Vánočka: Sweet Holiday Egg Bread

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Vánočka: Sweet Holiday Egg Bread

Growing up, this sweet and moist bread filled with dried fruit and nuts was my grandmother’s staple for any special occasion. Although its name, “Vánočka,” means “Christmas bread,” in Czech, we had it all year long. My personal favorite version was a lightly buttered slice for breakfast with my tea or hot cocoa. There are other variations of this sweet egg bread represented in many cultures and traditions such as Hebrew Challah, French Brioche and the Easter egg bread Kulick originating from the Russian Orthodox Christian bread.

The following-my mom’s recipe-is a healthier version using whole wheat flour and a reduced amount of sugar and eggs, which by no means compromises its delicious taste.

Vánočka Holiday Egg Bread recipeIngredients (yields 2 loaves)
2 egg yolks (room temperature)
4 cups whole wheat or white all-purpose flour
4 oz unsalted butter (or 1 stick), melted
½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup walnuts or almonds, chopped
½ cup raisins
1½ cups whole milk, warm
½ oz vanilla sugar (or 1 packet)
2 oz fresh baker’s yeast (or 1 oz active dry yeast)
1 teaspoon lemon peel, finely shredded
pinch of salt
½ egg, beat for brushing

Vánočka Holiday Egg Bread dough

Directions
1. In small bowl add warm milk with a pinch of sugar and dissolve yeast.
2. In a large bowl combine butter, sugar, salt and egg yolks; mix well together and gradually add flour and milk with dissolved yeast; stir in to form a soft dough.
3. Add nuts and raisins and mix in.
4. Cover with paper and cloth napkins and let rise in warm place for 2 to 3 hours.
5. On a floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic, then separate into two equal portions.
6. Divide each portion into nine pieces and shape each into a 14-in.-long rope. Braid 4 pieces together for the bottom layer, then 3 and then 2 pieces together, as shown below. Pinch ends to seal. Line baking pan with baking paper and assemble braided layers into a pyramid.
7. Beat egg and brush over loaves and decorate with almond halves. Support layers with bamboo sticks for baking.
8.  Bake at 320° for 40-60 minutes.

Vánočka Holiday Egg Bread Twists

Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with buttery spread or marmalade.

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Author:Katka Konecna-Rivera

Katka Konecna-Rivera, co-founder and host of Living Green with Baby, is an architect focused on sustainable design as well as a filmmaker, writer and personal wellness coach.

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