Tasty Bulgarian Eastern bread called “Kozunak”
Today I am going to share a recipe that I have been wanting to write for a long time - how to prepare an Eastern bread or also known as a “kozunak”.
“Kozunak” is a ceremonial sweet bread that symbolizes the body of Jesus Christ (according to the legends) and is being prepared especially for Eastern.
The “kozunak” is coming to Bulgaria around 1915 - 1920 and until then people here were preparing other types of bread such as “kolach” and “korovai”.
It has been claimed that the history of “kozunak” dates from the beginning of the 17th century back in France from where it is spreading all around Europe. The Russian equivalent of “kozunak” is still that “kolach” bread and the Italian equivalent is the famous “panettone”.
According to the Bulgarian tradition, “kozunak” should be prepared on a Saturday morning.
There is a recipe in my family for “kozunak” and for the last two years, I have been preparing it for Eastern. But this is one of the dishes that are so delicious that it is totally worth it to prepare them way more often than we usually do.
I have to warn you that since it is a family recipe, the ingredients are in larger amounts and if you don’t want to prepare such a big sweet bread you can just use half of them.
Here is a list of all ingredients for the “kozunak” :
1 kg white flour
250 ml whole milk
250 gr softened butter
250 gr white sugar
1 ⅕ pc yeast
1 tbsp bourbon vanilla
And those are the ingredients for the stuffing of the “kozunak”:
50 gr cocoa powder
100 gr baked walnuts
100 gr baked almonds
100 gr white sugar
You have to first start with sifting the flour. This process incorporates air into flour and will make the “kozunak” light, airy and fluffy.
After that, you have to warm up the milk and pour the yeast inside. Stir with a hand mixer and let it sit for half an hour. It is going to be better if you put some kind of a towel on top so you can speed up the process.
Meanwhile split the yolks from the egg whites in two different bowls and split the sugar into two even parts. You have to stir both quite well so I would recommend using a mixer for that. For the yolks, you should stir until you have a homogeneous yellow mixture, and for the egg whites - you are aiming for a hard white foam. They should look something like this:
Then you have to mix both of them while adding the vanilla and half of the butter. Stir with your hand while you get an airy homogeneous mixture.
By that time, your yeast should have finally fermented and became bigger. It will look like this:
Pour the flour into a big tray and form a well out of it:
Then pour both the yeast and the other mixture and start kneading it with your both hands. While doing this pour carefully and evenly the rest of the butter. When you are ready, just put in a big bowl to rest for one hour and cover it with a towel.
Now comes the time for the holly stuffing. You can either buy crushed walnuts or crush them at home by yourself as I did.
Pour the cocoa powder and the sugar and stir in order to mix all of the ingredients.
After that one hour, split the dough into 3 even parts and make them into strings. You have to flatten them and then to pour the stuffing with a spoon. When you finish, you will have to roll them again and make them the same length.
This is the final fun part where you have to start creating a “braid” out of those strings. When you are done, move the “braid” into a tray with a baking paper underneath.
Then just place the almonds all over your “kozunak” and press with your finger on the top of the nuts so it won’t go out while it’s baking. Pour a couple of tablespoons with white sugar on top and leave for one more hour - it will increase its size and become fluffy and airy. After that, you are ready to put it into the oven.
Bake at a medium temperature around 40-50 minutes or until you see a golden crust forming on top. Your “kozunak” will smell crazy delicious and will look like this:
You can try it while it’s still hot but I would recommend waiting for at least 20-30 minutes before cutting a piece of it.
I hope you enjoy that recipe and prepare it more often. I am pretty sure that you going to impress everyone for a long time with that sweet temptation!