Hefekranz Nester (Challah Easter Nests) - HAPPY EASTER!

It's Easter time and I saw this cute little recipe of little "Hefekranz Nester" on Pinterest. "Hefekranz" is the German term for a braided sweet yeast breads like a Challah bread. For this recipe, the yeast bread is divided into several smaller little Easter nests :)

You can use different fillings (e.g., fruits, jams, nuts, etc.) and toppings (coarse sugar, almond shavings, glazes, etc.) for the yeast bread. I used some raisins as a filling and a sugar-lemon glaze.

This recipe gave me the perfect opportunity to learn more about yeast bread, the right proofing time and kneading...

When the bread turns out too dense...

There are several reasons why the bread may turn out too dense and firm.
  • You may have over-proofed or over-kneaded the bread. Use the "finger poking" method to see whether the proofing is done. If you poke the dough and the indentation springs back immediately, it is underproofed. If the indentation does not spring back at all, it is overproofed. If it springs back somewhat, it is right. 
  • You may have proofed the dough in a too warm place. 
  • Replacing cream with milk/butter may make the bread a little lighter as well.
  • Also, baking it with "Umluft" at a too high degree for too long will make it more firm.


      • 125 ml heavy cream (or substitute with 125 ml milk and 30 g butter)
      • 1/2 package yeast (fresh, not instant)
      • 250g flour
      • 40 g sugar
      • 1 package (2 tablespoons) vanialla sugar
      • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
      • pinch of salt
      • optional: 1/2 cup raisings 
      • 1 egg
      • possibly: 1 tablespoon flour
      Egg Wash
      • 1 egg yolk
      • 1 tablespoon milk
      Optional Glaze
      • 125 g powder sugar
      • 1 tablespoon water
      • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice


      1. Prepare the dough and first proofing: Lightly warm up the heavy cream, take down from heat and crumble in the yeast. You may want to add a bit of the sugar, it will help with the activation. Use a plastic or wooden spoon to stir, and a glas or plastic container, not a metalic one (it would interfere with the yeast activation). Let stand for about 10 minutes till you see a frothy, foamy layer on top (see piture). If that doesn't happen, your yeast may have expired and did not activate or the cream was too warm. In another bowl, add flour, the rest of the sugar, vanilla sugar, lemon zest, salt, and raisins. Whisk everything together. Form a little well in the middle and add the egg. Mix by adding the flour mix from the side to the middle. Pour the cream-yeast mix over the slurry flour-egg mix. Stir with a wooden spoon till you have a shaggy dough. Now, with a dough hook mix for 6-8 minutes till you have a smooth, soft dough, that keeps its ball like shape. If it is too sticky, add a talbespoon of flour. Cover the dough ball and let stand for about 1 hour in a warm place till it is doubled in size. When you poke it with a finger, the indentation should spring back slowly.
      2. Build the nests: Dust your working space with a bit of flour, punch down the dough and knead. Divide the dough into 6 equal parts for 6 nests. Take one of those parts and divide into 3 equal parts. Roll those 3 parts into thin ropes of about 30cm length and braid them together like you would braid hair. Form a round circle with the braided rope to build the nest. Squeeze the ends together. Repeat for the other five nests. 
      3. Second proofing: Line a baking tray with parchment and lift the nests on top. You can add a ball of tin foil in the middle of the nest to keep the hole in its form. Let stand in a warm place for about 1/2 hour. It will rise again but not as much as before.
      4. Bake the nests: Preheat oven at 180 degree celsius. Mix the egg yolk and milk to make an egg wash. Coat each nest with the egg wash. Bake for about 20 minutes till golden brown. Take out and let cool down.
      5. Topping: If you want a really sweet yeast bread, use a glaze. Mix the powdered sugar with water and lemon juice to form the glaze. If it is not thick enough, add some more powdered sugar. Spread on top of the cooled nests. Instead of the glaze, you can also use coarse sugar.

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