Auntie’s Cozonac With Turkish Delight and Sour Cream

Auntie’s Cozonac With Turkish Delight and Sour Cream
(Irina Georgescu)

One version of Romanian cozonac replaces the traditional walnut and rum filling with bits of Turkish delight—enticingly gooey and light, with a hue of the Middle East, my auntie’s favorite cozonac.

Another adds smantana, sour cream, for a delightfully soft crumb. The resulting bread needs no filling—it is left plain, simply brushed with a bit of honey while still warm and sprinkled with sugar.

I combine both sour cream and Turkish delight in this recipe.

Makes 2 medium loaves  
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (3 1/4 ounces) powdered sugar  
  • 5 ounces crème fraîche, at room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 4 1/3 cup (19 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 packet (1/4 ounce, or 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
  • 6 tablespoons butter, diced, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • Zest from 2 lemons
  • 10 ounces Turkish delight, rose water and vanilla flavor, diced
For the Glaze
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon water
Make the Dough: All the ingredients need to be at room temperature. In a large mixing bowl, combine the milk, sugar, crème fraîche, and egg yolks and mix well. 
In a separate large bowl, sift the flour, add the yeast, and mix to combine. Pour the milk mixture over the flour and bring everything together into a rough dough. Add the butter in three stages, kneading to incorporate well after each addition; stop kneading once the butter is absorbed. Before the last addition, mix in the vanilla and lemon zest. Cover the bowl and set aside in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours, or until it doubles in size.
Shape the Loaves: Grease and flour two 12- x 15-inch loaf pans. 
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, shape it into a log, and divide it into four pieces.
Roll and stretch one of the pieces of dough into a 15- x 24-inch rectangle (roughly the length of the pan, and double the width), with the longer side closer to you. Distribute a quarter of the Turkish delight on top of the dough rectangle, and gently roll it up, away from you, into a log. Repeat this process with a second piece of dough. 
Lay one log over the other to form an “X” shape. Twist the two logs of dough together, starting with one side of the “X” and then repeating with the other side. Lift the twisted dough and place it into one of the prepared pans. 
Repeat the whole process with the remaining two pieces of dough and filling.
Cover both pans and allow to proof for 45 minutes. 
Bake the Loaves: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk together the egg yolk and water for the egg wash, then gently brush onto the tops of the loaves.
Bake for 30 minutes. Check the inside of the loaves with a wooden skewer; if it comes out clean, they are done. Allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove and cool on a wire rack.
Serve them just warm, or the next day. You can warm them in the oven slightly before serving. 
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