Birnbrot literally translates to “pear bread”, but despite its name, it resembles more of a fruit pie. It is typically made from a dough filled with a mixture of dried pears, nuts (often walnuts), and sometimes other dried fruit such as figs or raisins. The filling is usually flavored with pices like cinnamon, anise, coriander, or cloves. Some birnbrot recipes even include a small portion of strong local brandy.
Preparing birnbrot can be quite laborious, especially if the dried pear filling is made from scratch, but it is a favorite part of Swiss culinary tradition.
Birnbrot can be enjoyed in many ways. Some people prefer it as a dessert, others prefer it as a snack with a cup of coffee or tea. I was recommended to bake a slice of birnbrot with some Swiss cheese. Although I didn’t get a chance to taste this combination, I believe it would be splendid.
You can also buy birnbrot in Swiss supermarkets. An one pound package costs 10 CHF, which is approximately the same amount in EUR. In this particular one, the recipe included dried pears, raisins, dried figs, candied orange and lemon peel, walnuts and hazelnuts, fruit brandy, barley and wheat malt, dried milk, sugar, eggs, shea butter, and lots of spices.
Another Swiss pastry called birnweggen also has a pear filling. Here too, additional ingredients such as nuts, figs, or raisins are often added to the dried pears. These ingredients are cooked together until a thick mass similar to plum jam is formed. This is then spread on the dough and everything is baked until golden.
A pack of three birnweggen pastries costs 3.20 CHF, which is approximately the same amount in EUR. I love pear jam, so birnweggen was an obvious choice for me to try.
Just like many other traditional dishes, the recipes for birnbrot and birnweggen can vary by individual regions.