Here in the United States, cookies are the most popular treat during Christmastime. We were curious about holiday sweets in other countries, so we reached out to several of our international distributors and Wilton Method Instructors to learn more! In this 12-part series, a different country and traditional dessert will be featured each day. Today’s blog and recipe comes from Doina Nigrila who is from Romania.
In Romania, Christmas celebrations typically last from December 20 to January 7. On December 20, Romanians celebrate St. Ignatius’s Day. Christmas celebrations really begin on December 24, Christmas Eve, when it’s time to decorate the Christmas Tree. Carol singing is also very popular on Christmas Eve and children will often go door to door to sign and receive sweets, fruit and sometimes money.
Traditional Romanian Christmas foods include roast gammon and pork chops, “ciorba de perisoare” which is a slightly sour vegetable soup made with fermented bran and pork meatballs, a rich fruit bread called “cozonac”, doughnuts and cheesecakes.
Cozonac is a traditional and delicious sweet walnut bread. This Romanian bread can vary from one region to another. Basically, it is a sweet bread enriched with butter, eggs and milk and flavored with lemon zest, orange zest, raisins or rum. The dough is rolled flat with a rolling pin, a rich filling is spread, and then the dough is rolled back into a shape that somewhat resembles a pinwheel. Once baked, the filling forms a swirl.
Growing up, I remember when my mother would make this bread it was especially warm in the kitchen. The windows were foggy and we kids had to be careful when we opened the door so as not to get any drafts of cold air. Watching mom “beat” the dough was especially entertaining! This is my mother-in-law’s recipe for cozonac, and it is the best. This recipe makes three medium loaves.
- 1 kg (8 cups) all-purpose flour
- 200 ml milk
- 60 g (2oz) fresh yeast
- 4 egg yolks
- Zest from one lemon
- 250 g unsalted butter – min 82% fat
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 100 g confectioners’ sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 450 g (1 pound) ground or finely chopped walnuts or pecans
- 100 g granulated sugar
- 4 egg whites
- 300 g golden raisins
- Zest of one lemon or orange
- 50 ml real rum
- 100 ml milk or water
- In a small bowl place the yeast and the lukewarm milk stirring until dissolved, add 2 tbsp of sugar and 1 tbsp of flour and mix well. Let it rest, if the yeast is fresh you will see the mixture rise.
- In a big bowl or in the kitchen aid mixer add the flour, yeast mixture, soft butter, egg yolks, milk and rest of the ingredients for the dough and mix well after each ingredient or knead this by hand for a least 10 minutes with buttered hands until smooth. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Let the dough rest.
- In the meantime, mix the walnuts or pecans with sugar and soaked raisins in water and rum.
- In the mixer put the egg whites and mix until stiff then add into the walnuts mixture and mix all together.
- Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each into a 7 x 16-inch thin rectangle.
- Use 1/3 of filling one each rectangle, spreading filling, but leaving a margin around edges; roll up jelly-roll style. Seal seam and ends. You will have three filled and sealed ropes.
- Coat the pans using oil spry and place the sweet bread in the pan
- Mix 1 large egg yolk and brush top of dough. Leave the bread to rest for 15 minutes.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Before to place the pans in the oven, mix 1 white egg and brush top of dough, over the egg yolk.
- Use tooth peak to make few hold into the bread.
- Bake 35-45 min or until toothpick tests clean.
- Remove from pan and cool on wire rack. If you wish, while the cake is still hot, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.