The delicious aroma of freshly baked Cozonac is the smell of Romanian holidays. It is a sweet bread usually filled with nuts and/or Turkish delight (lokum). You can find Cozonac in every house at Christmas (or Easter). In the evening of the Christmas Eve children go out carol singing from house to house and they get Cozonac, apples, nuts and sometimes money. They enter each house because, according to tradition, they bring prosperity, good crops, fortune and happiness. Carol-singing is the most widespread Romanian tradition. And now back to our Cozonac recipe… this is my second time baking Cozonac and I’ve decided to make 4 loaves and try various fillings.
Time: 180 min, Prep: 90 min. Cook: 45 min x 2 if you bake 2 loaves at a time
Servings: 4 loaves, 40-46 slices
For sweet bread dough:
- 1 l milk
- 2 kg white flour
- 12 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp lemon zest
- 40 ml rum extract
- 6 eggs
- 300 g butter (at room temperature)
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 Tbsp active dry yeast (40 g)
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 beaten egg for brushing the top of the loaves
Nut filling for 2 loaves (My Favourite!)
- 250 ml milk
- 425 g ground walnuts
- 170 g sugar
- 40 ml rum extract
- 20 ml lemon extract
- 1 Tbsp lemon zest
- 2 Tbsp cocoa
Nut and Turkish delight filling for 1 loaf
- 100 ml milk
- 210 ground walnuts
- 20 ml vanilla extract
- 400 g Turkish delight, cut into small pieces
Turkish delight filling for 1 loaf
- 500 g Turkish delight, cut into small pieces
Sweet Bread Dough:
Mix butter, milk (save 10 tablespoons of milk) and sugar in a saucepan and place it over medium heat until butter is melted. Let it cool until just warm.
Beat eggs and blend them in the lukewarm milk mixture. Add lemon zest and rum extract.
In a small bowl combine dry yeast with 1 tablespoon of sugar and the remaining milk (10 tablespoons you saved earlier). Mix for 1 minute to dissolve the yeast and let it rest for 5-7 minutes.
In a large bowl place the white flour and make a hole in the centre. Sprinkle the salt and pour yeast and the milk mixture over flour. Mix to incorporate all ingredients with a spoon.
Then knead with your hands for about 15 minutes, until dough will not stick to your hands. I had to divide the dough in two equal parts and use two large bowls since you need to have enough room for the dough to rise.
Cover with a clean towel and place in a warm spot. Allow dough to rise until double in size.
In the meantime let’s start working on the nut filling for two of the loaves. Melt sugar in milk over medium heat. Add ground walnuts and stir for 10 minutes, until mixture is thickened. Remove from the heat and add cocoa, rum extract, lemon extract, and lemon zest. Set aside and let it cool.
For the nut and Turkish delight filling you only need to combine walnuts, milk and vanilla extract and have your Turkish delight cut into small pieces.
Again, for the Turkish delight filling just have the small pieces ready.
Roll out the dough, fill with the three fillings above and bake:
Grease and flour your loaf pans.
Cut the dough from one of the bowls into two equal parts.
Roll one part of the dough and cut in half. Take half of the nut filling (as you need to use it for two loaves) and spread it on both parts. Roll them, pinch the ends and along the rolled edge. Twist the two rolls together. Place the Cozonac into the greased and floured loaf pan and let it rise for another 20-30 minutes in a warm place. Repeat the process for the second loaf with nut filling.
For the other two loaves I wanted to experiment a little bit and make them in two colours. So I divided the dough from the second bowl in half and for one part I added 3 tablespoons of cocoa and continued kneading until cocoa was fully incorporated. I should have done this from the beginning when I was working on the dough. The correct way should have been to place the flour (¼ of the flour less 3 tablespoons since you’ll replace these with cocoa), yeast and milk mixture and add cocoa to it before starting to combine all ingredients with a spoon and knead with your hands. But long story short, it worked my way of doing it as well :).
Cut both the white and cocoa dough into two equal parts.
For the loaf with nut and Turkish delight filling, roll one part of the white dough and spread the nut filling and Turkish delight. Roll the cocoa dough and place it over the white dough with filling. Pinch the eggs and roll it. Place the Cozonac into the loaf pan and again let it rise for another 20-30 minutes in a warm place.
For the loaf with Turkish delight filling only, roll both the white and cocoa dough. Place half of the Turkish delight on the white part and half on the cocoa one. Roll them, pinch the ends and along the rolled edge. Twist the two rolls together. Place the Cozonac into the greased and floured loaf pan and let it rise for another 20-30 minutes in a warm place.
Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Before placing in the oven, brush the top of the loaves with the beaten egg.
Bake for about 45 minutes, or until light brown. Remove from the pan and let the Cozonac cool completely before serving.