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.
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.
Gorgeous, eh? Trust me, they are as delicious as they look.
- 60 g (2 oz) fresh yeast, or 2 tbsp active dry yeast
- 250 g (9 oz or 2½ cups) chopped walnuts or pecans
- 1 kg (8 cups) all purpose flour
- 300 g (10 oz or 1½ cups) white sugar
- 5 eggs
- 500 ml milk
- 250 g (1 cup) butter melted
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- ½ cup raisins
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- zest from one lemon
- 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.
- 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.
- Let the dough rise for an hour or two until it doubles in size.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bake at 350 degrees for about 35-45 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into this.