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Sweet bread recipe

the Romanian name being "cozonac"

Sweet bread (cozonac - the Romanian for panetone) is the Romanian traditional cake for all holidays: Easter or Christmas, wedding or christening. Every Romanian woman has a recipe from her mother.





My grandma always cooks huge quantities of sweet bread for Easter or Christmas. She kneads the dough in two large troughs and she makes 12-15 pieces of sweet bread. She has a brick kiln in the backyard (special built for all homemade bakeries) and cooks them all at once. Her children and grandchildren always help her. Because the dough must be kneaded until air bubbles can be seen in it.
Easter sweet bread
Cooking sweet bread is a magic ritual: it must be done in a warm room where the doors and windows stay close during the cooking time. Any thread of cold air could damage the dough. We have to begin early in the morning when the sun starts to fly its eyelashes over the skyline.

Grandma says that we have to be very clean in order to properly cook the sweet bread. And she doesn't mean only bowls and our hands. Every little thing that touches the dough must shine. And most of all we have to cook with peace in our minds and souls. In the end, if the sweet bread isn't soft and fluffy it means its spirit touched our dirt and went away, leaving only a piece of deflated dough in our hands



Regular sweet bread (Cozonac)

Ingredients

8 cups flour
8 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
2 tbs. oil
2 cups milk
50 gr. yeast (2 pkgs)
1 tbs. salt
1 tbs. rum
vanilla extract
1 lemon scraped skin

First put the flour in a large bowl in a warm place.

Dissolve the yeast in ½ cup warm milk and a teaspoon of sugar. Separately dissolve 3 tbs. flour in milk, mixing well until the mixture is homogeneous. Mix well with the yeast and beat until it makes big bubbles. Spread some flour on top, cover with a towel and place in a warm place to rise.

Meanwhile separate 7 yolks from egg whites. Keep 4 egg whites in a bowl. Put the other 3 in another bowl if you intend to cook walnuts sweet bread (see below). Mix the yolks with salt and a half of sugar till they become a frothy cream. Then mix the butter with the rest of sugar until they become a frothy cream. Beat 4 egg whites until makes a foam.

When the yeast has risen enough, put on the top of the flour. Add the yolks and a little bit of warm milk and mix. Add the foam from egg whites, a little bit of warm milk and mix a little bit. Then start to knead. Knead for at least half an hour, bringing the dough from the sides to the middle. Add the oil, rum, vanilla, lemon scraped skin and little by little, the melted warm butter. Add flour till the dough doesn't stick to your fingers. If the dough is too hard, add a little more milk.

In the end the dough must have an elastic consistency and air bubbles. Cover the bowl with a towel and place in a warm place. Let it to rise for about 2-3 hours to triple in bulk. If the dough is ready to overflow the bowl punch down and let it rise a little more.
Regular sweet bread
When the dough has risen enough, grease your hands with oil, take dough pieces, place on the floured work surface, give it the desired shape (round, oval, braided etc. depending on your pan shape).

We use the braided shape, especially for Easter. The pan shape symbolizes the coffin and the braided sweet bread is Jesus Christ's body before He rose to heaven.

Then place in the baking pan previously greased with oil or butter. The dough must only fill the pan halfway. Allow it to rise some more (about 20-30 minutes), still in a warm place. Beat an egg and brush each sweet bread with. Sprinkle sugar, walnuts or raisins on top.

Place in the warm oven and bake at medium heat for about 30-40 minutes. The top should look brown. When the sweet bread is ready, remove from the pan, place on a towel, cover with a blanket and let it cool off slowly in a warm place.

Serve it only after it's cold, generally next day.





Walnut sweet bread

Ingredients

sweet bread dough

Filling
1 cup powder sugar
2 cups ground walnuts
1 cup milk or
3 egg whites
2 tbs rum
vanilla extract
1 egg

For sweet bread dough see regular sweet bread.

Filling 1

Melt the sugar and vanilla in the warm milk in a pot on the range. When the sugar has melt and the milk is hot add the walnuts and keep mixing a few minutes. After the filling has thickened remove from heat and add the rum.

Filling 2

Beat the egg whites (do you remember those left from the dough preparation?) with little salt, vanilla and the sugar till you get a foam. Melt with walnuts and mix. Add the rum and mix. Let it cold for a while.

When the filling is still warm, take a piece of dough, place on the oiled work surface, roll a sheet of dough about one finger thick, uniformly spread the walnut filling on top and roll like a jellyroll. Grease a bread pan, place the roll inside, let it rise for a while, brush with a beaten egg and then set in the oven to bake at medium heat.





Turkish Delight sweet bread

Ingredients

sweet bread dough

Filling
2 cups Turkish Delight
2 cups raisins
3-4 tbs cocoa
1 egg

For sweet bread dough see regular sweet bread.

For those who don't know Turkish Delight, or Lokum, it is a confection made from starch and sugar. It is often flavored with rosewater (pink color), peppermint (green color) or lemon (yellow color). It has a soft, sticky consistency, and is often packaged and eaten in small cubes that are dusted with sugar to prevent sticking. Some recipes include small nut pieces, usually pistachio, hazelnut or almonds.

Cut the Lokum in small cubes (about 0.7 inches/1 cm). Take a piece of dough, place on the oiled work surface, roll a sheet of dough about one finger thick. Put cocoa in a little sieve and uniformly sift it on top. Uniformly spread the Turkish Delight and raisins over cocoa.

Roll the dough like a jellyroll. Grease a bread pan, place the roll inside, let it rise for a while, brush with one beaten egg and then set in the oven to bake at medium heat.





Well, all quantities in each recipe are for two Romanian special sweet bread pans. But I really don't know how large your pans are. The rule is the dough must only fill the pan halfway. My advice is to try your pan with a regular sweet bread and then adjust all the other quantities.


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