Romanian Easter and Christmas Bread (Cozonac) Recipe

Cozonac. Vvssmmaann / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-4.0
  • 80 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins,
  • Cook: 60 mins
  • Yield: 1 loaf (serves 4)
Ratings (17)

Romanian cozonac is a slightly sweet yeast-raised egg bread, similar to houska, that is traditionally eaten for Easter, Christmas and New ​Years. Bulgarians call this bread kozunak. It's considered the Italian panettone of the Romanians. When the cozonac dough is filled with farmer's cheese, it becomes a pasca, similar to a Polish kołacz.

This recipe calls for egg yolks only so freeze the leftover egg whites and save them for a recipe like this meringue torte.

What You'll Need

  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus 2 1/2 tablespoons, separated)
  • 1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 4 egg yolks (room-temperature)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (superfine)
  • 4 ounces raisins (light or dark)
  • 1 lemon (zest only)
  • 4 ounces butter (melted)
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable (or canola oil)
  • 1 large room-temperature egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water
  • Optional: 1 ounce walnuts
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon raisins
  • Optional: 1/2 cup sugar (confectioners)

How to Make It

  1. Scald 1/2 cup milk and stir in 2 1/2 tablespoons flour until smooth. Let cool 10 minutes.
  2. Heat another 1/2 cup milk just until lukewarm. Do not scald. Place yeast in a small bowl and pour lukewarm milk over, stirring until dissolved. Add yeast mixture to the milk-flour paste and beat until large air bubbles appear. Cover and let rise at least 15 minutes.
  3. Heat the remaining 1/4 cup milk to lukewarm. Do not overheat. Pour into a warmed large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer. Add the egg yolks, sugar, raisins, zest, yeast mixture, and 3 1/2 cups flour, stirring after each addition.
  1. Knead about 10 minutes by machine or 15 to 20 minutes with buttered hands while still in the bowl, adding melted butter as necessary to achieve a nonsticky, pliable, moist ball of dough. It will probably take about 3 ounces of the melted butter. Save the rest.
  2. Add rum, vanilla, and oil and knead another 2 to 3 minutes. Cover bowl with greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled. Punch down and with hands dipped in some of the reserved melted butter, knead another 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Heat oven to 350 F. Coat a 10- to 12-inch round pan that is at least 3 inches deep or a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Using buttered hands, twist the dough and place in the pan. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until dough reaches the top of the pan.
  4. Brush top of dough with egg wash (1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water). Sprinkle with optional walnuts and raisins, if desired. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick tests clean or an instant-read thermometer registers 190 F.
  5. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack. If you wish, while the cake is still hot, sprinkle with optional confectioners' sugar.