The holidays always come with a certain smell, one that you carry with you as child, all the way through your adult life. And that smell can differ from one person to the next, not to mention from one culture to another. But it is this smell that will always remind one of how good it is to be home for the holidays.
In my case, as is the case of many other Romanians , this smell comes from a very common desert here in Romania, which is sweet bread, in other words, „cozonac”.
Our grandmas used to make this sweet bread for the holidays, and the process took hours on end, with toddlers roaming the kitchen, trying to get their sticky hands on and into everything they sensed might be sweet.
The process of making Romanian sweet bread is not an easy one, not by far, as it involves very hard, physical work. Yes, you heard right. If by the end of the process you don’t feel your every muscle ache, than you have not done it right. I’ll explain.
The mixing of the ingredients is not the hard part, you just need some eggs, flour, yeast, sugar, milk, oil, walnuts and cocoa…there are plenty of recipes to choose from. But the tricky part is the kneading. You have to do this right, or not do it at all. The kneading takes a few hours, and that is why everyone says that making „cozonac” is not something to venture into.
But you know how the saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained. So trust me, do the kneading yourself – and don’t entrust a machine to do this, tempting as it may be. You have to knead for one hour, than let the dough rest and rise, afterwards repeat the process for another half an hour, let it rest again, then roll your sweet bread, and let it rest in the tray again, for another half an hour. Only then can you pop it into the oven. I assure you that you will get the best „cozonac” their is.
And I am going to share another tip I got from my grandma, and this is a really good one: make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature (just turn on the oven and set it on low to get some extra warmth in the room), and no matter which recipe you use, make sure you organize each and every ingredient in their separate bowls, to have them in handy when you start making it.
The taste of this Romanian sweet bread is incredible, especially when it’s warm out of the oven, and there are no words to describe the amazing smell – it just fills the whole house with holiday spirit – be it Easter or Christmas.
I don’t think we could even call it „the holidays” were it not for this warm, sweet smell, that is guaranteed to take us back to our childhood in a fraction of a second.