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.
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- Category: Bread
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: Bulgarian
Keywords: Easter, Bulgarian, bread