I love the distraction of a celebration, and in the current circumstances that’s even more welcome – so whilst most people are still recovering from the sugar-high and excitement that is Easter, we are gearing up for another Easter celebration tomorrow (involving red boiled eggs and bread, not chocolate, thankfully).
Orthodox Easter this year falls a week later than the other Easter and thanks to my husband’s Macedonian heritage, it’s an occasion that we celebrate too. O is very excited about the concept of ‘double Easter’ and is already well-versed in the Orthodox egg-cracking tradition thanks to previous celebrations with her Baba.
For those of you not so familiar with this tradition, on Easter morning, everyone carefully selects a red hard-boiled egg – first rubbing it on their cheeks for a rosy-glow to denote good-health – then challenging each other to a cracking contest. Holding your chosen egg in hand, you clack it against your opponent’s egg, with the person whose egg doesn’t crack winning that round – the winner then challenges another person and so on and so forth, until the last one standing with an un-cracked egg is declared the winner (what exactly they win, I’m still not sure of…? Two dozen cracked, hard-boiled eggs?).
Though we can’t celebrate in person with Baba this year, she has sent us two dozen red hard boiled eggs for our egg-cracking competition and in return, we have sent down one of these kozinjak wreaths for her.
Kozinjak is a Macedonian sweet yeasted-bread, similar to brioche, baked at celebration times. Traditionally it’s sweetened with raisins and flavoured with orange zest, and the dough is braided. Often at Easter it’s made in a wreath shape and dotted with red eggs to decorate – the shape and eggs symbolising rebirth and renewal. This is our (non-traditional, I hasten to add) take on kozinjak – a lovely light, orange-scented wreath, perfect torn into pieces and eaten with a generous slather of butter.
250ml full cream milk
1 tsp vanilla paste
14g dried instant yeast
100g caster sugar
500g plain flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cardamom
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
2 eggs, lightly beaten
125g butter, room temperature, cut into small chunks
1 egg yolk, extra
1 tsp full-cream milk, extra
6 hard-boiled eggs, dyed red (optional)
- Warm milk slightly and stir in vanilla paste and 1 tsp of the caster sugar. Add yeast, stirring gently to combine and allow to stand for a few minutes until yeast starts to foam.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, add flour, salt, remaining caster sugar, spices and orange zest. Mix to combine before adding yeast mixture and eggs.
- Mix on low speed until ingredients are combined, and then continue to mix on medium/low for another 5 minutes to work the dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice to make sure everything is incorporated, but don’t worry at this stage if the dough is quite loose and sticky.
- After 5 minutes, reduce the mixer speed back to low and start adding butter. Add butter one piece at a time, allowing a few mixes in between each piece. Once all the butter has been added, increase the mixer speed to medium and continue to mix for another 5-8 minutes, until dough is smooth, shiny and has pulled away from the sides of the bowl.
- Place the dough in a large, well buttered bowl covered with a damp tea towel. Place the bowl somewhere warm and allow dough to rise until light, puffy and doubled in size (45-90 minutes depending on the temperature).
- When the dough has doubled in size, knock it back and divide in two. Divide each half into 3 even pieces. Roll each piece into a sausage shape, and continue to roll until it reaches about 60cm long. Continue with each piece until you have 6 long pieces.
- Take three of the lengths and press together at one end. Placing one strand over another, plait the 3 lengths to form a dough braid. Bring the ends of the braid together to form a wreath shape and pinch to secure. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, dust the top of the wreath lightly with flour and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Repeat above steps with remaining three lengths to form a second wreath.
- Place wreaths somewhere warm to rise until light and fluffy (45-60 minutes). Whilst wreaths are rising, preheat the oven to 180°C fan-forced, and mix together extra egg yolk and milk in a small bowl.
- When wreaths have risen, brush gently with egg yolk and milk mixture and gently press 3 red eggs into each wreath (if using). Place wreaths into preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until dark golden and cooked through.
Serve warm with lots of butter and a little jam if you like (not traditional, but highly recommended).