Romanian Christmas Sweet Walnut Roll Cozonac

Traditionally made during Christmas, this citrus-scented sweet dough is twisted around a nutty filling, creating a spiral design when baked. The result is a festive loaf bread with a tender and soft crumb.


2 tbsp active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
2 cups milk
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
3 tbsp lemon zest
1½ cups sugar
8 cups all-purpose flour
5 eggs, separated
2 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup rum or bourbon


8 oz walnuts
5 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder


2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
3 tbsp sugar


To make the dough: In a bowl, add the yeast and warm water, stir a bit, and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes to activate. The yeast should bubble up. In a saucepan, add the milk, butter, lemon zest, and sugar. Heat it over medium-low heat, just until the butter melts and the sugar is dissolved.

To the bowl of your mixer, add the flour, 5 egg yolks, vanilla extract, milk mixture, yeast mixture, and rum. Mix everything for about 5 minutes, until the dough is coming off the sides of the bowl. The dough must be sticky to your hands. Take a large bowl and oil it with about 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil. Place the dough in the bowl and cover. Let the dough rise until it doubles in size.

To make the filling: Add the walnuts to a food processor and pulse a few times. until the nuts are finely ground. Add the sugar and cocoa powder to the processor and pulse a few more times, until everything is well incorporated. In the bowl of your mixer, add the egg whites and mix until stiff peaks form. Fold in the nut mixture. Place this in the fridge until ready to use.

Grease 3 loaf pans with oil or butter. Once the dough has doubled in size, divide it into 3 equal pieces. Take 1 piece and roll it out using a rolling pin into a rectangle that’s about ½ inch (1.25 cm) in thickness and the width of your loaf pans. Spread about one-third of the nut mixture over the dough, then roll it up jelly-style. Place the roll in the prepared loaf pan. Repeat with remaining dough pieces.

Cover the loaf pans with a clean damp kitchen towel, place in a warm, draft-free environment, and let the loaves rest until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Place the loaves in the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown.

Enjoy this with a cup of coffee or a glass of cold milk!

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