Cozonac is a Eastern European sweet bread that can be filled with raisins, walnuts, chocolate. This is a family staple, we all love it. The most popular filling for Romanian sweet bread is walnuts. I ran a little short on walnuts, and added some cocoa powder to the filling. **This recipe definitely falls in the “difficult” category– Without a doubt, cozonac’s are a labor of love; you’ll certainly get a chance to practice your patience and resilience.
Chocolate-Walnut Sweet Bread (makes 3 medium-size loafs)
Sweet Bread Dough
– 1 tsp white sugar
– 1 pkg (.25oz) Fleischmanns Active Dry Yeast
– 1/2 cup warm water
– 1/2 cup milk
– 1/3 cup white sugar
– 1/4 cup butter
– 1 tsp salt
– 2 eggs, beaten
– 4 cups all-purpose flour
– zest of one lemon
+ egg wash (1 egg, 2 tbsp milk)
+ loaf/bread pans
Chocolate Walnut Filling
- 2 cups walnuts, ground
– 1/2 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
– 1 tbsp vanilla extract
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1/2 cup milk
1. In a small bowl, mix 1 tsp sugar, yeast and warm water. Allow the yeast slurry to stand for about 10 minutes, or until it turns foamy (as below). If the mixture doesn’t foam, it could be an indication that you’re yeast is no longer active, and your dough won’t rise.
2. In a sauce pan, scald milk over medium heat– once it bubbles, remove it from the stove, and mix in 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup butter, and salt until melted. Allow to cool until luke warm.
Prepare dough, and first rise:
3. In a large bowl, combine yeast slurry, milk mixture, eggs, zest and flour. Using your hook attachment on your stationary mixer, mix on low until combined. Once most of the ingredients appear damp and slightly combined, increase speed and allow to mix for 8 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic.
4. Once the dough has pulled together, turn it onto a lightly flour-dusted surface, and knead for an additional 2 minutes. Round into a ball, and place in large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in volume (about 30 minutes)
Shaping and Second Rise:
5. Remove your dough from the bowl, and return to lightly floured surface. Evenly divide the dough into 6 parts (each loaf will need 2 rolls– this recipe makes 3 medium size loads). If you want to make 2 large loafs, divide into 4. Round divided dough into balls and return to greased bowl for the second rise. Cover with a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm place for an additional 25-30 minutes.
While the dough is rising for the second time, prepare chocolate-walnut filling:
6. In a large bowl, combine ground walnut, sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla. Slowly add milk, until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes until the milk is absorbed into the mixture. It should for a paste-like consistency; you may have to add a little to make the mixture spreadable– use your discretion.
7. Roll out dough into rectangular sheet (1/8″ thin, approximatley 15″ x 7″), and spread out an even layer of the filling. Carefully roll the dough (think cinnamon roll).
Repeat this step for all remaining dough balls. Pinch two filled dough rolls on one end, and carefully “braid” them together. Pinch the other end, and tuck the seams underneath the dough. Carefully transfer roll to a prepared bread pan.
8. Cover, and proof for an hour, or until doubled in volume.
Proofing is the final step in fermentation, carbon dioxide is a bi-product of the chemical reaction, and gives rise to your dough. In commercial kitchens, proof boxes are used to keep dough at a warm temperature, in a slightly humid environment. At home, you don’t need a expensive proof box, because you can make your own, using your microwave. A handy tutorial is found here.
Pre-heat oven to 350’F