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sliced vánočka with a cup of hot cocoa

Vánočka: Czech Christmas Bread

  • Author: Emma
  • Prep Time: 50 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours 35 minutes
  • Yield: 1 large loaf 1x


Vánočka is a traditional Czech Christmas bread that’s made up of three beautiful braids.  This recipe makes one delicious loaf that your family will love for Christmas breakfast.  Serve it with a cup of hot cocoa and lots of butter!



For the Bread Dough

  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour or hladka (400g)
  • generous 3/4 cup bread flour or polohruba (100g)
  • 3 teaspoons fast-action yeast (10g)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (5g)
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar (37g)
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled (115g)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup raisins (75g)
  • scant 1/2 cup whole milk (100 ml)
  • scant 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (100 ml)
  • 1/2-2/3 cup filtered water, room temperature (118-142 ml)

For the Decoration

  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar


Making the Bread Dough (25 minutes + 2 hours proving)

  1. Stir together the milk and cream and heat the mixture to 115 F.
  2. Pour the two flours into the bowl of a stand mixer and add the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl.  Stir in the salt and yeast with your finger, making sure the salt doesn't directly touch the yeast, as it can kill the yeast.
  3. Add the sugar, lemon zest, melted butter, egg yolks, and raisins, then mix with the paddle attachment on low speed until blended.
  4. Gradually trickle in the milk, keeping the mixer on low speed, then do the same with the water until a soft, sticky dough forms.  You might not need all the liquid, or you could need a little extra, depending on the brand of flour and humidity.
  5. Switch the attachment to a dough hook and knead on medium-low speed until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  If the dough is excessively sticky, add a little all-purpose flour, but make sure the dough is tacky to the touch.
  6. Flour the base and sides of the mixing bowl, and dust a little flour on top of the dough.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let it prove until the dough is almost doubled in size, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours in a warm place.

Shaping the Braids (25 minutes + 1 hour proving)

  1. Line an 11 by 17-inch rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Turn out the dough onto a very large, lightly floured wooden cutting board.  Divide the dough into two pieces, one about 60% of the dough and the other 40%.
  3. Cut the larger piece into five equal pieces, and the smaller piece into four equal pieces.  Gently roll each piece into a rope.
  4. Divide the ropes into three groups.  Put the two longest strands in one group, and the three shortest ones in another.  The remaining four strands are the third group.
  5. Place group of four strands side by side and join them together at the top.  Stick them to the work surface by pressing down firmly with your thumb.  Think of the strands of being numbered from 1 through 4, from left to right. Bring 4 over 3, then bring 2 over 1. Cross the new strand 2 over strand 3.  Repeat this sequence until the whole loaf is braided.
  6. Place the four-strand braid on the prepared cookie sheet and use the side of your hand to create a valley down the middle of the bread.  Brush the valley with beaten egg.
  7. Lay the group of three strands side by side and braid.  Pinch the ends to seal, then make a valley down the middle as before.  Place the second braid on top of the previous one, making sure it's centered.  Brush the valley with beaten egg.
  8. Roll the two remaining strands so they're just a couple inches longer than the loaf, then twist them together tightly.  Place the twist on top of the loaf, tucking the ends of the twist under the other two braids.
  9. Cover the cookie sheet with a clean tea towel or a large clean garbage bag, and set aside to prove for 1 hour in a warm place.  The loaf should increase in size.

Baking the Vánočka (45 minutes + cooling)

  1. About 10 minutes before the bread is done proving, preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Gently brush the loaf generously with beaten egg.  Stack the cookie sheet with the bread on it on top of another cookie sheet to help keep the bottom from burning.
  3. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 45-50 minutes.  If the loaf is getting too dark, cover with aluminum foil.  Bake the bread until it has an internal temperature of 190-200 F.
  4. Let the loaf cool completely on a wire rack before dusting very lightly with icing sugar from a sieve to look like snow.  Serve the loaf sliced with lots of butter.


  • Let the dough rise in a warm place to speed up the prove.
  • Braid tightly for the best look.
  • Insert a few wooden skewers into the braids if you're concerned that they might slip off each other as they rise and bake.
  • Bake on a double cookie sheet to help keep the bottom from burning.  Stack the cookie sheet with the loaf on top of another cookie sheet.  The layer of air between the two sheets will insulate the bottom of the loaf, helping to avoid a burnt base.
  • It can take about 2 hours to cool completely on a wire rack.  Store leftovers on the counter, or freeze for later.
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Czech

Keywords: vánočka, Czech, Christmas bread