Thursday, December 29, 2011

Vánočka - Czech Christmas Bread Recipe

Recently, a reader asked me if I have a recipe for vánočka because she'd like to make it for her grandmother.  That's a lot of pressure!  But I hope that this recipe brings grandmother many happy memories.


1 cup scalded milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar (or less, to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 large room-temperature eggs, beaten
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup golden or dark raisins
1/2 cup blanched sliced almonds
lemon zest from 1 or 2 lemons - whatever you prefer

1 large room-temperature egg, beaten
2 tablespoons blanched sliced almonds
Confectioners' sugar (optional)

Add butter, sugar and salt to scalded milk. Stir to combine and let cool to lukewarm. 

Place yeast and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and, with the paddle attachment, stir until dissolved. Add lukewarm milk mixture and 2 eggs and combine. 

Add 3 cups flour and beat with the paddle until smooth. Add the raisins, almonds, citron, and remaining flour and mix, 3 to 5 minutes until smooth. Dough will be sticky. 

Place dough in greased bowl. Turn over and cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double, about 1 hour (I found it took longer)

Punch down dough and turn out onto lightly floured board. Divide dough into 3 large pieces and 5 smaller ones. Roll each piece into a rope, about 14 inches long. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, braid the 3 larger pieces loosely and pinch ends together. 

Now this next part you can chose to braid this way, or do a simple 3-strand braid, or even just form it into a loaf:
Braid 3 of the smaller rolls, pinch ends together, and place on top of large braid. Twist the last 2 rolls together and place on top of second braid, tucking ends under large braid. Cover with a cloth or greased plastic wrap and let rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours in a warm place. 

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush  vánočka with 1 beaten egg and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons almonds. Bake 15 minutes, reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake 30-45 minutes or until instant-read temperature registers 190 degrees. Let cool completely before slicing. Dust with confectioners' sugar before cutting, if desired.