How to make a Bulgarian Easter Kozunak

There are millions of way to make a kosunak. In its essence, a kosunak is a sweet bread, and there's plenty of variation on how to make it. Many ingredients are added to make it even better, but they may vary – from walnuts and almonds to rum and rakia. Making a vegan one is also possible, and we'll include a recipe below.

History of kosunak

Like most Balkan foods, the origins are fairly unclear. It seems like the original recipe came from Greece, and then spread to Bulgaria and Romania. Its even possible that kosunak originates from the Ancient world, but that’s too far in the past for any sort of correct assessment. In any case, kozunac became an essential part of Bulgarian culture, and an Easter celebration here isn’t complete without one.

Why eat kosunak?

Bulgarians love their kosunak because it’s the food they eat after the longest period of fasting in the Bulgarian Orthodox Christian calendar. For 7 weeks prior to Easter, every good Christian must cleanse their body and spirit out of sin. That happens through praying and abstaining from rich foods and sinful thoughts.

That is why a kosunak after this long period is often the sweetest thing one can taste, especially after the strict fasting on Crucifixion Friday (called Good Friday aboard) when one must not eat any food.

How to make traditional kosunak?

Kosunak is one of those things that are easy to make but hard to master. Indeed, that makes every kosunak somewhat unique. Feel free to experiment with these recipes and add your own personal touch to the kosunak. Here are the most popular ways to make it! Bear in mind that the recipes tend to be focused on making big, family-sized one. If you don’t have a giant Balkan family, its best to lower the quantity while keeping the general proportions.

Ingredients:

1 kg of wheat flour

5 room-temperature eggs

200 gr of butter

250 gr of milk

300-350 gr of sugar

40 gr of yeast

 Touch of vanilla

100 gr of raisins (seasoned with rum or soaked in water)

2 grated lemon crusts

Touch of salt

Now let's make our kozunak!

You’d get the best results if all your ingredients are at room temperature, maybe even a bit warmer.

First, you must sift your flour. Take the eggs and mix them with the sugar and the grated lemon crusts. Warm up the milk to about 40-50 °C. Put the yeast, the salt, and one large spoon of flour in the milk, mix them and leave them aside for now.

Get your flour. Put it in the large bowl and form a sort of crater in the middle, where you must pour the egg, raisins, and milk mixtures. Scramble everything until you get a homogeneous mixture, not too liquid, not too solid., You can regulate that by adding extra flour. Once its ready, knead the mixture well. After that, put the mixture into the flour bowl, cover it with a towel, and wait 40 minutes.

Now it's butter time. Melt it well, but be careful not to start frying. Shape the kosunak in whatever way you desire, and then spread the butter on its surface. A good way of shaping the kosunak is to make two or three prolonged pieces and braid them together, You can also spread some jam or even chocolate between those braids if you want. Put the kosunak on the baking tray and spread some more butter. Then add whatever you want on top – sugar, raisins, walnuts, almonds, whatever you desire. Let it sit there for some time.

Heat up an oven to about 200 °C and put the kosunak inside. After 10 minutes, decrease the temperature to about 180 °C and bake for 30 more minutes. And that’s it.

How to make vegan kozunac

While its impossible to completely replicate the traditional recipe with vegan ingredients, you can certainly make a delicious kosunak without animal products. Here’s how!

Ingredients

500 gr of flour

150 gr of brown sugar

150-200 gr of freshly squeezed juice (preferable orange and lemon)

15 gr of yeast

50 gr of coconut butter

50 gr of raisins

Some vanilla

30-40 gr of nuts (almonds, walnuts, whatever your heart desires)

Most of the same rules of making a kosunak apply in the vegan recipe. Indeed, it's almost the same, but with no animal products. Make sure all ingredients are warm.

Mix the juice, yeast, 2 spoons of sugar, vanilla, and 100 gr of flour into a bowl and let it sit for 20 minutes. Then add the rest of the flour, sugar, butter and mix it up. Let it sit for about an hour. Then start kneading the mixture, add the raisings and some of the nuts. Shape it up, and spread some butter on it. Put the rest of the nuts on top. Heat up the oven to 200 °C, put the kosunak in a tray, and bake for about 30-40 minutes. That’s it!

Like with the egg and milk kosunak, the vegan variant not only welcomes further experimentation with ingredients, it begs for it. You can add cocoa, other types of butter, sesame, tahini sauce, whatever you want.

How to eat kosunak?

The best way to eat this delicious dessert is with ayran (sometimes translated as doogh). Its often eaten in combination with Easter eggs. In fact, it not uncommon for whole eggs are kneaded into the kosunak itself. For the vegans out there, you can replace the ayran with some almond milk.

Whichever way you choose to cook your kosunak, make sure to make it sweet and rich. Otherwise, it would just be an elaborate bread, and that’s no way to end 7 weeks of abstinence and prayers. Good luck and happy cooking!

Alex Dimchev

Alex Dimchev is a writer, editor, and weapons master for EUscoop.com

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