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Cozonac is a classic Romanian sweet bread that is often served around the Christian holidays. It is enjoyed at Christmas and welcomed at Easter and it can be compared to other European sweet breads like panettone, though the shape is different. The bread is also traditional in many Bulgarian homes, and may be spelled Kozunak.
The dough for this bread is rather rich, a combination of flour, butter, eggs, sugar, yeast, and milk. Most recipes also contain raisins. Cozonac may be baked in a variety of shapes, and some Romanians connect these shapes to specific religious events. A braided bread might be prepared for Easter and be symbolic of Christ’s body prior to rising from the dead, though this can vary.
The sweet bread dough for cozonac can be baked as is, or some recipes make much more elaborate use of the dough. Occasionally the dough will be wrapped around a spiced walnut filling, or it is rolled around chopped pieces of Turkish Delight, rose-flavored candy. A few recipes call for a sweetened cream cheese filling, and others suggest giving the dough zesty flavor with the addition of lemon peel. The considerable variety of recipes and types of cozonac make it a truly adaptable bread or dessert for a variety of occasions.
It can be very difficult to find cozonac outside of Romania and Bulgaria. If you have the good fortune to live near a Romanian, Bulgarian or Eastern European bakery, you may have some luck. Otherwise, you’ll have to prepare this delicious bread from scratch. If you’re good at baking bread this should prove little trouble because recipes abound and tend to be easily made by most bakers. Having a bread machine can help with kneading, though you will want to pull the dough out for a second rise, and so you can shape the dough for baking.
Cozonac can look especially appealing as it bakes and becomes a rich deep brown. To add extra sweetness the top of the bread, it may be sprinkled generously with either powdered or granulated sugar. Some recipes also call for sprinkling raisins or walnuts on top before baking.
Generally, though the bread might look delicious warm, it is traditional to serve cozonac when it is fully cooled. However, some are delighted with the warm bread, which may be particularly good as an afternoon snack with a cup of coffee, tea or milk. It also may be difficult to resist the delicious smell of freshly baked cozonac until it has completely cooled!