It took me ten days to gather my strength to write down this recipe. Firstly I thought not to post it since I find it difficult to write about something I haven't done all by myself. But I promised to my sister and a couple of friends I'll systematize mum's kozunak recipe to an easy to follow step by step guide.
Mum is famous for her kozunak amongst all her friends and all the neighbourhood. (Maybe I have to mention that Kozunak is the Bulgarian Easter bread.) A couple of days before Easter there are people calling, e-mailing and skyping just to remind her of their existence in order not to be forgotten in the kozunak give away. This is why when she makes kozunak, she usually makes 10 – 12 loaves (yep, no mistake here) and it takes her a whole day, not to mention the pile of dirty baking pans and the mess in the kitchen. Mum has a special equipment for kozunak making – the set consists of special bowls(large as basins) for mixing an proving the dough, linen towels for covering the bowls, pot for the sponge, special clothes and hair bands. The day when she makes kozunak nobody is allowed to enter the kitchen, in order to prevent hairs from flying here and there and wise advices to be given. The latter applies mainly for Ivan, who always tries to rationalize her recipe, and my father, who keeps saying for almost 30 years “My mother used to make it otherwise!”.
This year, I don't know how, but I managed to convince mum to make only half the recipe, so we ended up with just 5 loaves. Originally the recipe comes from my grandmother, but mum improves it every year and currently there are significant differences in mum's and grandma's kozunak making techniques. Grandma mixes the dough to firm stage and have some kind of ritual to “beat” it in the counter top to develop it's gluten, whereas mum mixes the dough to an extremely sticky stage and works it with her hands directly as it is in the basin in her own special manner.
Mum's Kozunak Recipe:
Makes 5 loaves
For the Filling:
- 70 gr sugar (A);
- 100 ml water;
- 400 gr ground walnuts;
- 230 gr sugar (B);
- 150 ml milk;
- 20 gr cocoa powder;
- 100 gr butter;
- 15 ml rum.
For the Sponge:
- 1 cube (42 gr) fresh yeast;
- 100 ml whole milk;
- flour, enough to form a mixture with the consistency of cake batter;
- ½ tsp sugar.
For the Dough:
- 300 ml whole milk;
- 14 eggs(room temperature);
- 700 gr granulated sugar(divided 400 + 300);
- 150 gr butter(melted and cooled);
- 55 gr sour cream;
- 2 Tbsp vanilla extract(or 1 vanilla pod – scraped and mixed with the milk);
- 15 ml rum;
- zest of 4 lemons;
- 1 tsp salt;
- 3 kg all purpose flour - sifted (it won't be used the whole quantity);
- 100 ml vegetable oil(mum uses sunflower oil).
- 2 egg yolks;
- 1 Tbsp apple vinegar.
the sponge after proving
In a small saucepan heat milk together with 400 gr of the sugar and vanilla just to dissolve the sugar. Leave to cool to lukewarm.
In another bowl beat eggs and the rest of the sugar (300 gr) just to incorporate the sugar.
In a large bowl combine sponge, milk-sugar mixture, egg-sugar mixture, melted butter, sour cream, rum, lemon zest, 1,5 kg of the flour and salt. Use hand mixer for mixing. The batter would be very sticky.
At this point mum continues to knead the dough by hand.
Add a little bit of the vegetable oil, then knead.
Add a handful of flour, knead again.
Repeat 5-6 times until all the vegetable oil has been used and around 500 gr of the flour. Then start kneading the dough with two hands for around 20 – 30 minutes.
Cover and leave the dough to become double in bulk. The dough is still very sticky, but this is how it's supposed to be.
Pour a part of the dough onto a heavy floured working surface and knead to form a soft dough.
Spread it with your hands(it would be still too soft to use a rolling pin), add some of the filling and fold the way you want.
Arrange into a buttered baking pan. Cover with a linen towel and leave it to become double in bulk. Bear in mind that dough triples in bulk during proving and baking. Repeat until all the dough is arranged into baking pans.
Till far we've used around 2,5 kg of the flour.
Whisk egg yolks with vinegar and glaze the loaves, sprinkle some sugar on top and bake into a preheated to 180º C oven.
there was no way to take a photo of all the 5 loaves since we gave 2 of them away as soon as they were baked
We are sending this post to YeastSpotting.