I love cakes… it’s a fact. I just cant’t help it. I think it is in my genes. When I am writing this amazing recipe my mind is traveling back in time, when my Grandmother was baking Walnut Sweet Bread, or more simply “Cozonaci cu nuca” like we say in Romanian, and the fragrance was filling every corner of our kitchen, and I was next to her waiting to get our Walnut Marble Bread out of the oven and starting to eat while still hot. Hmmm, loved those days.
I want to share this recipe with you. It is our Homemade Walnut Sweet Bread recipe, I bake this one on Christmas Eve and is one of my favourite. It is the right time. When I was a child I use to eat Walnut Sweet Bread on Christmas day, early in the morning next to a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream on top, and to me,it was the greatest breakfast of all. I may say it still is…
So let’s get started!
- All purpose flour - 4 cups (500 g)
- Sugar - 3/4 cup (150 g)
- Egg yolks - 3
- Fresh yeast - 0.7 oz (20 g)
- Lemon zest - 1/2 teaspoon
- Orange zest - 1/2 teaspoon
- Vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- Milk - 1 1/2 cup (350 ml)
- Butter - 1/2 stick (50g)
- For the filling
- Egg whites - 3
- Sugar - 3 tablespoons
- Cocoa powder - 2 tablespoons
- Ground walnuts - 7 oz (200 g)
- Oil for oiling the worktop - 4 tablespoons
- Egg for brushing - 1
All ingredients should be at room temperature, that means you have to get them on the table about an hour before preparing the dough.
Start by weighting the flour, and from the total amount set aside in a bowl 1/3 cup (50 g). In a small pot bring to a boil 2/3 cup (150ml) milk from the total amount of 1 1/2 cup (350 ml), and pour over the flour in the bowl and mix gently until all lumps are dissolved. Let this dough to cool for about 20 minutes.
In another small bowl or cup, place yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar and mix until it liquefies and then add 1/3 cup (50 ml) milk and let it rise. While the yeast is doing its thing and the dough is cooling down, in a large bowl beat the egg yolks with salt to intensify their colour, then add the sugar, lemon and orange zest, then add the vanilla extract and mix until the composition whitens and at the end add the remains milk just a bit warmed.
By now the dough has cooled down and we may start kneading. For this in the large bowl mix the cooled dough, yeast and yolks mixture and mix using a spatula. Add the remaining 3 1/2 cups (450g) of sifted flour, stirring with a spatula at first, then kneading. The dough will be very sticky, but do not worry! Knead using your fist and, occasionally, bring the dough from the edge to the middle, as would be folded. In this way it will incorporate as much air,and when baking it will expand and will help raise the dough.
The dough is sticky at the beginning, but as you stir the mixture (after 15-20 min) the dough starts to discard from the hand and from the bowl.Using a good spatula remove the dough from hand and bowl and put together. Now comes the magic: by adding 1/2 stick (50 grams) of melted butter, warm but not hot, the dough becomes smooth and not sticky.
So pour gradually melted butter over the dough and from this moment, you no longer have to knead dough, just bring one edge at he time to the middle, pressing slightly.
These successive folding will create layers in the dough and should be repeated until the butter is incorporated.
Cover the bowl with cling film and leave it to leaven for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in volume.
Half way down. Stay with me.
Let’s prepare the filling now.
Start by grinding the walnuts, next beat the 3 egg whites with 3 tablespoons sugar. When the foam hardens and you can’t feel the sugar anymore add 2 tablespoons of sifted cocoa powder and ground walnuts. Mix gently until you will get this amazing cream that will fill the Walnut Sweet Bread.
When the dough has doubled its volume, divide into two equal parts and spread each piece of dough forming a sheet of about 0.5 in (1 cm) thick on an oiled worktop. On the surface of each sheet of dough, spread evenly, half of the previously prepared stuffing, roll and place in baking paper lined cake baking form.
Let the cake rise in the form until it’s filled, for about 30-45 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 360 degrees F (180 degrees C).
Brush the cake with beaten egg. Sprinkle with sugar. Then bake for about 45-50 minutes. The first 25 minutes are very important. Do not open the oven door in no circumstances. After 25 minutes you may cover the Walnut Sweet Bread with wet parchment paper so to avoid burning the surface.
When done remove from baking form on a kitchen grill and let rest for few minutes. You can serve it while hot, like I do, or turn it on all sides until cools completely.
From these quantities I have baked two medium size Walnut Sweet Bread. If you wanna be sure are well baked I suggest you to bake like I did using two baking forms.
Hope that Christmas will bring its flavours on your table especially with this fantastic traditional Walnut Sweet Bread.