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Romanian Easter Bread with Chocolate and Nuts

Yield: 1 loaf

Servings: 12

This is my spin on cozonac de nuca, a Romanian bread. My version adds chopped chocolate to the traditional cocoa powder for depth of flavor and richness. Walnuts are abundant in Eastern European cooking, but I like to add pecans to give the bread a unique flavor and an American twist.


For the dough

  • 1/2 cup whole or 2 percent milk
  • 13 oz. (3 cups) bread flour; more for shaping
  • 1/4 oz. (1 packet) rapid-rise (instant) yeast
  • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 oz. (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pan
  • 1-1/2 tsp. fine sea salt or table salt
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. pure almond extract
  • Nonstick cooking spray

For the filling

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt or table salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbs. natural cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1-1/2 oz. toasted walnuts, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1-1/2 oz. toasted pecans, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)

For shaping, baking, and finishing

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted; more for the pan
  • 1-1/2 to 2 Tbs. sanding sugar

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 350
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 160
  • Fat (g): 18
  • Saturated Fat (g): 8
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3.5
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 6
  • Cholesterol (mg): 80
  • Sodium (mg): 370
  • Carbohydrates (g): 42
  • Fiber (g): 2
  • Sugar (g): 18
  • Protein (g): 7


Make the dough

  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a boil. Let cool until just warm (110°F), about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine 1 cup of the flour with the yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in 1/2 cup very warm water (about 120°F), and form into a ball. Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap. Set the bowl in a warm spot until the mixture has visible bubbles on its surface, about 30 minutes.
  • Put the bowl in the mixer stand, and fit the mixer with the dough hook. On medium speed, beat in the egg yolks, sugar, butter, and salt, scraping the bowl occasionally. With the mixer running, add the milk and continue to beat until combined (it’s fine if there are a few lumps), about 2 minutes. Gradually add the remaining 2 cups flour. Raise the speed to medium-high, and knead until the dough is smooth, about 5 minutes. The dough will be soft and may not form a ball. Stop the mixer, add the vanilla and almond extracts, and continue to mix until incorporated, 1 minute.
  • Lightly coat a bowl with the cooking spray. Transfer the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic. Let rise in a warm place until the dough is doubled in size, 60 to 75 minutes.

Make the filling

  • Using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites and salt in a medium bowl on high speed until stiff but not dry, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture turns glossy and thickens, about 3 minutes. Add the cocoa and beat on low speed until smooth. Turn off the mixer, and fold in the nuts and chocolate with a silicone spatula until well combined.

Shape and fill the dough

  • Butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
  • Gently scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface (try not to use more than 1 to 2 Tbs. of extra flour). Divide the dough into thirds. Roll one piece of the dough into a 12-inch-long by 5-inch-wide rectangle (the dough will be 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick).

  • With an offset spatula, spread about one-third of the filling over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border.

  • Roll the dough up lengthwise to make a long cylinder. Pinch the dough’s ends and along the long edge to seal. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

  • Place the three filled doughs next to each other seam side down, and gently braid them together. Transfer to the prepared loaf pan, tucking the ends under. Loosely cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place until the dough rises by 50 to 75 percent, about 50 minutes.

Bake and finish the bread

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350°F. Just before baking, in a small bowl, whisk the egg with 1 Tbs. water, and use a pastry brush to brush the dough with the egg wash. Bake the bread until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with only dry crumbs, and the top is a deep golden amber, 45 to 50 minutes. (If the loaf starts browning too deeply during baking, cover the top of the loaf with foil halfway through.) Transfer the loaf pan to a rack, brush the top of the loaf with the butter, and sprinkle with the sanding sugar. Let cool 15 minutes. Run a knife around the inside of the pan, and gently turn the loaf onto the rack to cool completely, about 1 hour. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.



Rate or Review

Reviews (4 reviews)

  • texas_cook | 04/13/2020

    This bread is not only visually stunning, but absolutely delicious, as well! My husband claims it’s the BEST bread he’s ever eaten, and I have to agree! I’m not an experienced baker, so I wasn’t expecting mine to look like the picture, but I followed everything to the “T”, and mine turned out just beautiful! I was so excited! I’ll definitely be making this bread every Easter from now on (and maybe a few times in between!)

  • nm18 | 04/09/2020

    This bread is so delicious and visually appealing. It was pretty straightforward to make and the photos are helpful for figuring out assembly. The fact that it’s baked in a loaf pan gives you a pass on an imperfect braiding technique.
    Like a previous reviewer, I too wondered why the milk needed to be boiled and then cooled.

    Can’t wait to make this again and to try the other recipes based on this master sweet dough.

  • EKR | 04/02/2020

    Delicious recipe. Would definitely make again.

    I'd never seen the technique of making the 'yeast paste' with flour that the master sweet dough recipe calls for but it worked fine. Not sure why the milk had to be boiled first, when a quick zap in the microwave up to the required temp seemed like it would be sufficient but I did it anyway.

    As I made the rolls for my braid, I have to say the third one looked better than the first one! However it really doesn't matter what they look like in the end since it's all twirled together and this bread does not require a perfect braid to look good. I actually cut my finished braid in thirds and made mini loafs. Each looked slightly different but they tasted great which is what really matters in the end.

  • User avater
    EMM3773 | 03/08/2020

    When I saw a new recipe from Nicole Rees, I had to try it. It is a bit of work but definitely worth it to have chocolate bread for breakfast. The dough is very soft and tricky to work with. I lined up my three layers on parchment paper, which made it a bit easier to handle. Still, braiding was a challenge. I ended up sort of twisting it all together and putting it in the loaf pan. Didn’t use the egg wash finish, nor the butter after the fact, but did sprinkle with a little sugar when it came out of the oven. I baked it for an hour because my skewer was still quite wet at 50 minutes. However, I think that may be because I made too much filling (I used 3 egg whites instead of 2). I let it sit in the loaf pan for an hour or so before unmolding. The bread came out great and is is quite delicious … but no surprise, it’s Nicole Rees.

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