Basel | Culinary heritage of Switzerland
The Swiss city of Basel, located in the northwest corner of Switzerland and near its borders with France and Germany, has many strong food traditions. To help you discover Switzerland’s third largest Swiss city, we have compiled a list of 10 foods that I think you should try. All but two of the foods listed below appear in the directory of traditional Swiss products maintained by Patrimoine Heritage Suisse (Culinary Heritage of Switzerland).
This simple soup requires few ingredients, and its color comes from toasting flour with some butter. Recipes can differ, but the result is usually the same—a brown broth topped with grated cheese. This soup is popular during Basel’s annual carnival celebration, known as Fasnacht, which starts in the early hours of the morning on the Monday after Ash Wednesday. One of my Instagram followers wrote that people used to say that young women could not marry unless they knew how to make a good flour soup.
A little round bread roll, the Schlumbergerli has been made by Basel bakeries since at least the 1950s. The crust of these rolls is crisp, but somewhat soft. Their name comes from Amedée Schlumberger, who moved from Alsace to Basel and missed the petits pains of his homeland. In the late 19th century, he commissioned some bakers to produce these rolls, which grew in popularity over time. The bakers borrowed Amedée’s last name for the bread today known as Schlumbergerli (a.k.a. Schlumbis). Even though they may have started in this Swiss city, they are common in other parts of the country, although by a different name—Semmeli.
One of Switzerland’s cantonal breads, Basler Brot, has a crisp, floury exterior. Baked at a high temperature to achieve its deep color and texture, it has only four ingredients: halbweissmehl / farine mi-blanche (half-white flour), yeast, salt and water. The photo below shows only one half of the bread. These two oblong parts are baked together, and then split into separate loaves for sale. You can find this bread in many regions of Switzerland.
Like Baler Mehlsuppe, Fastenwähe is popular during Basel’s Fasnacht celebration. Its name means something like “fasting pie,” as its production historically coincided with the period of Lent. Using an enriched dough with milk and butter, these small yeasted breads have caraway seeds sprinkled on top. The four holes cut into the dough creates a design resembling a cross. Similar to a pretzel, they are one of my favorite foods from Basel.
The Hefegugelhopf is a yeasted, fluted cake with a hole in the middle. Bakeries often decorate them with whole or sliced almonds and a heavy coating of powdered sugar. They have strong roots in the Alsace region of France, across the border from Basel. More like a sweet loaf of bread than an American-style Bundt cake, the Hefegugelhopf is one of my favorite baked goods in Switzerland.
You can find small buns filled with chocolate chunks throughout Switzerland, but the Schoggiweggli has a strong connection with Basel. Developed in 1975 by Anton Bachmann of Confiserie Bachmann, this has become a popular bread at many bakeries and supermarkets in the city. These sweet buns have distinctive cuts on the top, as if to reveal the chocolate surprises hidden inside the rolls. They are lovely for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
At first glance, you would never guess that a Basler Läckerli is incredibly chewy and full of flavor. These brown rectangular squares appear dry, and as if they need to be soaked in coffee. If you start eating them, however, you will find they have a soft, crisp texture. Seasoned with spices like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, they also contain honey, candied citrus and almonds or hazelnuts. Kirsch, a cherry liqueur, is another common ingredient. These biscuits are wonderful anytime, but especially during the holiday season.
Popular throughout Switzerland during the Christmas season, Basler Brunsli, as their name suggests, started in Basel. These small cut-out cookies contain chocolate and ground hazelnuts or almonds, although I most often see recipes that call for the latter. Flavored with spices like cinnamon and cloves, these delicious cookies are also typically gluten-free.
Before I tried a Mässmogge candy, I had never experienced anything like it. Within this colorful candy shell is a hazelnut paste filling, which I did not expect. And, these candies are quite large and hard. You really need to break them up, and I do not recommend chewing them. In Basel, these candies are popular during the season of its autumn festival.
A sweetened, spiced red wine, Hypokras is popular during the wintertime in Basel. It can be served cold or warm, and a glass of Hyprokras is particularly common to celebrate the New Year. Traditionally flavored with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, the presence of this alcoholic beverage in Switzerland dates back to the 15th century, according to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse.