Romanian Sweet Bread / Cozonac

Romanian Sweet Bread / Cozonac
This is one of the most traditional recipe for the holidays. Cozonac is a sweet bread, it is a little bit like the italian panettone, but lighter. This is the traditional Romanian bread for different holidays, most prominently Easter and Christmas.

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She would make 6-8 cozonaci and she had her special bowl where she would knead the dough for a an hour or even more. “It has to make bubbles” was her response when I asked if it was finished. Then it was transferred to the living room to rise. It was wrapped in blankets to be warm so it could rise.

When I was a little older I was allowed to help with cutting the turkish delight, grind the nuts, prepare the raisins and help with the second part, making the cozonac and putting it into forms. Then, the house smelled great and I could hardly wait to eat my first slice of cozonac… Beautiful memories!

1 kg flour
300 g sugar
500 ml milk
6 eggs

200 g butter
50 g fresh yeast
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 spoons sunflower oil

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Nut filling:
250 g walnuts
200 g sugar
20 g cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preparing the dough:
Begin by separating the eggs, put aside the egg yolks and the egg whites. Warm the milk on medium heat. When the milk is warm, remove about 3 tablespoons and continue heating the milk. Place 3 tablespoons of milk in a small bowl, add the yeast, 1 teaspoon of sugar and a about 1 teaspoon of flour. Mix until it is the consistency of a thick cream, cover and set aside for about 5 minutes.
Once the milk comes to a boil, remove it from the heat. Add the vanilla, mix and set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, egg yolks and salt. Slowly stir the warm milk into the sugar and egg mixture and mix well. Then stir in the yeast mixture and 3 egg whites. Gradually add the remaining flour until it forms a dough, using all the flour.
Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead. In a small pan, begin by melting the butter and then stir in the oil. Once melted, slowly add the mixture of warm butter and oil until the dough forms bubbles and easily comes off the hands. Cover bowl with a towel and let rise in a warm, draft free place until it has tripled in bulk.
For nut filling: Begin by grinding the walnuts. Mix with the sugar and vanilla, and cocoa . Generously grease two loaf or baking pans. Once the dough has risen, about 3 hours, roll out half the dough into a square and spread the filling. Roll the dough back up and shape it to the size of the baking pan. You can also use raisins or turkish delight cut in cubes. Allow the dough to rise again for at least 1½ hour. Before baking beat one extra egg and brush the cozonac. Bake at 195°C for 50-60 minutes. To see if it is baked all the way through take a wooden toothpick and insert into the cozonac. If it comes out clean, then it is ready. If you get dough on the toothpick let it bake a little more. Cover with aluminum foil if you feel it is too dark on the top. When cooked through, remove the cozonac from the pan and let cool on a wire rack.

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