Festive Dessert for Christmas and Easter, Romanian Cozonac, a Sweet Bread Recipe #Im4Ro

Cozonac is not only a culinary tradition in Romania, but a lesson in history and culture as we eat it at Christmas and Easter time, and here’s the traditional recipe we use in our home. Enjoy a delicious, tried and trusted Romanian cozonac recipe, discover the origin of the cozonac, and marvel at the controversial cozonac recipe of Păstorel Teodoreanu that used 50 eggs per kilo of flour.

First baked in Ancient Egypt, sweetened with honey and filled with nuts, it soon appealed the Greeks plakoús, πλακούς – who added raisins and walnuts into its filling. Next, the Romans loved it, adding their own spin to the recipe, dried fruits, and sharing it all over the Roman Empire – Romania included.

Christmas or Easter, Romanian Cozonac Recipe

NOTE: this recipe makes 4 loaves (and 3 baby ones, please see below). Half it if you want to make less.

The cozonac is a sweet bread with filling, so having a filling is crucial for an all rounded taste.

TIME: preparation alone, between 3 – 4 hrs with baking time (because the cozonac must be allowed to rise twice). To reduce this time you can prepare the nut filling the day before).

Festive Dessert for Christmas and Easter, Romanian Cozonac, a Sweet Bread Recipe, Reteta Cozonac
This recipe makes 4 loaves and 3 baby ones – Christmas or Easter, Romanian Cozonac Recipe

The recipe for cozonac consists of two parts:

  • the filling (this is a nut filling, but if you are allergic to nuts or prefer not to use nuts, you can skip this part and use 250 g small cut Turkish Delight or plain chocolate spread instead);
  • the sweet bread dough.

Nut filling recipe (for 2 loaves):

  • 250 ml milk (I used a lactose-free coffee creamer)
  • 425 g ground walnuts (TIP: you can put the walnuts in a sandwich bag and roll them over with a rolling pin – please see below)
  • 170 g white sugar
  • 40 ml rum extract (you can substitute with 10 ml vanilla extract)
  • 10 ml lemon extract (or lemon juice)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp good cocoa powder (even 3 Tbsp if you love cocoa)


You can put the walnuts in a sandwich bag and roll them over with a rolling pin to ground them.
Festive Dessert for Christmas and Easter, Romanian Cozonac, a Sweet Bread Recipe, Reteta Cozonac
Cut the Turkish delight in quarters. You can use snow sugar (icing sugar) to stop it from sticking.

How to prepare the nut filling:

Melt sugar in milk over medium heat.

Melt sugar in milk over medium heat.

Add ground walnuts and stir for 10 minutes, until mixture is thickened.

Add ground walnuts and stir for 10 minutes, until mixture is thickened.

Remove from the heat and add cocoa, rum extract, lemon extract, and lemon zest. Set aside and let it cool.

Festive Dessert for Christmas and Easter, Romanian Cozonac, a Sweet Bread Recipe, Reteta Cozonac
Remove from the heat and add cocoa, rum extract, lemon extract, and lemon zest.

Sweet bread dough recipe (makes 4 loaves):

  • 1 l milk (I used a lactose-free coffee creamer)
  • 2 kg white flour
  • 12 Tbsp white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 40 ml rum extract (or use 5ml lemon juice + 10ml Vanilla)
  • 6 -9 eggs at room temperature (depending on the size, e.g. 6 XL or 9 small). Use the freshest eggs you can find. The yolks will also give the cozonac, when cooked, a lovely light-yellow tint.
  • 300 g butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 packets fast rising dry yeast (3×10 g)
  • 1 beaten egg for brushing the top of the loaves (or milk)

TIP: you will need a mixing bowl big enough to accommodate both your fists and still to give you enough space to knead the dough. A big cooking pot can also be used.

Mix butter, 1/2 of the milk and sugar in a saucepan and place it over medium heat until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Add the other 1/2 of the milk and let it cool until just warm.

Mix butter, 1/2 of the milk and sugar in a saucepan and place it over medium heat

Beat the eggs and blend them in the lukewarm milk mixture. Add lemon zest and rum / vanilla essence. Mixture should be +- 35 Degrees before adding it to the flour (too cool and the yeast will not be activated; too hot and it will kill the yeast).

We used 9 small size eggs.
You need 3 tablespoons of lemon zest in total.

In a large bowl place the white flour, sprinkle the salt and the dry yeast and give it a little mix. Make a hole in the center, like a well. Add the butter-milk-sugar-egg-essence mixture in this well. Mix with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are blended together – see images below.

In a large bowl place the white flour, sprinkle the salt and the dry yeast. Add the butter-milk-sugar-egg-essence mixture in.
Mix with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are blended together.

Next you need to knead the dough with your fists for about 15 minutes. Knead then fold it over, turn the bowl 180 degrees and repeat. This will get the yeast to work. If the dough sticks to your hands pour a little bit of cooking oil (a teaspoon the most) over your hands and rub them, then knead again.

Festive Dessert for Christmas and Easter, Romanian Cozonac, a Sweet Bread Recipe, Reteta Cozonac
Knead then fold it over, turn the bowl 180 degrees and repeat.

Just when you are done (15 minutes later) tug the dough in all around turning it into a nice, flat ball, rub a little bit more cooking oil over its top and all around the walls of the bowl. This is important as the dough will rise, you don’t want it to stick to the walls of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic and a clean tea towel and place in a warm spot. Allow the dough to rise until double in size. (about 20 – 30min)

Cover the bowl with plastic and a clean tea towel

Meanwhile, oil and flour your loaf pans and sprinkle your working area with flour. You can feel like a kid again and draw something…

Oil and flour your loaf pans and sprinkle your working area with flour.

Once the dough doubled in size kneed it down the dough once or twice, then divide it into the number of loaves you decided to make.

Once it doubled in size kneed down the dough once or twice

Pick one of the balls of dough and, while holding it above the working surface, stretch it a bit. Lay it flat and roll it with the rolling pin until it is about 3-4mm thick. In lengths, it has to be a little bit longer than your cooking pan. With a butter knife divide it in three.

For each loaf: roll the dough about 3-4 mm think, cut it in three strips.

TIP: consider how many loaves you will make and divide the nut filling or the Turkish delight accordingly.

Fill each of the three strips with the fillings desired. Roll each strip, pinch both ends and pinch along the rolled edge. Plait the three rolls together into a loaf. Carefully pick it up and place it in the pan.

Festive Dessert for Christmas and Easter, Romanian Cozonac, a Sweet Bread Recipe, Reteta Cozonac
Fill each of the three strips with the fillings desired. Roll each strip Plait the three rolls together into a loaf.

Repeat for the remainder loaves.

Repeat for the remainder loaves.

Place each cozonac into a greased and floured loaf pan, brush with egg or milk and cover with a lightly greased plastic and a clean tea towel.

Place each cozonac into a greased and floured loaf pan, brush with egg or milk and cover with a lightly greased plastic

Allow the loaves to rise for another 20-30 minutes in a warm place.

Switch on the oven at 170 degrees Celsius or 340 Fahrenheit (Gas 3-4).

Bake for about 45 minutes or until light brown.

Festive Dessert for Christmas and Easter, Romanian Cozonac, a Sweet Bread Recipe, Reteta Cozonac
Bake for about 45 minutes or until light brown. Christmas or Easter, Romanian Cozonac Recipe

Set the pans on their side for 5 minutes.

Remove from the pan using a butter knife and then allow the cozonac to cool completely before serving – if you can resist it.

Serve with milk, coffee, tea, ice cream, red wine or with hard boiled egg and spring onion for breakfast!

Cozonac is best enjoyed with milk, coffee, tea, ice cream, red wine…

Christmas or Easter, Romanian Cozonac Recipe – done!

Merry Christmas! Craciun Fericit!

What about you? What is your favorite Christmas meal?

If you decide to make cozonac using the recipe above, do send me a picture of your cozonac. I would love to post it here!

atmospheric historical fiction set in Transylvania by Patricia Furstenberg
atmospheric historical fiction set in Transylvania written by Patricia Furstenberg and paired with delicious home-made cozonac

What is the origin and the story of the renowned Romanian cozonac?

The story of the cozonac can be traced back to antiquity and is inextricably linked to the history of bread-making. From the discovery of sourdough to the transition from stone to oven-baked loaves, the ancient Greeks perfected the art of baking bread creating the cozonac—a delicacy then sweetened with honey and enriched with raisins and nuts.

This esteemed culinary tradition permeated the vast expanse of Indo-European cultures, but it was in Romania that the cozonac reached its peak of richness and flavor.

The legendary “cozonac from Moldova” echoed through the centuries, gracing the tables of Moldova and Bucovina. Beyond these borders, Păstorel Teodoreanu’s gastronomic chronicles in “Adevărul literar și artistic” (“The Artistic and Literary Truth”) preserved its legacy. In his writings Teodoreanu humbly stated: “I did not derive this recipe from books of knowledge, nor did I create it from scratch. It is passed down to me exactly as it was taught in my ancestral home, where it has been treasured for generations. My maternal grandmother bestowed upon me an age-old Russian tradition, which she inherited from her forebears. To this day, its preservation is based solely on oral tradition and, above all, the practical application of culinary mastery.”

What is the controversial cozonac recipe of Păstorel Teodoreanu?

Păstorel Teodoreanu’s delicious cozonac recipe used 50 eggs per kilogram of flour.

This century-old cozonac recipe called for: 150 eggs, 3-4 (maximum) kg flour, 1 large glass of white rum, 1 vanilla stick, 1 liter of milk, half a packet of yeast, 3-4 level tablespoons of salt, 3-4 small glasses of warm melted butter and wine, 1 small glass of fine oil, approximately 1.2 kg granulated sugar.

Păstorel Teodoreanu specified that when you use this recipe, you can’t say “I’ll make three or five kilograms of cozonacs,” but rather, “I’ll use this many eggs.” Not all eggs are the same, and not all flour is equally dry. The drier the flour, the more liquid it absorbs (read: eggs and rum).

Following its release, the editorial office was flooded with letters from country housewives adamantly claiming that such a concoction could not possibly exist, insisting he must have bungled the measurements. Renowned for his witty banter and sharp retorts in his epigrams, the gastronomist cheekily replied to his naysayers. History eventually proved Păstorel right, but until then do peruse the original recipe, as it was boldly published during the interwar period.

This is one of the oldest known techniques of preparing cozonac, this delicious, dreamy, traditional sweet bred recipe

Păstorel Teodoreanu’s delicious cozonac technique is the same that my father and paternal grandmother used when I was a child. Back then, making cozonac was a tradition and a religion.

Plan on spending 12 (twelve) hours making cozonacs. That is why it is best to have everything ready the night before and begin working bright and early.

Technique. Separate the eggs in the evening and reserve the yolks. Place the egg whites wherever you want; it doesn’t matter if you use too little in the cozonac (like a spoonful of snow) or none at all. Add salt to the yolks, stir, refrigerate, and go to bed. The next day, place two handfuls of flour (approximately 500 grams) in a very clean bowl and cover with boiling milk. Stir it vigorously with a special wooden paddle (or a spoon) until it resembles pomade and has no lumps. When it has cooled enough to tolerate the little finger test, add the yeast, which is prepared as follows: crumbled into a deep plate and rubbed with two or three tablespoons of sugar, until it resembles milky coffee. Mix the yeast well with the egg pomade, cover with a cloth, and put the first dough in a warm place (not hot) to rise.

Knead for two hours. While the first dough rises sift the yolks into a trough (a very clean, dry, and warm wooden trough), rinse the vessel with two or three tablespoons of lukewarm water, and pour everything into the trough. If desired, add a cup of frothy egg whites; otherwise, skip it. Beat the yolks vigorously, then add the rum and continue beating, beating, beating while inhaling the pleasant aroma; finally, add the finely chopped vanilla and beat until the dough has risen nicely. When the dough is ready, pour it into the trough and stir until it combines with the yolks. Next, gradually add the flour and continue stirring and beating with the paddle until you can’t anymore. Then, knead with closed fists until you get a moderately soft dough. When you think there’s no more room for flour, weigh how much is left to know how much you’ve used, then add the sugar and butter in proportion: 300 grams of sugar per kilogram of flour and a cup of butter, plus one more, just on top. After adding the flour, continue kneading, adding the sugar little by little until it’s all in. After finishing with the sugar, add the butter (a cupful at a time) and the oil, turning the dough always in the same direction (to form layers).

You let the dough rise again in a warm, but not hot, well-covered area to keep it from cooling down, and leave them for two to three hours, until it has risen nicely. Once it reached this point, place it in the molds, which have been perfectly greased with melted butter (one-third of the mold). Cover them and place them again in a warm place for about an hour. While they are rising in the molds, preheat the oven. When both the dough and the oven are ready, brush the loaves with beaten egg, sprinkle with chopped almonds or granulated sugar, and place them in the oven with a “Godspeed” wish, baking for an hour, an hour and a quarter at most. Baking in the oven requires skill, to check it with cornstarch, so the loaves don’t bake too hard, to cover them as needed to prevent them from browning too much, to give them a “whitewash.”

A further dilemma arises when the dish is removed from the oven. You remove the cozonac and give it a gentle shake with your ear bent to see if it sings. Then you lay it down with the mold still on its side, propped up by a piece of wood. After two to three minutes, give it another shake and gently turn it over onto something soft, then swaddle it gently and carefully to keep it from flattening and getting crossed. Bring them into the house only an hour after they’ve come out of the oven; transport them to the pantry two to three hours later, when they’ve cooled completely. To keep them healthy and fresh for a long time wrap them (each one separately, of course) in waterproof paper and in a thick towel. Cozonac made according to this recipe should not dry out for three or even four weeks.

Teodoreanu concluded: “The above recipe was neither taken from books nor invented by me. I transmit it exactly as it was communicated to me from my parents’ home, where it has been used for as long as I can recall. It’s an old Russian recipe passed down from my maternal grandmother, who received it from the elders. It has only been preserved to this day through oral tradition and, more specifically, practice.”

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