Romanian Cozonac... using the tangzhong method. I know this is not the time to share a recipe for a sweet bread. Summer isn't for using your oven. But I've been playing with a favorite recipe of mine for some time now. It's interesting, but I find much relaxation when it comes to working with bread doughs.
In all honesty, I haven't been cooking and baking very much... have kept our meals very uncomplicated with the usual salads, eggs, grilled veggies and sometimes sandwiches. However, I have, at times pulled up old favorites to make... only because necessity required it.... like having guests over:). But it was fun going back to my recipe index and pulling out a few favorites to make again... favorites like the Best Ever Bagels, King Arthur Flour Brownies, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Romanian Mititei, and a few others.
But several weeks ago, we went to visit a friend and I decided to make some cozonac. Thought it would be nice to bring something sweet to share with a cup of coffee. We all enjoyed it, so I decided to share my new tweaking of the old classic Romanian dessert that's also found in my recipe index.
Ever since I tried the tangzhong method I've applied it to many yeast doughs because I rather liked the end result. This time I used it again to make my Romanian cozonac. Loved how soft and fluffy the cozonac came out. Pictures don't do justice, because I sliced it after I had frozen the loaves. But you can see a bit of the fluffy texture in the last photo up on top...
Now, I need to say that while I've included amounts for the flavorings used in the cozonac, you can easily adjust the flavorings to taste. Don't be put off by not making the cozonac because you may not like the rum flavor... opt to use vanilla instead... or you can even add some almond flavoring. And as for the citrus flavorings, you can stick with just using lemon and omit the orange. My husband loves the orange flavor so I add it, but you can choose to omit or even combine the 2 citrus flavors, which is what I often do. The thing about cozonac, is that you want it to have plenty of flavor, otherwise it just becomes a sweet brioche bread... which isn't necessarily bad:).
In any case, for now, here is another variation to the Romanian cozonac. I have to say that I am still working on another tweaking that I am excited to try... am hoping to make it again but maybe I'll wait the summer out:). Hope you enjoy...
Note: The dough is on the sticky side... so don't feel too tempted to add extra flour. If need be, you can add about 1/4 cup extra flour... only if you feel it really needs it.... otherwise, just use oiled hands to work with the dough.
You will need:
10 oz (or about 2 1/2 cups) finely ground walnuts
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
rum extract to taste(I use .5 oz extract) *
1 tsp orange or lemon extract
2 tsp orange or lemon peel
*don't like rum, use vanilla extract
1/3 cup bread flour (I use King Arthur Flour)
1 cup water
1 cup milk
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2-3/4 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
3 eggs, beaten
3 tsps orange or lemon peel
1 TBS rum extract, or to taste*
1 tsp lemon extract
285 grams + 550 grams bread flour, divided
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
all of the cooked tangzhong
4 TBS softened butter
*don't like rum, use vanilla extract
beaten egg for brushing loaves
Make Nut Filling: (I like to do this a day ahead, refrigerate and then bring back to room temperature the day of baking.)
1. Place milk and sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat pan on medium-low heat and whisk mixture until sugar dissolves..
2. Add walnuts and keep stirring every so often... until mixture thickens somewhat (about 10-12 minutes).
3. Add cocoa and continue to cook further until filling thickens even more and becomes paste-like. Add flavorings and stir to combine.
4. Remove from heat and set filling aside to cool....it should thicken even further as it sits.
1. In a medium saucepan, whisk flour and water well so you don't have any lumps. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring consistently with a wooden spoon, whisk or spatula to prevent burning and sticking while you cook it.
2. The mixture becomes thicker and thicker.... similar to a creme patisserie (thin pudding-like ). You will notice some “lines” appear in the mixture every time you stir and the roux should fall slowly off a whisk ... the temperature should be at 150 deg F. Remove from heat.
3. Transfer the tangzhong into a clean bowl. Cover with a cling wrap. Let cool to room temperature.
Make Sweet Dough:
1. In a saucepan, heat milk, butter and sugar. Remove from heat and let cool till just warm.
2. Add beaten eggs and blend to incorporate, then whisk in the flavorings... lemon/orange peel, rum/vanilla.
3. In mixer bowl, add 285 grams flour, tangzhong, instant yeast and warm milk mixture. Using the paddle attachment mix the batter for 3 minutes on medium speed.
4. Remove paddle and attach the dough hook.
5. Add 550 grams of bread flour and knead for an additional 7 minutes.... speed 2/3 on Kitchenaid mixer. After 7 minutes, with mixer running, begin adding small pieces of softened butter, waiting until each piece is fully incorporated into the dough before adding the next. Continue adding the rest of the butter pieces, one at a time, until all 4 tablespoons of butter is fully incorporated into the dough... this should take another 5-7 more minutes of kneading. Total mixing/kneading from start to finish should be about 15-18 minutes.
6. Form dough into a ball... (dough is on the sticky/tacky side)... and cover with plastic wrap.
7. Place bowl in a warm place(I place mine in a slightly warm oven, free from draft) and let rise till doubled. This usually takes about 1 1/2- 2 hours, or so.
Prepare 2 (9x5) loaf pans by buttering/oiling pan and lining with buttered parchment paper. This will ensure the loaf will not stick in the final baking stage.
8. Lightly oil your counter space and using lightly oiled hands punch dough down and remove from bowl and place on countertop.
9. Divide dough in 4 equal pieces.
10. Lightly oil a rolling pin and working with one piece at a time(cover the rest), begin rolling the dough into a rectangle(roughly 13x7 inches) and about 1/2-3/4 inch thick.
11. Spread 1/4 of the nut filling evenly over the surface and roll short side of the dough in jelly roll style. Set aside.
12. Take second piece of dough and repeat process until you have 2 filled and rolled dough logs.
13. Twist the 2 logs together and compact the dough from both ends so the length is as close to the length of the baking pan as possible. Quickly lift up the twisted dough and place in a parchment lined baking pan.
14. Repeat the process with the next 2 pieces of dough and fill the second pan.
Note: Sometimes I like to form the twisted dough in the form of an oval before placing in pan... see photo in collage.
15. Brush loaves with beaten egg and cover with oiled plastic wrap.
16. Allow to rise for about 40 minutes or until nicely puffed(maybe an inch above the lip of pan... you don't want it to be over-proofed) in a warm environment...
Preheat oven to 350 deg F...
17. Place pans on bottom third rack in preheated oven.
18. Bake for about 25 minutes, and lightly place a sheet of aluminum foil over top of cozonac.
19. Bake for another 20-25 minutes... for a total of 45-50 minutes. Remove foil if not completely browned all the way around the last 10 minutes or so. The foil is there to prevent the dough from burning... use your judgement as when and how long to keep it covered as all ovens are different.
20. Remove from oven and allow cozonac to cool in pan for about 15 minutes or so. Remove from pan and cool completely.
I love to freeze the cozonac then defrost as needed... and rewarm slightly. Find the flavor is best after it sits awhile.