Cozonac (Romanian Easter Bread)
- 10 hours cooking time
Take out 50ml of milk and mix with the dry yeast and a tsp. of sugar, then leave to rest for 15 minutes. If you use fresh yeast, you can leave out the sugar.
In a large bowl, mix the flour with salt and sugar and then add the lemon and orange zest. Add the milk and yeast mixture and the remaining milk.
Crack the eggs and beat the whole eggs with the egg yolks. Add the beaten eggs and vanilla extract into the flour mixture and knead well. If using a dough kneading-machine, let it run for 10 minutes. Then add the soft butter little bit at the time until all is used up, and knead it into a nicely smooth but firm dough.
Leave to rise in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 6 hours.
The next day take the dough out and let it rest at room temperature.
For the filling, stir the butter cubes into the melted chocolate and add sugar, cinnamon and cacao powder. Mix until you have a smooth paste, then leave to cool down for about 10 minutes.
Butter the 2 rectangular baking tins.
Knead the dough on a floured kitchen counter. Divide the dough in 2, roll each piece of dough into a 30x40 centimetres rectangle and spread the chocolate filling evenly onto the whole surface of the dough. Sprinkle the almonds on top of the chocolate filling. Roll from shortest side into a sausage-like shape. Cut down the centre lengthwise and twist both parts together into a braid. Place the braid in a buttered baking tin and repeat the process with the other dough. Leave the tins in a warm place until the dough has risen to double its size (about 1 to 2 hours).
Bake at 175°C fan for 45-50 minutes. When the cozonac is golden brown on top, cover it with foil. Baking is done when the cozonac sounds hollow, you can knock on it or check temperature with a meter (which should read 96°C).
When done, leave the tin on a wire rack. Loosen the cozonac from the tin and leave it to rest for another 30 minutes before cutting into slices.