Romanian cozonac – this traditional festive sweet bread is so flavorful, nutty and delicious that will disappear from your plate in no time.
A must have on Romanian tables in every Easter and Christmas celebration, a tradition passed on from mother to daughter through generations.
There are several recipes that slightly differ from region to region – but the final result and deliciousness of this sweet loaf is always appreciated all over the country and even gained fans internationally.
All well deserved.
Although it takes a little time and effort making it – it’s always worth it.
The joy that I get preparing it reminds me of my childhood. Making cozonac is kind of a ritual for us, starting with gathering all ingredients to bring them to room temperature.
We must ensure that the room is warm, without any air drifts and with no spying, curious eyes – as it was believed that will spoil the dough and it would not rise properly.
My grandmother didn’t let us stare too much at her work while making those sweet loaves.
That didn’t bothered us as much as the time we had to wait to dig in and devour such deliciousness.
The divine smell coming from the oven always bear the promise of the goodness soon to be on the table.
That smell spreads all over the house and is something that’s braided in our souls. As a tradition, as a legacy.
And she always made enormous amounts, about 10-12 big loaves at once.
As we shared some of our foods with less fortunate neighbors or strangers – traditionally honoring our ancestors in these Orthodox celebrations.
It was some really hard work, everything done by hand!
That’s why I love making them by hand, too. I like playing with dough and I like feeling my food.
Working with your hands while maintaining a peaceful and loving attitude also transfer your love and energy into food.
That makes it more tasteful and some say obtaining healing proprieties.
So, keep this in mind: while you’re cooking maintain a calm, relaxing, positive, loving attitude.
The food you’re making can heal or harm you through the energy & information you transfer into it.
That said, let’s get cookin’. Cause there’s a lot of it.
🍋 Ingredients For Romanian Cozonac
What we need for this traditional sweet bread (cozonac) recipe.
for the dough:
- Flour – all purpose will work fine
- Eggs – fresh, organic if possible
- Milk – preferably whole fat
- Sugar – regular caster sugar
- Yeast – we use fresh, but dry yeast can be used too
- Lemon & orange zest – for flavor
- Oil (Butter) – sunflower oil or butter
- Vanilla extract
🥜for the filling:
- Egg whites
- Ground walnuts
- Sugar, Cocoa
- Rum extract
- Raisins, Turkish delight
🍞 How To Make Romanian Sweet Bread (Cozonac)
First, you should reserve several hours for this recipe being somewhat time consuming.
Bring all the ingredients at room temperature and make sure to have everything at hand.
You can use a standing mixer, but I highly recommend to do it by hand – there’s something in working the dough with your hands that can’t be fully explained.
1️ Step one: Prepare the dough
In a medium size saucepan warm the milk. It must be lukewarm, not hot.
Activate the yeast in a separate bawl mixing it with 1 tbsp of sugar, 1/2 cup of warm milk and 2 tbsp flour.
Cover and let it sit for about 5-10 minute to fully activate and rise. Add the rest of the sugar in the remaining milk and stir to dissolve it.
Add the vanilla extract and lemon & orange zest to the milk. Continue to stir to dissolve all the sugar.
If the milk cools off completely, just slightly reheat it again. When we add it to the flour it has to be warm.
Sift the flour in a large recipient. Separate the eggs yolks from whites. Reserve the whites for the filling, we are using just yolks for the dough.
Stir the yolks into a small bawl with 1/2 tsp of salt and let them 10 minutes to intensify their color.
Pour the activated yeast over the flour, the egg yolks and start adding the milk in small quantities, first using a spoon to bring the dough together.
When the dough starts forming, go in with one hand and finish incorporating all the milk.
The dough will be sticky and somehow hard to work with. Just hang in there, if too sticky add 1-2 tbsp of flour.
If you have someone to help you in the kitchen, it will be more easier. If not, just keep your left hand clean and work with your right.
After all the milk is incorporated, we now need to activate the gluten kneading the dough by adding oil.
Worm the vegetable oil (butter) in a small pan and place it at hand. Start adding the oil to the dough little by little, working vigorously the dough in between.
We knead the dough for about 10-15 minutes until it becomes elastic and will not stick to the hand or the recipient.
When finished incorporating the oil, cover the dough with a plastic bag and let it rise in a worm place, away from any cold air drafts for about 45 minutes up to 1 hour.
It should double its volume.
2️ Step two: Make the filling
Meanwhile, we prepare the cozonac filling.
Plump the raisins by placing them in a bowl with some warm water and rum extract. Let them hydrate for a few moments.
Cut the Turkish delight in small pieces and set aside. Drain the raisins.
Ground the walnuts and put them into a bawl. Add 4 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp cocoa powder and rum extract to taste.
Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and add them to the walnut mixture as needed to obtain a paste (not too runny). Mix well and set aside.
3️ Step tree: Form the rolls
After the raising time, we start forming the loaves. From this dough quantity we can form 2 regular size loaves (8.5 x 4.5) or 3 smaller ones.
I often use disposable aluminum loaf pans. So, if you have regular loaf pans divide your dough in 2. Or, in 3 parts if you have smaller ones.
*Line the regular loaf pans with parchment paper.
Prepare the working space.
Grease it with oil, grease your hands with oil as well and divide the dough in 2 or 3 parts. Each part will form a loaf.
Take a piece of it and divide once again the dough in 2 parts. One will be filled with the walnut cocoa mixture, another with raisins and Turkish delight.
Knead a few moments the piece of dough on the working space and use a rolling pin or your hands to obtain an 8×10 inches rectangle (20x25cm).
Spread a third of the walnut filling over the dough and roll up (from the long side) to form a log. Make sure to enclose the filling as well as you can.
Set aside and roll out the second part, spreading raisins and pieces of Turkish delight.
Twist the two rolls together pressing the ends and place them carefully into the baking pan. Set aside and continue with the rest of the dough.
Clean the working space and let them rise for the second time into the baking pans for another 15-20 minutes.
Brush the top of the loaves with a lightly beaten egg after 10 minutes so the surface will maintain its moisture and get that shiny beautiful color while baking.
Preheat the oven to 320F (160C).
4️ Step four: Bake the cozonac (sweet bread)
Bake the cozonac loaves in the middle-bottom of the preheated oven for about 50 minutes up to 1 hour.
A divine smell will fill your kitchen in just a few minutes and make you impatient to taste that marvelous delight. Just keep your eyes on them.
If they start coloring rapidly and turning dark too fast, cover them with a piece of parchment paper after 30 minutes.
Leave them cooking covered until they are completely baked. Take them out of the oven and let them rest for about 5 minutes.
Remove from the baking pans and place them on their side to release the excess heat.
Cover them with a clean kitchen towel and allow them to cool completely and slowly at room temperature.
Since I made 3 smaller ones, I dusted one with icing sugar and eat it while still warm – it’s extremely good and always like to do that since childhood.
🍴 Slice & Serve The Cozonac
After completely cooling off, dust with icing sugar and slice to serve. Serve your slices of cozonac with a cup of warm milk, hot coffee or your preferred tea.
To preserve cozonac: wrapping in cling film will maintain its freshness 2-3 days on the counter.
Or wrap it and freeze up to 3 months. Unwrap and let it thaw at room temperature.
Enjoy! It’s a traditional delight that I adore to cook and eat, and never seem to have enough.
I hope you’ll cook it and enjoy it as much as I do. Bon appetite!
If you liked the recipe, do share it and save it on Pinterest to have it at hand.
UPDATE: My latest Christmas time cozonac. 🙂
Aren’t they a thing of beauty? It’s a a pity I can’t render you the flavor, too. Bake them, and you’ll see what I mean.
Other traditional recipes from Romanian cuisine:
- Romanian Cabbage Rolls (stuffed sour cabbage rolls – sarmale)
- Romanian Boeuf Salad (Olivier salad with a twist)
- Romanian Meatball Soup (delicious soup with lots of vegetables)
Romanian Cozonac - Traditional Easter & Christmas Sweet Bread
- 2-3 baking pans
- parchment paper
For the dough:
- 35.3 oz (1kg) flour (all purpose works fine)
- 10.5 oz (300g) sugar
- 6 egg yolks
- 0.7 oz (20g) dry yeast (50g fresh yeast)
- 16.9 fl oz (500ml) milk (preferably whole fat)
- 6.8 fl oz (200ml) sunflower oil (butter)
- citrus zest from 1 lemon & 1 orange
- pinch of salt
- rum & vanilla extract (to taste)
For the filling:
- 6 egg whites (if larger eggs use just 4)
- 18 oz (500g) ground walnuts
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 5.3 oz (150g) Turkish delight
- 3.5 oz (100g) raisins
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- rum extract (to taste)
- 1 egg for coating
- icing sugar to decorate
- Prepare the dough. Important! *Bring all ingredients to room temperature. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan on low flame. Activate the yeast mixing it in a small bawl with 1/2 cup lukewarm! milk, 1 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp flour. Stir a few times, cover and let it activate for about 5-10 minutes. Separate the eggs. reserve the whites for the filling and stir the yolks with a pinch of salt. Let them 10 minutes to enhance their color. Dissolve the remaining sugar into the milk stirring continuously to help dissolve faster. Add vanilla extract to taste and the citrus zest. Sift the flour into a large recipient. Pour the activated yeast and the yolks over flour. Take a spoon and start stirring slowly, trying to blend the ingredients. Check the milk if still lukewarm. If necessary, reheat it slowly. Start adding the milk to form the dough. It's time to go in with your hand, incorporating all the milk. Warm the oil into a small sauce pan and bring it at hand. Start kneading vigorously by adding small quantities of warm oil into the dough. It will become more elastic and fluffy. Continue until all the oil is incorporated. Cover and let it rise away from any cold air drafts for about 45 minutes up to 1 hour. It should double its volume.
- Make the filling Plump the raisins into warm water and rum extract. Cut the Turkish delight in small pieces. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks. Mix together the ground walnuts, sugar, cocoa, rum extract, beaten egg whites (depending on the size of the eggs, use just enough to obtain a paste that is not too runny, you don't have to use it all) Dry the raisins.
- Form the loaves Prepare the working space and grease it with oil. Grease your hands too and divide the dough into 3 parts that will be 3 smaller loaves. If you have regular large baking pans, divide by 2. Take one part and divide again in 2 equal parts. Knead one piece for a few moments and roll out a rectangle with a rolling pin or using your hands. Cover with the walnuts filling, spreading evenly over the dough. Roll it up forming a log and set aside. Take the second piece and sprinkle with raisins and Turkish delight. Twist the 2 logs together and place the loaf into a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Set aside and form the rest of the loaves. Clean the working space, align the loaves side by side and let them rise for the second time undisturbed for another 20 minutes. Brush with egg wash to maintain moisture.
- Bake the loaves Preheat the oven to 320F (160C). Place the loaves in the middle-bottom oven for about 50 minutes up to 1 hour. If coloring too fast, to avoid burning their surface cover them with a piece of parchment paper after 1/2 hour. Take them out the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Remove from baking pans and place them on their side to release the excess heat. Cover them with a kitchen towel and let them slowly cool completely at room temperature. Decorate with icing sugar, slice and enjoy!