Cozonac romanesc (Romanian Christmas Cake)
1 kg wheat flour
4 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
200 g sugar
50 ml rum
500 ml milk
100 g butter
60 g yeast
100 g raisins
600 g walnuts or poppy seeds
10 g salt
For the preparation of two baking tins:
50 g butter and 50 g caster sugar
The first dough is prepared with half the quantity of milk to which an appropriate amount of flour is added, then add the yeast. Mix everything well and sprinkle with flour. Leave the dough in a warm place to rise for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, the rest of the milk, the sugar, the whole eggs, the egg yolks, the grated rinds of the lemon and the orange, the salt and the vanilla should be mixed well in a pot over a very low heat, or in a double boiler over boiling water.
After the dough has risen, add this mixture to the dough and start kneading. While doing this, add more of the flour as required. Beat the egg whites until stiff, and fold these into the dough, and continue kneading. During this process bubbles will start to form. When you consider the dough to be sufficiently kneaded add some slightly warmed butter and knead again. Then fold in the raisins, the walnuts (or poppy seeds) and the rum. How these are folded in will determine the pattern of the final cake (see photos). Cover the dough with a warmed towel and leave to rise again in a warm place. While the dough rises, grease the base and sides of loaf tins well with butter and then sprinkle the sugar on the greased base and sides.
After the dough has risen sufficiently, divide it, then put each part into one of the loaf tins in such way that the dough only fills about half of each tin. Then let it rise again in the baking tins, make sure no cold air can reach them and that the place is constantly warm. When the dough has risen to about 3/4 of the tin, spread butter on top of the loaves, followed by a sprinkling of crushed sugar cubes.
Place the baking tins in a good oven. If your neighbour has a better oven, accept any offer she might make to use hers and keep her company with a nice cup of coffee, because this day or evening, a few days before Christmas, is dedicated to baking the cozonac. Set the stove to a rather low temperature (120 o - 150 o C). Part way through turn the loaf tins around in the oven to ensure that the cake rises equally on all sides. Bake (usually around 50 minutes to one hour) until the top of the cozonac has a nice brown colour.
Photographs (c)2008 Marian Enciu