Serbian Christmas Bread (Česnica)

Serbian Cesnica Bread
Serbian Cesnica Bread. © David Bailey
  • 75 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins,
  • Cook: 60 mins
  • Yield: 12 servings
Ratings (4)

This recipe for ćesnica, or Serbian Christmas bread, is made with eggs and butter, unlike the fasting cesnica which is probably served on Christmas Eve when no meat or dairy are allowed. This dough, however, is not sweet nor does it have the elaborate decorations made of structural dough as in the fancy version of Česnica. The common link among all cesnica recipes is the silver coin baked inside. Whoever finds it will have luck in the coming year. This is why this bread is also known as Serbian Money Bread. 

It is customary in some families to decorate the top of the bread with pieces of dough symbolizing a hobby or career for each family member—wheat for a farmer and for prosperity, a book for a teacher, and so on. One of the Serbian Christmas traditions is that when served on Christmas morning, the bread is torn—not cut—either by each person present or by the host, who reserves one piece for the polozajnik, or first visitor. 

What You'll Need

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 sterilized silver coin
  • Oil for brushing bread

How to Make It

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer or other large bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Add eggs, salt, lemon juice, butter, and remaining 1 1/2 cups warm water. Mix until well combined. Gradually add the flour, mixing until well incorporated. Using the dough hook, knead about 10 minutes or until smooth (or about 15 minutes by hand).
  2. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, turning once to coat both sides. Cover and let rise until doubled in size.
  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Coat a 9x3-inch round pan with cooking spray. (The stoneware portion of a small slow cooker is a good pan to bake the bread in because it has high sides.) Punch down dough and turn it out into the prepared pan. Tuck in the silver coin (don't use copper because the dough around it will turn green).
  2. Brush the top of the dough with a little oil, cover, and let rise again about 40 minutes, or until not quite doubled. Bake 1 hour or until an instant-read thermometer registers 190 F. Turn out of the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.