{Chocolate Sweet Bread} – Cozonac

chocolate sweet bread

I wish I could name this bread babka, brioche or kringel, but the truth is that it’s all of that into one bread. It has the filling of a Russian babka, the technique of a French brioche and the shape of an Estonian kringel. And if that was not enough, it resembles what we, Romanians, call cozonac which in its essence is a sweet bread, filled with walnuts and chocolate and sometimes rum soaked raisins and pieces of Turkish delight. It’s traditionally made for Easter and Christmas and it has a reputation of being hard to make and very time consuming. Some people say that the true test of a baker in Romania is to master the art of making cozonac and who am I to question traditions?! Especially when I love cozonac so much! Oh boy, it’s amazing with a glass of warm milk, I could live on cozonac and milk my entire life, honestly. And I don’t remember a single Christmas or Easter without it. I do remember my grandmother making it – she used to make 12-15 similar breads at once and baked them in her huge clay oven which yielded the best bread in the whole world. Cozonac it’s the smell of my childhood and I couldn’t go a holiday without baking it or eating it, it just wouldn’t be the same.

It’s precisely the mix of techniques that made me try this recipe – the long proofing time, the ingredient list, the sugar syrup and the way it looks once baked, it all sounded incredibly fun. Working with yeasted dough is not my favorite thing in the world, but that’s the thing with this recipe – the dough is incredibly easy to work with and the long proofing time makes the whole process simple. Yes, it’s hard to wait when you know it’s going to taste so good, but trust me, it’s well worth the effort and patience!

{Chocolate Sweet Bread} - Cozonac
 
Author:
Serves:: 2 loaves
Ingredients:
Pre-ferment:
  • 20g fresh yeast
  • 30g all-purpose white flour
  • 60ml lukewarm milk
Dough:
  • Pre-ferment
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 500g all-purpose white flour
  • 60ml lukewarm milk
  • 150g butter, softened
Walnut filling:
  • 400g ground walnuts
  • 50g Dutch processed cocoa
  • 200g powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 30ml dark rum
  • 50g raisins (optional)
Syrup:
  • 300ml water
  • 150g sugar
  • 100ml dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions:
Pre-ferment:
  1. Mix the yeast with milk in a bowl. Stir in the flour and mix well then place the bowl at room temperature and let the pre-ferment rise for 15 minutes or until it looks almost doubled in volume and frothy.
Dough:
  1. Mix the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, rum, lemon zest, orange zest and salt in the bowl of your mixer until fluffy and pale.
  2. Add the pre-ferment, flour and milk and knead at least 15 minutes or until the dough doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl anymore.
  3. At this point, but the butter into cubes and gradually stir it into the dough, in 3 additions. Continue mixing just until the butter is incorporated.
  4. Transfer the dough in a slightly greased bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the fridge for at least 2 hours or until it has doubled in volume.
  5. Remove the dough from the fridge and cut it into 2 equal pieces. Shape them both into a ball and wrap them well in plastic wrap.
  6. Place the wrapped balls of dough back in the fridge for another 3 hours.
  7. After 3 hours, remove the dough from the fridge and un-wrap one ball at a time.
  8. Place the dough on a lightly floured working surface and roll it into a 40x30 rectangle.
  9. Spread half of the walnuts filling over the dough then roll the dough tightly.
  10. Cut the roll in half lengthwise then braid it and place it in a loaf pan (20x10) lined with parchment paper and greased with butter.
  11. Repeat with the second dough ball. **
  12. Cover the breads with plastic wrap and place back in the fridge for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.
  13. The next day, remove the pans from the fridge and preheat your oven to 320F - 160C.
  14. Bake the breads in the oven for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown and well risen.
  15. Remove from the oven and while still warm, dip them in the sugar syrup for 10-15 seconds, just enough to soak up on flavor, but not become soggy.
  16. Alternatively, if you don't want to bath them in syrup, brush them multiple times with syrup. This step not only flavors them, but also helps them keep their moisture for a longer time.
  17. Let them cool completely before slicing and serving.
Walnut filling: *
  1. Mix all the ingredients, except the raisins if you are using any, in a food processor. Add the raisins (optional) and place aside.
Syrup:
  1. Mix the sugar and water in a saucepan and cook for 5 minutes until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Remove from heat and let it cool completely then stir in the rum and vanilla. Place aside until needed.
Notes
* I recommend making the filling just before you're ready to roll out the dough and fill it, but you can make the sugar syrup even one night before.
** I made one bread using the kringel method by cutting the roll in half after filling then braiding it, but the other was made by cutting the ball of dough in half then rolling it into 2 separate rectangles. Each piece of dough was then filled with the walnut cream and rolled separately only to be braided together in the end.

chocolate sweet bread


ROMANIAN!

Recunosc cu mana pe inima ca nu ma dau in vant dupa aluatul framantat, nu-mi place sa lucrez cu el la fel de mult cu cat “construiesc” un entremet, insa cand vine vorba de cozonac, cine ar putea rezista?! Cozonacul e an de an prezent la sarbatori in familia noastra si eu una il ador, mai ales cu o cana de lapte cald. Reteta dupa care il faceam pana acum era cumva nescrisa si combina reteta bunicii cu alte cateva retete citite pe ici pe colo. Iesea ceva bun, chiar foarte bun, dar imi place sa incerc retete noi, mai ales cand ele suna atat de interesant precum aceasta. Asa ca atunci cand ma vazut reteta postata de Mircea Banu pe blogul lui Adi Hadean mi-am zis ca trebuie sa o incerc. M-a intrigat faptul ca, sub denumirea de cozonac, combina mai multe retete internationale: babka ruseasca, briosa franceza si kringel-ul estonian, iar siropul aromat in care era cozonacul imbaiat mi-a pus capac. Nu o sa reiau reteta aici, va invit sa cititi postarea lui Mircea, insa va recomand cu draga inima sa-l faceti. Nu va lasati intimidati de timpul lung de dospire. As zice chiar ca e mult mai usor cu aceasta dospire la rece, aluatul se lucreaza perfect si creste uniform. La o adica, nu trebuie sa stai sa-l pazesti si sa-l tii la cald ca la o reteta traditionala. Iar rezulatul final, pufosenia cozonacului si aroma intensa merita din plin!

cozonac-1-5b

chocolate sweet bread

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  1. Looks like it came out perfectly! I like working with sweet breads sometimes too, it’s always very satisfying to have a nice warm loaf at the end all that work 🙂

  2. Sometimes the best things take a bit of time…and I think this sweet bread totally falls into that category! That chocolate walnut filling looks incredible…now I want a slice for breakfast!

    • Yes, the texture is brioche like, but it’s filled with that delicious walnut chocolate cream which makes it even better.

  3. Thank you very much for this recipe! My husband is Romanian, from Braila, and since our first Christmas together, I have been making cozonac, usually from my mother-in-law’s recipe. (I am American and had never had cozonac before meeting him.) We moved back to Japan this fall and I couldn’t find her recipe in my computer files, so I started searching Google. Your recipe looked interesting, and the ingredients were available, so I chose yours to make for our Christmas, and now New Year’s Days.

    My husband was so impressed! He said it was even better than his mother’s! I don’t really care for cozonac generally–I am more an ice cream person–but I really liked it and ate more than I ever have of cozonac! I did enjoy making it…I like to bake and this was a fun challenge.

    I have to admit, we were too scared to dip it in the syrup, so we just brushed it on top and with the second loaves for New Year’s, we spread the syrup on the dough before putting the filling in.

    Multumesc foarte frumos pentru timpul si efortul tau. La Multi Ani!

    • Wow, Jessica, your comment really made me smile. I’m so glad the cozonac turned out great. I was a bit concerned about the syrup myself too, but it turned out great after all!
      Happy New Year to you and your husband. La multi ani si multa sanatate!

  4. PS My husband is eating it right now and says he can’t stop. He is adding the syrup as he eats and really enjoying it…:)

    By the way, I’ve made cozonac for 10 years and I’ve never seen him so happy about cozonac.

  5. As dori sa intreb, crema de cacao,nu se arde prea tare implicit intareste? Ma refer la cozonacul taiat in 2 si apoi impletit. Ms