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German Easter Bread (Osterzopf)

German Easter bread known as Osterzopf or Hefezopf, is a buttery yet light sweet bread that tastes best warm with a generous spread of butter. Raisins, orange zest, and warming spices are added to the dough and make this brioche braid a deliciously fragrant addition to your Easter brunch table.

Hot Cross Brioche Braid with butter on a wooden board
Table of contents

Why you’ll love this Hefezopf recipe

Traditional German Easter bread: This German sweet bread is a spiced version of the German Osterzopf enjoyed on Easter Sunday and a nod to English hot cross buns.

Any occasion: This buttery and slightly sweet brioche plait with a soft, tender texture and golden crust is a firm favorite in my family, not just at Easter.

Why is brioche eaten at Easter?

A braided raisin bread made from sweet yeast dough is enjoyed in several European countries on Sunday, aka Easter morning.

The Easter braided loaf, with its three strands intertwined, symbolizes this trinitarian concept. Each strand represents one person of the Holy Trinity, and their unity in the braid reflects the interconnectedness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Christian theology.


  • Milk: I use whole milk to create a rich dough but you can also use a lighter version.
  • Yeast: Active dry yeast is used in this recipe but you can also use instant yeast or fresh yeast.
  • Sugar: Granulated white sugar gives the brioche its sweetness.
  • Eggs: Large, free-range eggs add richness, leavening, and a golden color to the dough.
  • Butter: Unsalted butter works best as the salt can slow down the yeast but omit the salt if you’re using salted butter.
  • Flour: All-purpose or plain flour as well as pastry flour are great choices for brioche.
  • Spices: Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger create a fragrant brioche braid.
  • Orange: Make sure you’re thoroughly washing and drying the orange before zesting it. Organic oranges work best. You can also use lemon zest for a fresher taste.
  • Raisins: Soak the raisins in hot water for 30 minutes if they’re a bit too hard and dry. You can also use sultanas or golden raisins. Other suitable dried fruits are black currants or cranberries.
  • Glaze: An egg wash give this Easter bread its rich golden brown color. Alternatively, you can add an apricot jam glaze and pearl sugar.


Braided wreath: Shape the plait into an Easter wreath before baking. Boiled and colored Easter eggs are often nestled in round loaf.

Plain Easter bread: Omit the spices and simply add 1 tsp vanilla extract for a plain braided brioche.

How to make soft brioche

Yeast dough can be scary and temperamental at times. Here are a few tips for making great brioche:

  1. Warm ingredients: Use lukewarm milk to activate the yeast with the sugar. Don’t skip that step.
  2. Use eggs at room temperature. Again, you don’t want to use cold ingredients to keep the yeast happy.
  3. Use softened, not melted butter. If it’s too hot it’ll again impact the rise.
  4. If your dough isn’t rising the room temperature is probably too low. Place the bowl in a warm place in your house (hot water cupboard, in the sun), or wrap a towel or blanket around it to keep it cozy.
  5. Add a little flour to the dough if it is too sticky when kneading it. Not too much though as the brioche gets too dry.

Step by step

German Easter bread process overview, step 1-3.
German Easter bread process overview, step 4-6.
  1. Activate the yeast.
  2. Combine dry ingredients.
  3. Add the activated yeast.
  4. Whisk the eggs.
  5. Add butter to rough dough.
  6. Knead the dough for 5 minutes until it’s smooth. Shaped into a ball and let it rest.
  7. Make 3 logs by hand.
  8. Braid them into a plait.
Hot Cross Brioche Braid on a wooden board


Do you eat brioche warm or cold?

Serve slightly warm with a generous spread of butter. Similar to a hot cross bun it also tastes deliciously toasted.

What is the best way to store brioche?

You can store any leftover brioche in an airtight container, aluminum foil, or plastic wrap for up to 4 days. It also stores well in the freezer for up to 3 months in a freezer-proof container.

More brioche recipes

If you love brioche as much as I do, make sure to check out the following recipes as well:

If you loved this German Easter bread recipe or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating below. Thank you!

Hot Cross Brioche Braid on a wooden board

German Easter Bread (Hefezopf)

Caro Jensen
German Easter bread known as Osterzopf or Hefezopf, is a buttery yet light sweet bread that tastes best warm with a generous spread of butter.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Rising Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 40 minutes
Course Breakfast, Desserts, Snack
Cuisine German
Servings 8 servings
Calories 385 kcal


Activate yeast

  • 1/2 cup milk lukewarm
  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar

Wet ingredients

  • 2 eggs room temperature
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter softened

Dry ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 tsp orange zest


  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp milk


  • In a small bowl, stir together 100ml lukewarm milk and a pinch of sugar. Stir in the yeast and let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.
    1/2 cup milk, 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast, 1 tbsp sugar
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, spices, and orange zest. Create a well in your dry ingredients with your hand.
    3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 pinch salt, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 1 tsp orange zest
  • In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and add them slowly to the well.
    2 eggs
  • Add the yeast mixture and raisins to the dry ingredients. Use an electric mixer or stand mixer with a dough hook to roughly combine the ingredients. Add the softened butter at this stage (not earlier).
    1/3 cup unsalted butter, 1/2 cup raisins
  • Knead the sweet yeast dough for 5 minutes until smooth dough has formed.
  • Form a soft dough ball and cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel for its first rise for 1 1/2 hours at room temperature until it has doubled in size. This might take slightly longer on a cold day.
  • Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
  • Divide the dough into three equal parts and roll each of them into a long log shape. Transfer the logs to a parchment paper lined baking sheet, combine them at one end, and start braiding. Tuck in both ends.
  • Cover the yeast braid with a tea towel and for the second rise for another 30 minutes at room temperature.
  • Whisk an egg yolk and a tablespoon of milk and brush the braid with the glaze.
    1 egg yolk, 1 tbsp milk
  • Bake the braid for 20 minutes on the baking tray. Let it cool for 15 minutes before serving it.


For more tips on how to make this German Easter bread, check out the cream-colored box in the article.


Calories: 385kcalCarbohydrates: 64gProtein: 9gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 88mgSodium: 34mgPotassium: 190mgFiber: 2gSugar: 15gVitamin A: 359IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 48mgIron: 3mg
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