Easy Cozonac with dark chocolate & dates

a traditional Romanian sweet yeast bread eaten at holidays especially Easter
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This is Romania’s national celebratory cake and it is not dissimilar to Pannetone and for sure has some common lineage with Jewish “krantz” cakes.  Classic fillings or rather veins of nice bits that run through the cake are poppy seeds (which I like a lot), walnuts and turkish delight (which I am not so keen on but it does look pretty).  I decided to make a chocolate sauce and add some dates as i like the “pain au chocolat” type taste and I like dunking it in coffee. Its absolutely delicious eaten warm and fresh but due to the oil it does keep well.  Toasted its heavenly.

People love to recount how labour intensive and difficult cozonac is to make and I am sure it was in the days before food processors and kitchen mixers.  This recipe is easy and relies on the elbow grease of a mixer. If you have a breadmaker use that. Cozonac puffs up quite easily I find – mainly because the dough is quite sweet and the yeast can go crazy feasting on the sweet stuff. I do bother to use nice fine “00” flour conveniently labelled as “cozonac” flour in Romania.

Gadgets & Gizmos

A mixer or a breadmaker does help.  Otherwise a big plastic bowl and some elbow grease works a treat. A proper cozonac tin is good but otherwise any bread tin or even a ceramic plant pot will work well.

Ingredients – for two cozonacs (freezes brilliantly)

1kg fine flour (“faina de cozonac”)

4 eggs

50g fresh yeast

300ml full fat milk warmed a little

250 ml sunflower oil  (you could use melted butter but we are in Southern Europe and the sunflower is King)

250g sugar

100g chopped dates (or figs or other dried fruit)

zest of 1 orange

Chocolate Filling

100g dark chocolate 70%

70g butter

30g good cocoa

How To

Dissolve the yeast in the milk.  You can wait until it froths a little but I am always too rushed.

Place all the ingredients in the bowl of your mixer and add the milk/yeast mixture.

Using the dough hook bring the mixture together on slow speed and then on the maximum setting knead it a good five minutes.

The dough will be quite soft and probably will not leave the sides of the bowl.

Cover with a damp teatowel and wait until it has doubled in size (depends on the room temperature and humidity but 30 mins-1 hour is normal)

Melt the chocolate, butter and cocoa powder together and chop the dates

Tip the dough onto a floured surface and roll it out or flatten with your hands. Aim for a rough rectangle.

Carefully spread the chocolate mixture on top and sprinkle over the dates

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Now roll it gently into a sausage

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Cut the sausage into two. wrap the two pieces around each other to look like a plait.

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Snuggle the doughy plait into your oiled cozonac tin and leave to rise again until it looks like it will fall out of the tin. Treat it gently as a sudden jolt can cause it to deflate.

Pop in a hot oven 200-220C for 30-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

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