The today's recipe is very dear to my heart because it brings out many wonderful memories. Every time I think about my childhood, I remember my kind grandmother and her delicious recipes. This pecan sweet swirl bread, also called "cozonac" used to be something we would always bake together around the magical Christmas. There was always snow and so much joy.
Pecan swirl bread is a traditional Romanian recipe that has become a staple around holidays. It's a yeast bread swirled with a sweet filling. It is usually prepared with ground pecans, Turkish delight or poppy seeds. It's similar with the Italian Panettone with a rich and flavor but soft crumb.
My grandmother used to sift the flour the night before and kept it warm in the kitchen. The next morning she would start the fire in the brick oven and then we would start preparing the dough. After all the ingredients were added, not according to specific measurements but rather by the "feel" of her hands, the kneading part would begin. This was the hardest part, as the dough had be kneaded well for a fluffy result.
When the pecan swirl bread loaves were ready, they had a beautiful amber color and an amazing sweet warm aroma of vanilla and lemon zest. This is a favorite at every Christmas in Romania and you will find it on everyone's table wherever you go.
This recipe is from my mother-in-law and is absolutely delicious. She was able to give me the exact measurement and the taste was very similar to my grandmother's. It requires little bit of work but trust me when I tell you it's worth it. It will take around 4 hours including the time it takes for the dough to rise. This recipe works best with fresh yeast but it tried it with dried yeast as well and it turned out delicious.
Yield: 2 loaves Time: 4 hours
Ingredients for pecan swirl bread loaf dough:
- 1 kg (8 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted, at room temperature
- 500 ml (2 cups) lukewarm milk
- 150 g (3/4 cup) granulated white sugar
- 4 egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1 fresh yeast cake (18 g) or 2 active dried yeast packages (7 g each)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon salt
Ingredients for the pecan filling:
- 500 g ground pecans
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons granulated white sugar
Ingredients for the egg wash:
- 1 egg, beaten
- For the pecan swirl bread dough preparation, dissolve the yeast in 120 ml (1/2 cup) of warm milk and add 1 teaspoon of sugar. Mix thoroughly to combine, cover with a clean towel and place it in a warm place for 15 minutes to rise or foam.
- In a small bowl, add the rest of the warm milk, sugar and egg yolks. Mix until well combined.
- In a large mixing bowl, attach the dough hook attachment and add 4 cups of the flour. Add the risen yeast and the egg mixture and start kneading slowly.
- Gently, 1/2 cup of flour at a time, add the remaining 4 cups of flour. When all the flour is incorporated, increase the mixer speed and knead for 7 minutes.
- Slowly, pour the melted butter and continue mixing for 10 more minutes until the dough wraps around the hook and slaps the sides of the mixing bowl. The dough should be slightly sticky.
- With oiled hands remove the dough from the mixing bowl and transfer it to a greased large bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and a clean towel and set aside to rise in a warm place for 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
- For the filling preparation, in a medium bowl mix the ground pecans with vanilla extract and sugar. Set aside.
- When the dough has risen sufficiently, coat two 9x5 inch loaf pans with oil.
- Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).
- Divide the dough in 4 and on a lightly oiled work surface, roll each ball into 15x9 inch rectangle. Sprinkle 1/4 of the pecan filling all over the rectangle and roll it with your hands. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
- Take two rolled loaves and swirl them around each other. Repeat with the remaining loaves.
- Place each swirled roll in the prepared pans and cover them with a clean towel. Allow them to rise in a warm spot for 30 minutes.
- Brush the top of the loaves with the beaten egg.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes then place a sheet of aluminum foil lightly covering the tops.
- Bake for an additional 45 minutes until nicely golden brown all over.
- Remove from the oven and leave the loaves to cool in the pan for 25 minutes.
- Remove the loaves from pan and turn them out on a wire rack. Cover them with a clean towels and allow to cool.
- Serve at room temperature.
Tips and Tricks:
- Have the kitchen warm as the temperature changes can affect the dough rise.
- Bake the loaves in the bottom third of the oven (especially if you have an electric one). Baking it close to the top element will make the loaves rise to quickly and cause the them to fall later.