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I love trying new sweet bread recipes from around the world. My latest discovery is kozunak, a fluffy bread that’s popular in Bulgaria and Romania at Easter. Although it takes some effort to make, it’s a fun process, and you and your family will love eating this scrumptious sweet bread!
What is kozunak?
Kozunak (also spelled cozonac) is an enriched sweet bread topped with sugar and almonds and filled with raisins. It has a beautifully soft and fluffy texture and is quite delicious!
Where is it from?
Kozunak is from the Eastern European countries of Bulgaria and Romania.
When do people eat kozunak?
In Bulgaria, kozunak is served on Easter morning for breakfast. In Romania and Moldova, it is also served on Christmas, New Year’s, and other holidays.
What does it taste like?
Kozunak has a slightly sweet taste and a wonderfully fluffy texture. You’ll get some crunch from the sugar and almond topping, and bursts of sweetness from the raisins. Spread your slice with butter, and you’ll have a treat you won’t soon forget!
- Some ladies would stay up all night to make their kozunak fresh for Easter breakfast the next day.
- Many people found that kozunak was tricky to make perfectly. (With my photos and tips, it should be much easier!)
- The traditional way to tell that the kozunak was done baking was to insert a wooden skewer. If it came out clean, the bread was done.
- Different countries and regions change up the kozunak. Some fill it with a chocolate and walnut paste, candied fruit, or nuts.
How to Store Kozunak
- Kozunak will not stay fresh for long at room temperature.
- Eat within 12 hours of baking or freeze for longer storage.
- Store the cooled kozunak in a zip-top plastic bag at room temperature. Do not refrigerate, or it will make the bread go stale.
Can I freeze kozunak?
- Yes, you can freeze kozunak.
- For ease, slice the kozunak first, then seal it in a zip-top freezer bag. Press or suck out the extra air.
- Freeze for up to 1 month.
How to Make
Gather the ingredients.
Soak the raisins in 1/4 cup of rum (or 1/4 cup of water mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of rum extract) for at least 30 minutes. Also, heat the milk in a saucepan until simmering, then let it cool to 115 F.
Add the flour to a mixing bowl and dump the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl. Stir in each one with your finger.
Add half of the olive oil, the egg, egg yolks, vanilla, and lemon zest. Slowly pour in the cooled milk as you mix the dough together. Stop mixing when all the flour is picked up and a somewhat sticky dough has formed.
Knead on a floured surface until the dough is very smooth and no longer sticky, about 20 minutes. Make sure the dough passes the windowpane test. (See the recipe card below to learn this technique.)
Knead in the remaining olive oil in about 4 additions, pulling and stretching the dough once each addition is mixed in. This is the step that gives kozunak its distinctive fluffy texture.
Shape the dough into a ball, place in an oiled bowl, and let it prove in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down the dough and divide it into three pieces. Pat down each piece, sprinkle with raisins, roll up, pinch the seams to seal, and roll gently to make a rope.
Braid the three ropes together and place in a parchment-lined loaf pan.
Let the bread rise in a warm place until about doubled in size and springy to the touch, about 1 hour.
Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle generously with demerara sugar and sliced almonds.
Bake the kozunak at 400 F for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325 F and bake for another 25 minutes. Cover with foil if it’s getting too dark. Let the bread cool completely before serving.
- Use room-temperature ingredients to help the bread rise. If you’re starting with cold ingredients, it could slow down the proving time.
- Don’t have rum for soaking the raisins? Use apple juice or 1/4 cup of water mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of rum extract instead.
- Be patient on the kneading. It takes quite a while to build up the gluten and incorporate the oil, but it’s absolutely essential to a successful kozunak. Relax and have fun!
- Knead by hand if possible. If you must use a stand mixer, only do so for the first kneading. You must incorporate the oil by hand.
- Be sure to put the dough in a warm place to rise. This is a heavy, enriched dough, and will take a long time to rise if it’s in a cool or cold place. Create a warm, humid atmosphere by placing the dough in a cold oven and putting a pan of boiling water on the shelf beneath it.
- Bake the bread in a loaf pan or cake pan, not a baking sheet. The high sides of a loaf pan keep moisture in the bread as it bakes. If you must use a baking sheet, check the bread about 10 minutes early.
- Small Saucepan: this tiny, heavy-bottomed saucepan is great for melting butter.
- Large Cutting Board: this spacious cutting board is perfect for kneading dough.
- Bench Scraper: this handy tool makes it easy to clean sticky dough off the counter.
- Loaf Pan: this sturdy loaf pan has a nonstick coating and will last for years.
- Digital Thermometer: I love using this device to see if my bread is baked in the middle.
Other Sweet Breads You’ll Enjoy
- Challah Bread
- Pulla (Finnish cardamom bread)
- Kanellängd (Swedish cinnamon bread)
- Swedish Tea Ring
The pleasure of a 5-star review would be greatly appreciated.Print
Kozunak, a Bulgarian Easter bread, is an ultra fluffy dessert the whole family will love. Olive oil and eggs give the bread richness and moisture, and the sugar and almond topping gives a sweet crunch. Learn how to make this traditional Easter breakfast food in this English recipe with lots of tips!
For the Bread Dough
- 1 cup whole milk (236 ml)
- 1/2 cup raisins (75g)
- 1/4 cup rum (60 ml)
- 4 1/8 cups bread flour (500g)
- 3 teaspoons fast-action yeast (10g)
- 2 teaspoons salt (10g)
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar (66g)
- 1/2 cup light olive oil (118 ml)
- 1 large egg
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
For the Topping
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup demerara sugar (53g)
- 2 tablespoons sliced almonds (14g)
Making the Bread Dough (50 minutes + 1 1/2 hours proving)
- Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Pour into a small jug with a spout and let it cool to 115 F.
- Stir together the raisins and rum and set aside to soak for at least 30 minutes, but preferably an hour or two.
- Dump the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl, stirring each one into the flour with your finger. Stir in the sugar.
- Add half of the olive oil, the egg, egg yolks, vanilla, and lemon zest. Gradually trickle in enough of the cooled milk to make a sticky dough. Keep mixing and crushing the dough until all the flour is picked up from the bowl.
- Turn the dough onto a floured countertop. Knead, stretch, and slap the dough against the countertop until it’s fairly stiff and quite smooth, adding flour as needed. When it’s kneaded sufficiently, it should be tacky, but should mostly clean your hands and work surface. This should take about 20 minutes.
- Double-check your kneading by doing the windowpane test. Break off a lump of dough and gently stretch it between your hands, using your thumbs and forefingers to stretch the dough thinly. It should be translucent without tearing. If it tears, knead longer and check again.
- Now, it’s time to add the remaining oil. This step is crucial to getting the distinctive fluffy, stringy texture of outstanding kozunak. Roughly flatten the kneaded dough and pour about 1/4 of the remaining oil on top. Fold the dough over the oil and knead until the oil is incorporated. At first, it will be greasy, but keep working the dough for a few minutes, and it will absorb the oil. Stretch the dough into a long rope and fold it in half periodically during the kneading. Add the rest of the oil in 3 more additions, kneading until smooth. This step should take about 15 minutes.
- Shape the dough into a ball. Pour a little oil in a mixing bowl and add the dough, turning it to coat, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside to prove in a warm place until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours.
Shaping the Kozunak (15 minutes + 1 hour proving)
- Turn the proved dough onto a lightly floured surface and punch it down to release the gas pockets. Divide it into three equal pieces, using a kitchen scale for accuracy.
- Stretch each piece lengthwise, then flatten it into a rough rectangle. Drain the raisins and sprinkle one third of them on each piece of dough. Roll up the dough from the long side, pinch the seam and ends to seal, then gently roll the log into a rope at least 12 inches long.
- Line the three ropes side by side and squeeze them together tightly at the top. Braid the three pieces together, then squeeze the other end to seal.
- Place the braid in a parchment-lined loaf pan, cover with buttered plastic wrap or a clean garbage bag, and let it prove in a warm place until nearly doubled in size and springy to the touch, about 1 hour.
- About 10 minutes before the bread is baked, preheat the oven to 400 F.
Baking the Kozunak (5 minutes + 45 minutes + cooling)
- Uncover the proved bread and brush with a beaten egg. Sprinkle generously with demerara sugar and sliced almonds.
- Bake it at 400 F for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325 F and bake for 25 minutes. Cover the loaf with aluminum foil after 20 minutes of baking if it’s getting too dark. The bread is cooked when it has an internal temperature of 190 F on a meat thermometer.
- Lift the bread out of the pan by the parchment paper and place it on a wire cooling rack. Let the bread cool completely, about 1-2 hours, then slice and serve with salted butter.
The pleasure of a 5-star review for this kozunak recipe would be greatly appreciated.
- Category: Bread
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: Bulgarian
Keywords: Easter, Bulgarian, bread