Romanian Walnut & Rum Yeast Bread Recipe (Cozonac) for the Holidays by Ann Marie Patitucci

Romanian Walnut & Rum Yeast Bread Recipe (Cozonac) for the Holidays

If you know me well you know that I love several things passionately and enthusiastically. One is travel, and with it, learning about other cultures. The other is carbs. I'm thrilled when the two collide.

Cozonac is the traditional Romanian celebration bread for Easter and Christmas. It is a classic, festive, simple, sweetened yeast bread with a rum-spiked walnut filling. At the holidays, both bakeries and homes in Romania are filled with the delightful aroma of this citrus-scented sweetbread. From what I've learned, to most Romanians, a festive dinner table isn't complete without Cozonac.

What sets Cozonac apart from other sweetbreads is the nutty cocoa swirls that run through the center. They look deceptively complicated and artful but they're actually quite simple. While Romanians always include Cozonac at Easter and Christmas, this sweet bread can be enjoyed with coffee any time. Enjoy the nut roll version below. You may find it as pretty as it is delicious. Serve for dessert with a glass of hot milk, coffee or tea.

Cuisine: Romanian
Prep Time: 45 minutes plus 2 1/2 hours to rest
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours (approximately)
Servings: Makes 2 loaves


Sourdough Starter

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup tepid milk
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup tepid milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rum
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • zest of 1 orange
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 7 tablespoons butter, melted
  • vegetable oil, for greasing


  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 cups ground walnuts or almonds
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons rum
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar


  • 1 egg yolk, whisked with 1 tablespoon milk

Here's how to make it:

  1. To make the sourdough starter, combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Cover and set aside in a warm place for 25 minutes or until ingredients double in size.
  2. To make the dough, dissolve the yeast in the milk. In a separate bowl, add egg yolks and salt. Add sugar and rum and combine. Pour the egg mixture over the sourdough starter and add milk and yeast. Gradually add flour, zests and vanilla extract. Transfer ingredients to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough is soft. Add the butter, a little at a time. Using your hands, knead after each addition of butter until well incorporated. Set aside to rise in a warm place (over 70 degrees F) for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  3. Check the temperature of the dough. If it is too hot to handle after rising, refrigerate for 30 minutes. Using some oil, grease a work surface, turn out the dough and then divide it in four. Using your fingers, stretch one of the pieces of dough into a rectangle about 16 by 12 inches. With the long side parallel/horizontal to you, spread 1/4 of the filling evenly onto the dough and roll it into a log shape. Repeat this process with the remaining dough.
  4. Grease two 9x5-inch loaf pans. Place one dough log over another to form an X. Twist the logs together, starting with one side of the X, then repeating on the other side. Place the twisted dough in the pan (you'll need to double it over itself to make it fit). Repeat the process with the remaining two pieces of dough. Cover with a damp dish towel and leave the pans to proof in a warm place for at least 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F . Brush the bread gently with egg wash and bake for 25 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 degrees F and bake for another 20 minutes. If the top browns too quickly, cover it with aluminum foil. Allow the Cozonac to cool, upside-down on a wire rack, to prevent the bottom from becoming soggy.

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Loaf Pans $8 & Up
Walnuts $4 & Up
Flour $2 & Up
Sugar $2 & Up
Vanilla $4 & Up

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Elisa Schmitz
Wow, Ann Marie Patitucci , this recipe actually brought a tear to my eye. My Croatian grandmother made a bread almost exactly like this. Thank you for bringing the memory, and recipe, back to me.
Julio Caro
Thanks For Sharing....
I love old fashioned holiday recipes that bring so many good memories to the family.

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