Romania’s traditional food: sweet bread with nut filling (Cozonac cu Nuca) – simply delicious!
10 oz (or about 2 1/2 cups) ground walnuts
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp orange extract
2 tsp orange peel
1/2 tsp ground espresso
1/4 cup cocoa (optional)
In a saucepan, melt sugar in milk. Add walnuts and keep stirring every so often, until thickened (10-15 mins). Add cocoa and flavorings. Cook some more to the point that the filling is paste-like. (If the filling is too wet it can cause quite a bit if steam in the final baking stage, causing the cozonac to fall). Set aside to cool. It should thicken even further as it sits.
Dough Recipe (for 2 loaves)
4-5 cups bread flour
1 cup milk
2 1/2 tsps instant yeast
3/4 cup(170 grams/6oz) butter
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 beaten egg
Prepare your loaf pans by buttering and placing a piece of buttered parchment paper at the bottom to ensure that the loaf will not stick in the final baking stage.
In a saucepan, heat milk, butter and sugar.
Let cool till just warm.
Add beaten eggs and blend to incorporate. Add flavorings lemon/orange peel, vanilla.
In mixer bowl, add 2 cups flour and instant yeast. Mix to incorporate the yeast into the flour. Add the wet ingredients and knead for 3 minutes on medium speed.
Add rest of flour and knead for an additional 7 minutes using a dough hook. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise till almost doubled. In a warm environment, let it rise in a warm oven. This can usually take from 1 1/2- 2 hours or so. Keep in mind to let it rise to almost double in size.
Oil your counter space and plop the dough onto it.
Cut the dough in half to yield two equal parts.
Roll one part into a large rectangle( 11×14 approximate) and spread nut filling to within 1/2 inch of the edge.
Roll dough in pinwheel fashion, just braid the dough.
Place rolled loaf in prepared pan and repeat with the remaining loaf. Brush the top of the loaves with a beaten egg.
Let rise in a warm oven till the dough reaches the top of the pan, approx 40 mins or so. This definitely depends on how warm or cold your house is. You don’t want it to over rise as it will deflate in the final baking stage from all the heavy filling.
Bake in a preheated 375 deg. oven for 10-12 mins, then place a sheet of aluminum foil lightly covering the tops. They will over brown and burn if you don’t do this. Bake for an additional 30-35 mins, orr until nicely golden brown all over. Let Cozonac cool down a bit in the pan and then remove from pans. You can lay the Cozonac on its side to cool completely, and switch from side to side.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar (optional).
Cool completely and wrap well in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. Freeze the loaves. Or you can cut a few slices and eat it warm.