Most Christian countries have some form of enriched bread that they bake for Easter: there’s the Greek Tsoureki, Italian Pane di Pasqua, German Osterbrot, Russian Kulich, English Hot Cross Buns, Paraguayan Chipa – there are dozens more. Since it’s coming up to Easter and I needed a country that I haven’t yet visited on this round the world trip, I’ve gone for Kozunak, the version that’s popular in Bulgaria (and, indeed, in Romania, Serbia and other Balkan countries.
This is a braided loaf, not so far off a Jewish Challah, but sweeter and with the addition of lemon and rum-soaked raisins. It’s not massively difficult in essence, but set aside a good amount of time for the three rises that will be needed. I’ve started with a recipe from The Spruce Eats (another of Barbara Rolek’s), halved the quantities as best I could, and broken the recipe up into several stages so that it’s easier to see which ingredients you need for which stage.
My one moan about this recipe is that it uses heroic numbers of small bowls. If you hate washing up, this probably isn’t one for you, or you might want to reshuffle the exact order of the processes a bit.
- 1 lemon
- 30 ml rum
- 50g raisins
- Grate the lemon zest into a small bowl
- Juice around half the lemon and add it to the bowl (I ended up with about 30ml)
- Add the rum and raisins to the bowl and mix
- Leave to stand until needed
- 90ml milk
- 1 egg (you’ll use half at this stage, half later)
- 7g yeast
- 10g sugar
- Warm the milk to just below boiling – say 80℃. Pour it into a small bowl. (Note: it’s sensible to put this straight into the bowl of your stand mixer, which I didn’t do)
- Beat the egg in a small bowl
- Once the milk has cooled to around 40℃, add the yeast, sugar and around half the beaten egg. Keep the rest of the egg: you’ll be using it shortly.
- Leave to stand for 20-30 minutes until the mixture is frothy.
The dough and final baking
- 120ml milk
- 100g sugar
- 30g sunflower oil, plus some more for greasing
- 30g butter
- 2 eggs, plus the half left over from earlier
- vanilla essence to taste
- 600g flour
- 10g salt
- 20g flaked almonds
- Put the milk and sugar into a saucepan; warm until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat.
- Melt the butter and mix with the oil (I use 20 seconds in the microwave, but if you don’t have one, you’ll want to use a pan).
- Separate one of the eggs: reserve the yolk in a small bowl, add the white and the other egg to the half a whole egg that you had left over earlier. Add some vanilla essence and beat them together. Keep the yolk aside, covered: you’ll use it for a wash before baking.
- Once your sweetened milk is cool and the yeast mix is frothy, you can get started on the dough. With the yeast mixture in the bowl of my stand mixer, I used the standard beater and set it going at low speed.
- Add the milk mixture.
- Add the butter/oil mixture.
- Drain the raisins and add them.
- Add the flour and salt. Mix until all the ingredients are combined.
- Switch to the dough hook and knead for around 5 minutes until the dough is very elastic
- Grease a bowl with oil.
- Form your dough into a ball and transfer it to the bowl. Coat the dough in oil, either by turning it or by brushing some more oil over the top.
- Cover with cling film and leave to rise until doubled in size – probably 1-2 hours.
- Punch the dough down and leave to rise again – probably 1-2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 190℃ fan (I used 200℃, and my crust is too dark)
- Separate your dough into three parts (actually, as many parts as you fancy for your favourite braid: now create your braid as shown in this video.
- Cover and leave for another 30 minutes.
- Spread the loaf with your beaten egg, scatter the almonds over the loaf and put in oven (photo disclaimer: I forgot the almonds!)
- Bake for around 25-30 minutes