic too. I’m not sure if that was because we hiked 12 miles a day and hunger is the best sauce, or because the Swiss have a special secret to growing the tastiest strawberries…
Since we can’t travel to Switzerland whenever we please, my husband and I sometimes recreate these trail side lunches and go on a hike in a more local location. This always brings back a flood of happy memories.
Trail Side Menu A La Backpack:
Bread: Usually we bought fresh baked braided bred similar to Challah, but on one occasion we stopped in to a bakery in Mürren about half way through our morning hike and picked up the cutest pastries that look like eggs sunny side up.
Cheese: Always Appenzeller. Gruyere is similar and more widely available.
Fruit: Nothing compares to Swiss strawberries in June.
Chocolate: Anything Swiss is good but my husband really likes Lindt truffles.
In Switzerland, there is usually a water fill station at the trail head so we would fill our water bottles. Back in the states we have to fill up before leaving home.
I recreate the bread at home using recipes found in this book: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. They also have a fantastic Blog: Artisanbreadinfive.com. If you aren’t familiar with the book or method, you basically mix up a big batch of bread dough, let it rise, then stash it in the refrigerator so portions can be baked off later in the week. As the book title suggests, there is very little active work. You only have to stick around the house for one rise cycle for a week’s worth of bread and best yet, NO KNEADING!
I won’t post the entire recipe because the book is still in print so go out and buy it or check it out at your local library! Here are some photos of the process to show you all just how easy this is.
Mix up the dough per the book/blog recipe for challah or brioche dough. You can divide up the loaves and put them in the freezer if you aren’t cooking them off in the coming week. If you freeze the dough wrap in waxed paper and a zip top bag. Defrost in the fridge. The chilled dough is way easier to handle and shape.
Cut the loaf into three equal pieces.
Roll the pieces into “snakes” of equal length.
To get an even braid, start the braid from the center of the loaf. Like so:
Braid one half of the loaf until you get to the end. Little nubins will be left on the end but those are easy enough to deal with.
Just pinch the ends together and tuck under the end of the loaf.
Spin the cookie sheet around and braid the other half of the loaf. Pinch the ends together and tuck them under the end of the loaf.
Usually you would brush an egg wash on at this point. An egg wash will create a beautiful golden shiny crust. But, I don’t like the taste of egg wash and I don’t like wasting an egg for one loaf of bread. In lieu of egg wash I like to brush the loaf with melted butter before baking. The crust will still brown but it will be matte instead of shiny. I prefer the taste that the butter gives to the finished loaf as well.
Preheat the oven, bake off and TAH DAH. Perfect delicious smelling tasty Challah!
Homemade bread tastes like– a million times better than grocery bakery bread in the states. It is just as good as the bread we stuffed in our backpacks on vacation. I hope you do try out this technique, or packing a trail side lunch. Or, hey, why not try both?