Bulgarian Easter Bread (Kozunak)

Sweet bread
milanfoto / Getty Images
Ratings (18)
  • Total: 90 mins
  • Prep: 60 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Yield: 2 loaves (serves 25-30)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
129 Calories
6g Fat
14g Carbs
3g Protein
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This Bulgarian Easter bread recipe known as kozunak is also served at Christmas and for other special occasions. Some cooks braid their bread, while others braid it and then form it into a round mold.

Bread is an important part of religious rituals in Eastern Europe and this bread, which appears at the table on what is considered the holiest day of the year -- Easter -- is a prime example.

Kozunak is a slightly sweet yeast-raised bread with raisins that crosses the line between bread and coffee cake. Some versions feature a topping of sliced almonds, but that is purely regional and optional.

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 large egg (lightly beaten)
  • 3/4 cup scalded milk (cooled to 110 F)
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup rum
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 9 cups flour (all-purpose, approximately)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ounces (1/2 stick) butter (melted)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Steps to Make It

  1. In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine 4 teaspoons yeast, 4 teaspoons sugar, 1 egg and 3/4 cup warm milk and let stand, covered, in a warm place for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, Place 3/4 cup raisins, 1/4 cup rum, and zest and juice of 1 lemon in a small bowl to soak.

  2. Heat 1 cup milk and 1 cup sugar in a small saucepan until warm and set aside. Combine 2 ounces melted butter and 1/4 cup oil in a small bowl and set aside. Separate 2 of the 5 eggs, reserving the yolks for the egg wash and beating the whites with the other 3 whole eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a separate small bowl. Begin adding warm milk mixture, then butter-oil mixture, eggs, and drained raisins to the yeast mixture, combining until well mixed.

  3. Then begin adding flour (you might not use all of it) and 1 teaspoon salt, and knead until a smooth dough results. It will be sticky. Transfer to a large oiled bowl, turning dough once to coat both sides. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled (1 to 2 hours).

  4. Punch down dough and let rise again, covered, for 1 to 2 hours or until doubled. Heat oven to 400 F. Punch down dough and knead for 1 or 2 minutes. Divide in half. Divide each half into 3 pieces and braid on parchment-lined sheet pans. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise about 30 minutes. Brush with reserved egg yolks and sliced almonds, if using. Bake about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 190 F. Remove from oven, remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.