Czech Christmas Bread (Vanocka)

Czech Christmas bread recipe

The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  • Total: 2 hrs
  • Prep: 60 mins
  • Cook: 60 mins
  • Yield: 1 loaf (8 to 10 servings)

This recipe for Czech Christmas bread or vanocka (vah-NAWTCH-kah) is similar to Polish chałka, Jewish challah, Hungarian fonott kalacs, and other Eastern European egg-twist breads. Traditionally, this loaf is made of three braids of decreasing size placed one on top of the other, but a simple three-strand braid will work just fine.

The vanocka dough is the same one used for Easter—bochanek velikonocni—just round with a cross cut into it.

Ingredients

  • For the Bread:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar (or less, to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk (scalded)
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup water (warm)
  • 2 large eggs (room-temperature and beaten)
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins (golden or dark)
  • 1/2 cup almonds (blanched and sliced)
  • 1/3 cup citron (chopped)
  • For the Topping:
  • 1 large egg (room-temperature and beaten)
  • 2 tablespoons almonds (blanched and sliced)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Czech christmas bread
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga
  2. Add butter, sugar, and salt to scalded milk. Stir to combine and let cool to lukewarm.

    Butter in bowl
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga
  3. Place yeast and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and, with the paddle attachment, stir until dissolved. Add lukewarm milk mixture and eggs and combine.

    Place yeast and warm water in bowl
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga
  4. Add 3 cups of the flour and beat with the paddle until smooth. Add the raisins, almonds, citron, and remaining flour and mix, 3 to 5 minutes until smooth. The dough will be sticky.

    Add raisins
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga
  5. Place dough in greased bowl. Turn over and cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double, about 1 hour. See this quick tip for faster rising.

    Cover with saran wrap
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga
  6. Punch down dough and turn out onto a lightly floured board.

    Roll out
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga
  7. Divide the dough into 3 large pieces and 5 smaller ones.

    Divide dough
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga
  8. Roll each piece into a rope, about 14 inches long.

    Roll into strips
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga
  9. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, braid the 3 larger pieces loosely and pinch ends together.

    Braid
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga
  10. Braid 3 of the smaller rolls, pinch ends together, and place on top of the large braid.

    Braid rolls
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga
  11. Twist the last 2 rolls together and place on top of the second braid, tucking ends under large braid.

    Twist rolls
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga
  12. Cover with a cloth or greased plastic wrap and let rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours in a warm place.

    Cover with cloth
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga
  13. Heat oven to 400 F. Brush the loaf with the egg and sprinkle with almonds. Bake 15 minutes, reduce heat to 375 F and bake 30 to 45 minutes or until instant-read temperature registers 190 F.

    Brush
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga
  14. Let cool completely before slicing. Dust with confectioner's sugar before cutting, if desired.

    Let cool
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Recipe Variations

  • If you want to try and add dried apricots and raisins, make sure to soak them overnight in brandy or rum.
  • You can also include additions of citron and anise seed.