Kozunak - Sweet Easter Bread


One of the best things about Easter is the sweet aroma of the freshly baked kozunak breads. It is commonly believed today, that the making of kozunak requires great culinary skills and patience, but the truth is, that it does not cost any more effort in the kitchen, than any other meal. And it's totally worth it.

1kg. all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tablespoon salt
yeast (the size of a 1/2 matchbox)
5 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
lemon zest from 1 lemon
Blend the flour with the salt and the vanilla. Make a well and add the eggs.
Warm up the milk. Melt down the yeast in part of the lukewarm milk. Add the sugar in the rest of the milk and stir to dissolve it.
Once all the ingredients are in, start making the dough.

Mix well until you get thick and sticky dough.
Twist and knead the dough, as you gradually add the vegetable oil. The process requires some physical effort.
Add the grated lemon zest.

Twist and knead the dough again, until the lemon zest is well blended.
Place the dough in an oil coated pot to rise. Make sure there is enough room for the dough to double it's volume.
Once the dough has doubled its volume, turn it onto an oiled working surface and knead again.

Back in the days, the women used to "beat" the dough 100 times, to make sure the kozunak bread bakes well. Practically, it is the same process as kneading. The purpose of it is to remove all the air bubbles from the dough, to assure nice and smooth bread texture.
Once the dough is ready, split it into halves. Divide each half into 3 equally large dough balls. Knead in raisins, than twist and form long dough ribbons.
Braid the dough ribbons and place them in coated with oil baking pan. Glaze the bread with egg yolk mixed with milk. Sprinkle it with sugar and let it rest and rise again. When it doubles it's size, bake it.