Thursday, April 16, 2015

Romania Spring Braid with the Babes

Welcome to my Kitchen! This month it's the Kitchen of the Month for the Bread Baking Babes. After spending some very delightful time looking at various bread recipes, I decided that since Easter and spring were going to be here during the bread baking time for April that I would invite all of the Babes around the kitchen table to have fun with a Romanian Easter Braid. Even if Easter isn't your thing, this braid is delicious with its nut filling and spring time flavors of butter, egg, and lemon. I like the idea of filling the braid ropes. Wasn't sure how it would actually go, but that's part of the fun, isn't it?

The description of the recipe in The Festive Bread Book, by Kathy Cutler talks about "The delicious walnut filling" but the recipe calls for ground almonds. I suspect that you could use any ground nut you desire...walnut, almond, pecan, hazelnut...and you will get a nice filling. The full description is, " the delicious walnut filling of this bread helps make it a Romanian classic. Serve it as a snack or with Easter dinner." It doesn't have any icing, so it may be a bread that is somewhat unsweetened. You can always add a sweet glaze and/or nuts once the baked bread has cooled if you prefer it a bit sweeter.

The Wiki information is interesting: " In Romania, the recipes differ rather significantly between regions in what concerns the trimmings. The dough is essentially similar throughout the country: a plain sweet bread made with flour, eggs, milk, butter, sugar and salt. Depending on the region, one may add to it any of the following: raisins,... grated orange or lemon rind, walnuts or hazelnuts, vanilla or rum flavour.

Cozonac, (the Romanian bread for Easter similar to Italian pannettone), may be sprinkled with poppy seeds on top. Other styles dictate the use of a filling, usually a ground walnut mix, ground poppy seeds mixture, cocoa powder, rum essence and raisins. The dough is rolled flat with a pin, the filling is spread and the whole is rolled back into a shape vaguely resembling a pinwheel. In the baked product the filling forms a swirl adding to the character of the bread."  Apparently there is also a Christmas version with dried and/or candied fruit included.

It sounds like this version is the braid that uses lemon rind and a nut filling. Maybe the author prefers almonds to walnuts or poppy seed. I know that we Babes are a creative bunch, so this recipe leaves plenty of room for creativity and should yield a nice loaf for any spring celebration.

Be sure to check out what the other Babes have done with this recipe, then make it yourself. To become a Buddy and get a badge for your blog, just e-mail me by April 29th at elle dot lachman at gmail dot com. Include a photo of your bread and a short description of your baking experience and I'll include you in the round-up. I know Easter has come and gone, but it's still spring and this bread is one your family will love...and pretty. Come join the fun...I know you want to.

This braid has a fairly rich dough, including both butter and eggs, and it has a nut-based filling. After making it and eating a slice the morning I made it, I think the next time I make it that I will spread a thin layer of softened butter on the dough before putting on the filling and I will increase the filling by half as much again to allow for a thicker layer of filling and a bit more flavor. In addition I'm going to increase the citrus zest (I used orange) to twice the amount called for in both the dough and the filling. I might also increase the salt by a 1/4 teaspoon to 3/4 teaspoon...the dough was just a tiny bit flat tasting and I think that will take care of that. The crumb was great and so was the crust. I made a quick glaze of a small amount of hot milk, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar and a few drops almond extract to be drizzled over the top, then scattered on a few sliced almonds. Made for a pretty loaf and went well with the other flavors in the braid.

After reading over the recipe I just couldn't add yeast to a mixture that was going to be heated to such a high heat, so I put the yeast in 1/4 cup tepid water to proof, then added it to the milk/butter/egg mixture when the mixture had cooled to 100 degrees F before adding all of it to the dry mixture as the recipe calls for. I did mix everything by hand (no stand mixture) and it really is a lovely dough to knead for a while. I let mine sit in the fridge for a day before rolling out and shaping, then again overnight so that I could bake it this morning (it warmed up and did the final proofing this morning) which worked well. Nice oven spring, too. Because I used a little additional liquid in proofing the yeast, I decreased the milk by the same amount. As a result the flour called for was just about right.

Really yummy still slightly warm and taken with a nice hot cup of coffee! Love the swirls of filling...but I wanted more filling. My original plans to bake it again with friends was ruined by my coming down with a case of the flu.

Here are the links for the other Babes:

BakeMy Day  -  Karen
Blog from OUR Kitchen -  Elizabeth
Bread Experience -  Cathy
Girlichef -  Heather
Life's a Feast -  Jaime
Lucullian Delights -  Ilva
My Diverse Kitchen - Aparna
My Kitchen in Half Cups - Tanna
Notitie van Lien - Lien

Romanian Easter Braid
makes one loaf
from The Festive Bread Book, by Kathy Cutler
3 1/2 - 4 cups flour, divided
1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest (or use orange zest)
2/3 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup finely ground almonds (or walnuts, poppy seeds, etc)
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest (or use orange zest)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons milk

Combine 2 cups flour , the yeast, and lemon zest in mixing bowl.

Heat milk, butter, sugar and salt until butter melts; remove from heat and let cool until it reaches 105 - 115 degrees F.

Add milk mixture and eggs to dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth - about 10 minutes.

Place in greased bowl, turning to coat top. Cover; let rise in warm place until double - about 1 hour.

Punch down dough. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each into a 7 x 16-inch rectangle.

Use 1/3 of filling one each rectangle, spreading filling, but leaving a margin around edges; roll up jelly-roll style. Seal seam and ends. You will have three filled and sealed ropes.

Braid ropes; place on greased baking sheet.

Cover; let rise in warm place until double - about 30 minutes.

Make glaze and brush on loaf.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 40 minutes or until done. Cool on wire rack.

(Optional: Make a sweet glaze with 1 tablespoon warm milk and enough powdered sugar to make a drizzle glaze. Drizzle cooled bread and then sprinkle with sliced almonds, for decoration, while glaze is still wet. Let dry.)


  1. My husband and I have really been enjoying this loaf (just made it yesterday). My kids like to pretend they don't like nuts, so they haven't tried it...more for us.

    I do like the idea of the sweet drizzle on top, that would be gorgeous at an Easer brunch table! Thanks for another delicious challenge. :)

  2. Heather, so glad you and your husband like it. You get a gold star as the first to post! I think it is cool that the walnut filling also became the garnish. Your swirls are so pretty and the coconut/rum/walnut combo sounds delicious.

  3. Hy, i'm Daniela from Romania, :)
    very nice recipe my dear, :) but
    i can say that the original filling
    is: 1) cocoa, milk, lemon zest ,baked walnuts ( no other nuts )coarsley chopped and turkish delight cut in 1 inch piecees.
    2)ricotta , eggs , lemon zest and turkish delight
    3) in Transilvania : cocoa, milk, poppy seed lemon zest
    but i'm from Moldova so...the first two points is from our area
    And when you put it in baking tray apply with a brush just beated egg for shine.
    My grandma has baked this in this Easter that we had it in 12 april .
    We romanian people , are 80% orthodoxism religion so 1 week after yours Easter.
    I'm sorry for my broken english but being in Romania i don't have someone to talk too in eglish every day , so i hope you understand...
    so here some links to see the original Easter bride :
    and if it wrapped in plastic foil after is completely chilled -it lasts till 1 week ...
    my husband eat this even with buttermilk, or yogurt, or warm milk with honey
    Have a great evening !

  4. Clearly this is NOT the hour to see this, because now I need cakey bread and don't want to think up anything for dinner!! Wow, that looks delicious!

  5. This was a delicious recipe Elle, we all loved it and these kinds of bread disappear so quick in our household. I love to try this with poppyseeds in it, I love that (they use a lot of that in Germany too in bread and pastry) And there are many more varieties to try out... Yummy!

  6. Your bread looks beautiful, Elle! I love the golden lines created by the filling.

    This was a fun bread to make; we love it with coffee! Many thanks for choosing it.

    Thanks for posting all those filling rules, Daniela! In the bread I made, used a poppy seed filling that seems similar to the Transylvanian version. Next time, I'll try adding a bit of cocoa powder....

  7. It's just that bread, homemade bread is so good. This is a gorgeous dough and a marvelous bread even for a savory gal like me.
    I love all the variations Daniela & you bring out. A person could bake this every week and never have the same bread twice for a very long time.
    Your color is marvelous Pat! Mine looks really dark but wasn't burnt even so.
    Thanks for this one.

  8. I saw the comment from Daniela - one of the woman in my French class is Romanian. Can't wait to get her opinion LOL

    It looks like a lovely bread - and all the Babes are happy ;-)

  9. That looks so professional. I love the swirl you've got through it. Amazing

  10. This was a fabulous bread Elle! Thanks for hosting this month's bake. The drizzled glaze on top your braid is a very nice touch!