Cozonac is a Romanian sweet bread, traditionally served at Easter and at other special occasions. Its preparation requires a fair amount of work and differs somewhat from what is done for the standard French brioche eventhough the classic ingredients (milk, sugar, eggs, butter) are of course used. Cozonac is often braided then cooked in a baking tin, but in some areas of the country it is baked in a round shape. The dough is further enriched with ingredients varying from region to region and between families but which can include walnuts, almonds, lemon zest, vanilla and rhum.
I had the chance to try cozonac a few times before, years ago, but this is the first time I make one. The end result was excellent, very rich and really similar to how I remembered it. It's worth noting that the dough litteraly triples in volume and that it would be best to make 2 cozonaci instead of one...
Ingredients: (for one very large cozonac, or two medium ones)
- 600 g flour
- 100 g butter, melted and cooled
- 150 g powdered sugar
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1/4 l milk + a bit more for the yeast
- 25 g fresh yeast
- 60 g walnuts, almonds, nuts, chopped
- 3 tbsp cocoa powder
- zest of one lemon
- 4 tbsp rum
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg yolk and a little milk
Loosen the yeast in a little warm milk and leave for 5 to 10 minutes until bubbly.
Meanwhile, heat 1/4 l milk but do not let it boil. Place 2 tbsp of flour in a salad bowl, add the hot milk and mix vigourously until smooth. Leave to cool down somewhat.
Separate the 4 eggs into whites and yolks.
Beat the whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks.
In a bowl, mix together the 4 egg yolks, the powdered sugar, 2 tbsp rum, the lemon zest and 1 tsp vanilla extract until smooth and homogeneous.
When the milk and flour mixture has cooled down, add 2/3 of the beaten egg whites and the egg yolks mixture. Mix, and leave for a few minutes.
Place the flour in a large salad bowl and add the preceding mixture. Mix. If the dough is too wet, add some flour but not enough to obtain a stiff dough. Knead for about 10 minutes.
Start adding the melted butter, one tsp at the time. Knead well, then add more butter. Keep kneading the dough for about 20 minutes. Depending on the dough and how it feels to the touch, you might not need to add all the butter. In this case I added only about 65%.
Shape the dough as a ball, place in a lightly oiled container, cover with a towel and leave to ferment for an hour.
During this time, mix the cocoa, 2 tbsp rhum, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, the chopped dry fruits and the remaining 1/3 of the beaten egg whites to obtain a thick paste.
Divide the dough in 2, 3 or 4 equal parts. Flatten each part in a rectangle, spread the cocoa mix and roll up. Braid the strands together, then place in a lightly buttered baking tin. Cover with a towel and leave to proof for an hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
Bake at 200°C for 10 minutes then lower the oven temperature to 180°C. Bake for a further 10-15 minutes then, using a pastry brush, coat the surface with a mix of egg yolk and milk. Bake a further 20 minutes.
Immediately remove from the baking tin and leave to cool on a rack for a minimum of 2 hours before serving.
Submitted to YeastSpotting.