Cozonac – Romanian Easter Bread

IMG_8091Happy Good Friday everyone! Wait…can you say that? You hear a lot of “Happy Easter” but not really “Happy Good Friday”. Hmmm…well I’ll ask you to indulge me today because I am very happy today! My Apple Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns that I make every year ( you have to bake them on Good Friday or they don’t have all of the special powers) are well under way!

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And not only does the house smell completely irresistible, what with all the baking buns, but I am also ready to share a new recipe with you for Cozonac – Romanian Easter Bread.

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This tender, sweet and citrus-y yeast bread is shot through with swirls of a chocolatey nut filling. It looks so festive and tastes Ahh-mazing! And here is the truly amazing thing, I have somehow managed to get this blog out BEFORE the actual holiday. Last year I didn’t get the recipe for my Italian Easter Bread published until Easter had come and gone. So this year is definitely an improvement in that regard.

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I tried to play my tardiness off last year by saying “Oh, you’ll be way ahead of the game for Easter 2019”. But now I guess now you’ll have to pick between the Italian Easter Bread and this Cozonac or be ahead of the game with a recipe waiting in the wings for Easter 2020!

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I love trying out Easter breads from around the world. I’ve already told you about my Italian Easter Bread last year. The year before I made Tsoureki from Greece.

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There was also the Slovak Paska:

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As well as the impressive Russian Kulich:

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But let me get back to the bread at hand today.

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Cozonac has Romanian origins. It is traditionally baked during both Easter and Christmas. Soft and tender, this bread is slightly sweet and flavored with orange & lemon zests as well as rum. Ha! Now you’re talking huh? The delicious filling has also got a bit of rum in it, so take care that you don’t get too festive over this holiday. Walnuts are typically used in the filling, though the filling ingredients do vary from region to region. I used ground almonds. I think pecans would also be quite tasty.

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Cozonac was pretty easy to make, though keep in mind it does require two rising times and a bit of finesse as you have to roll out four different sections of dough, spread the sticky filling evenly and then roll them up and twist the rolls together. That’s how you get those beautiful spirals in your finished loaves.

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And for all of your effort, you are most definitely rewarded with not one but TWO loaves of this scrumptious bread.

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It is a decadent indulgence just as it is, and I bet it will make some phenomenal French toast. I’ll have to let you know about that. So what are you waiting for? I’ve actually given you a bit of time to get this baked for Easter this year. I promise, you won’t be sorry! Happy Easter!

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Cozonac - Romanian Easter Bread

  • Servings: 2 loaves
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

recipe from: She Loves Biscotti

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 170 grams (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 720 grams (approx. 6 cups) bread flour
  • 8 grams (2¼ teaspoon) active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest, grated
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest, grated
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the filling:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 200 grams walnuts, almonds or pecans finely ground, about 2 cups
  • 1/4 cup rum
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup dutch processed cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping:

  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons Demerara sugar

Directions:

Make the dough:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the milk and sugar.

Add the butter and stir until butter is almost melted. Remove from heat and set aside.

While the butter/milk mixture is cooling, add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and the yeast to the mixing bowl of a stand mixture, fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until combined.

Once the milk/butter mixture has cooled to luke warm (98°F/36°C) add it to the flour/yeast and combine on low speed for 2-3 minutes.

Allow the mixture to rest for a few minutes.

In the meanwhile, grate the orange and lemon zest and set aside.

With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs one at a time, mixing until the are just combined.  Scrape down bowl and mix for about 1-2 minutes.

Add the vanilla extract, rum and salt.

Switch to dough hook attachment.

Add the rest of the flour, one cup at a time, mixing until combined. Once all the flour has been added, continue to knead for a few minutes.

Add the citrus zests and continue to knead for about 6-8 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. NOTE: If you find that the dough is still sticky, add a few more tablespoons of flour.

Place the dough in a lightly buttered dough rising bucket or bowl. Make sure to turn the dough over in order to completely coat the dough with the butter.

Cover with plastic wrap.

Allow to rise for about 2 hours or until double in size.

In the meanwhile, prepare the filling.

Make the filling:

Over medium heat, in a small sauce pan, whisk together the milk and sugar.

Add the ground nuts and stir until a paste-like consistency is reached. This should take about 15 minutes. Stir often. (I used Almond Flour because it was easy – being ground and ready to go.)

Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to stir until a paste like consistency is achieved.

Set aside to cool.

To Assemble the Cozonac:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Place oven rack at bottom third of oven. Butter two (9 x 5 inch) loaf pans.

Punch down the risen dough and divide into four equal parts. I use a kitchen scale just to make sure I’ve the pieces are equal.

On a rolling mat or lightly floured wooden board, roll out each section into a large rectangle (about 11 x 14). Spread out the 1/4 of the nut mixture (approx. 1/2 cup) to within 1/2″ from the edge for each rectangle.

Starting from the long end, roll the dough to form a log. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling. Pinch the ends and the seams together.

Twist two pieces of the dough log together and place in prepared loaf pan. Do the same with the last two pieces of dough logs.

Brush the top of the dough with a beaten egg. Cover the pans loosely with plastic wrap. Allow them to double in size. This can take 45 – 60 minutes.

Sprinkle a little Demerara sugar over the top and bake for about 45 minutes. Feel free to place a piece of aluminum foil loosely over the tops to prevent over browning.

Allow bread to cool completely before slicing.

Enjoy!

Cozonac brought to you by Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Cozonac:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

6 Quart Dough Rising Bucket

SAF Instant Yeast

Hand Held Zester

Oxo Good Grips 7 Piece Nesting Measuring Beaker Set

Silicone Pastry Dough Rolling Mat

King Arthur Flour Espresso Powder

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