Walnut Bread (Cozonac cu Nuca)

Sweet Walnut Bread known as Cozonac cu Nuca is a traditional Romanian sweet bread made with raisins and walnuts or pecans enjoyed at Christmas and Easter.

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Oh let me tell you this is a treat. This is a favorite at every Christmas or Easter in Romania and you will find it on everyone’s table wherever you go.  This is my mother in law’s recipe and it is the best. It may be a bit of work, but trust me when I tell you it is worth it.  It will take you about 4 hours to make and that includes the time it takes for the dough to rise. This recipe works best with fresh yeast, here in Calgary I find it at Superstore, but you have to go to one of the bakers and ask them for fresh yeast. However, having said all that, you do not have to use fresh yeast, I’ve made it several times with instant yeast and it turned out just great. Many times I will cut the recipe in half, this recipe makes 3 big loaves, but this time I made the entire recipe.

In a sauce pan place the milk, sugar, and butter and lemon zest.

Heat up over medium heat, until the butter melts. You do not want to boil it, you just want it hot.

In a cup, add 2 tbsp of milk and warm it up. To the warm milk, add a bit of sugar and a bit of flour and stir. Add your yeast to this. If you’re using instant yeast, you will need 2 packages or 16 g. Let this sit for 10 minutes and if the yeast is good it will bubble up. I used fresh yeast here.

In the bowl of your mixer add the flour.

To the milk mixture add the egg yolks and mix, save the egg whites in another bowl for the filling. Next add the milk mixture to the flour and mix well using the paddle attachment. Add the yeast mixture as well. One thing worth mentioning, is that I soaked my raisins in rum over night.

This way the raisins will have a nice rum flavor and they will be large and plump. Mix everything well for about 5 minutes. The dough will be quite sticky. Add the raisins to the dough and if there’s any rum left in the bowl add that as well. Or drink it, up to you.

Mix again and make sure the raisins are well incorporated in the dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and also oil the dough.

Place plastic wrap over the dough and let rise about 2 hours until the dough doubles in size. I think I needed a bigger bowl here, and this was only after about an hour. What I usually do to speed up the process is heat up the oven a bit, I put it on 200 F degrees for a minute then turn it off. This will create a nice and warm environment for the dough, so place the dough in there and let it rise in peace.

Meanwhile, we can make the filling. In a food processor, add the walnuts or pecans, I used pecans because I like the flavor of pecans, sugar and cocoa powder.

Pulse it for 20 seconds or so.

Add the egg whites you saved to a mixing bowl.

Mix the egg whites until stiff.

Add the pecan/walnut mixture to the egg whites. Mix egg whites with pecans/walnuts and place in the fridge while you wait for the dough.

Take the dough and cut it into 3 equal pieces. I put mine over my wood counter, which I buttered, you can also just use vegetable oil. Roll out each piece into a long rectangle, the width should be the width of your pan.

Place 1/3 of the filling over the rolled out dough, and spread it evenly.

Roll up the dough starting from the side furthest from you.

Place the roll seam face down into a well oiled or buttered bread pan.

Now I wanted to get a little bit fancy with one of my rolls, so I braided it in 6 pieces, to make it look like a challah. Each piece of the braid I rolled it out into a thin rectangle and added some pecan mixture, rolled it up and repeated with the rest of the pieces.

Now we need to let the rolls double in size again, so be patient for another 45 minutes or so. Also, now you can start preheating the oven to 350 F degrees. Brush the rolls with egg wash. You can also add sprinkle some sugar over them, but I left this out this time.

Bake at 350 for 35 to 45 minutes and then you’ll have these beauties. The braided loaf will take a bit longer, about 45 minutes to bake, vs the other ones which only took 35 minutes.

They look wonderful and they rose nicely.

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Gorgeous, eh? Trust me, they are as delicious as they look.

Printable recipe:

Walnut Bread (Cozonac cu Nuca)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 3 loaves
Ingredients
  • 60 gr fresh yeast
  • 250 gr chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 kg all purpose flour
  • 300 gr white sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 500 ml milk
  • 250 gr butter melted
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • zest from one lemon
Instructions
  1. In a sauce pan add the sugar, milk, butter and lemon zest then warm it up. Do not boil it, it just needs to be hot.
  2. Meanwhile, take the yeast and mix it with 2 tbsp of warm milk, 2 tbsp of sugar and 1 tbsp of flour and mix it well. Let it rest, if the yeast is fresh you will see the mixture rise. Leave it for about ten minutes. In a big bowl add the flour and if you're using vanilla powder add it to the flour otherwise add it to the milk mixture. Add 5 egg yolks (the whites will be used for the pecan cream) to the milk mixture and mix well. Next I usually use my kitchen aid mixer with the dough or paddle attachment. Add the flour to the bowl of the mixer, the milk mixture and the yeast mixture as well. Mix well for a few minutes. In the old days you'd have to knead this by hand for at least half hour. The more it mixes the fluffier the dough will be. Add the raisins and mix well.
  3. Let the dough rise for an hour or two until it doubles in size.
  4. In the meantime, in a food processor add the pecans or walnuts, add 5 more tablespoons of sugar and the 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder and mix. In the mixer put the egg whites and mix until stiff then add the pecan mixture and mix. Put this mixture in the fridge.
  5. After the dough has risen, divide it in 3 pieces. On a big surface where you can work the dough, oil the surface, we will not use flour here, oil or butter works better. Take one piece and roll it out and then add a third of the pecan mixture to the dough and roll it out. Put each roll in a buttered bread pan and let rise again until doubled in size. Next make an egg wash and wash each bread with egg then sprinkle some sugar over each loaf.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35-45 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into this.

Enjoy!

Comments

  1. DW says

    I just wanted to clarify- The recipe says 60g of yeast, but in the comment section you said to use 2 packages, or about 16g. Which is correct?

    Thanks!

      • DW says

        Ah! I skipped down to the recipe at the bottom, so I completely missed where you specified that at the top. Thank you very much for your prompt reply!

  2. Suzita says

    Hi Jo,

    I wanted to bake a special Easter treat for my Romanian boyfriend and I happened upon your recipe whilst googling ‘Cozonac’.

    Your recipe is amazing! The steps are easy to follow and the pictures are a great help.

    You have no idea how skeptical I was after all the ingredients were mixed together and I was left with a very very sticky gooey dough. I was very tempted to add more flour but I didn’t and everything worked out great.

    My boyfriend said it smelt like he was back home in Romania whilst it was baking in the oven … and when he tasted it … I could see in his eyes that it was like he was transported back to his childhood.

    So I want to thank you so much for sharing this recipe and thank you for helping make our first Easter together a special one.

    • says

      You brought tears to my eyes, seriously! When I get comments like this it makes me so happy! I’m so glad you didn’t add more flour because then you wouldn’t have ended up with the same soft dough. I hope you try out some of my other Romanian dishes that I grew up with. :) Happy Easter!

    • says

      I mention it in the post, you’d need 2 pkg or 16g. I usually find fresh yeast at Safeway or Superstore in the bakery section. You actually need to go and ask the bakers for some.

  3. Maha says

    Many thanks for this easy to follow recipe! I want to surprise my Romanian husband by making your cozonac this Xmas but would like to make half the amount only. Should I use 2 or 3 eggs for half the batch? Many thanks and Crăciun fericit!
    Maha

  4. says

    Hi. I am romanian as well. For several years I’ve been using your recipe and shared it with everyone I know. Your recipe never failed me. I make the best Cozonaci in my circle of friends. Thank you soo much/!

    • says

      Hi Cristina,
      I’m so happy to hear this! This is one of my favorite recipes, I look forward to making this at Christmas and Easter. I’m glad you and your family enjoy it as well. :)

  5. Cassie says

    Dear Jo,

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I can’t wait to take it over to my mother’s house for Christmas, she will be so happy. I just took them out of the oven and they look incredible. I always wanted to start baking Romanian food but I never had any directions, as its all in my mum’s head! :) And the measurements are very……haphazard! And I could not remember what my mum told me. I have made the saratele too to take over to my parents, I also added Dill in them which tastes great. Thank you again have a Merry Christmas all the way from Australia! xx

    • says

      Hi Cassie,
      I know what you mean, those are the type of instructions and measurements I got from my mom and mother in law as well, but after many tries myself I got exact measurements for my Romanian recipes. Funny you mention the saratele, I just made the dough and I can’t wait to bake them. The dill sounds like a great addition, personally I love dill. Merry Christmas to you too, and I’m so glad I have readers all the way in Australia, I bet the weather is a bit warmer there than it is here. :)

  6. Angie says

    Hi Jo, Merry Christmas!
    I live in Calgary as well and I tried your cozonac recipe for the first time and it turned out delicious, my hubby’s critic comment was that it was too fluffy ;) wich I took as a compliment. I wil not try any other cozonac recipe anymore, I’ll keep this one.
    Jo, I was wondering if you think it would work to ad Nutella to the nuts mixture ( my hubby and the kids love Nutella) do u think they will still rise and bake properly?
    Thanks for sharing your recipe.

    • says

      Hi Angie,
      Merry Christmas to you too!!
      I’ve been wanting to add Nutella to this as well and I think I will do that this year for Christmas when I make my usual cozonac batch. It should not affect them from rising. I’ll let you know how they turn out, making them next weekend, before Christmas.

  7. Yveta says

    Hi Jo!
    Today im going bake your cake again-your dough recipie is very good & extremely versatile-in the future i will bake it with few different fillings ;-)
    I love the fact that there IS NOT ANY WASTE when im using left over of eggs whites in the filling-its a brillant idea!!!
    Im keeping your recipie for ever in my recipies book :-)

    • says

      Hi Yveta,
      You’re right, it is very versatile, another filling that is common is a poppy seed filling, similar dough, except you’d skip the raisins. Another popular filling is with Turkish Delight, which I’m sure you can find there. Have fun and enjoy. :)

  8. Yveta says

    WOW :-))) what a delight-i just finished first slice of your cake (fresh from oven,still warm- but i cant resist) and im addicted !!! I will bake it again and again…i easily knead this fluffy&aromatic dought by my hands without mixer.
    Jo thank you very much for sharing this yummy recipie,can we have more of TRADITIONAL ROMANIAN baking recipies PLS!!!

  9. Corina says

    Your bread looks very beautiful. I tried your recipe and it turned out wonderful. Great pictures as usual. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  10. Viorica says

    Hi Jo. Thank you for sharing this recipe. I have a question about the amount of milk that you used to dissolve the yeast. I couldn’t find fresh yeast, so I used 2 packages of active dry yeast, 2 tbsp of milk and one tbsp each of sugar and flour. The mix turned into a think paste after 5 minutes and it looked like not all of the yeast dissolved. Is that to be expected? Should I have used more milk? Thank you.

    • says

      No that’s fine, especially if you’re sure your yeast has not expired, so just add that thick paste to your wet ingredients. If you’re not sure about your yeast, in a small bowl add a little yeast and some warm water to see if the yeast activates and it starts bubbling up. I hope this helps. Good luck and let me know how it turned out. :)

    • says

      Another thing I should mention, is that it’s very important for the yeast not to be expired because you really want these breads to rise, if the yeast is no good, they will just turn out to be like big bricks.

      • Viorica says

        I was so taken by my cozonac, i didn’t even wish you Merry Christmas! I hope you are having a very nice holiday!
        Thank you so much for the quick reply. I bought the yeast on Friday in the hope that it would be very fresh. I did use the paste as you indicated and the dough doubled in about 3 hours, but it didn’t rise anymore after I placed the loafs in the pans (I waited for about an hour). Hence I thought that I might have not treated the yeast properly. The cozonac didn’t rise a lot in the oven, but i’s soft and VERY good ( I’m eating a slice now:-)) . I’ll try to make another batch for New Years day but I’ll probably buy the yeast in a different grocery store. Thank you again for posting this recipe.

        • says

          Merry Christmas to you as well. There should still be an expiry date on the yeast, so even though you buy it from the store you don’t know how long it’s in the store. Anyway as long as the flavor is good that’s all that matters. Happy Holidays.

  11. Cathy Z says

    Am sa incerc aceasta reteta. Multumim ca o impartasesti cu noi. Cozonacul dupa cum se stie nu este chiar asa de usor de facut (ma refer la amatori ca mine). Felul in care explici tu este atit de clar ; nu mai spun de fotografii, care “vorbesc” pur si simplu. Nu am facut niciodata cozonac dar dupa instructiunile scrise cred ca reuseste din prima. Mii de multumiri ! Cathy Z

  12. Mihaela says

    Niciodata n-am crezut ca am sa gasesc asa o reteta buna de Cozonac pe un site american.Multumesc din suflet ca ai impartasit cu noi aceasta superba reteta.Paste fericit!

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