If you’re looking for a soft, yummy, eggy bread recipe, this is the one. I have to admit failure here, though: I just can’t seem to get the stacked braids to stay upright when I cook them. I finally resorted to my old standby six-strand braid, and the results are much more attractive.
This vianočka is pretty close to the version you can buy in the shops in Slovakia, and it’s easy enough to make the dough in the evening then bake in the morning. It’s sweet, lightly flavored with lemon, and makes great french toast if you don’t manage to eat the whole thing before it gets a little stale.
Vianocka – modern version
This is a largeish recipe – I’ve taken to dividing it in two and leaving half the dough to sit in the fridge to bake a second loaf a day or two later. If you bake a half-sized loaf, it should be done in about 25 minutes. I often substitute about half a cup of oil for the butter when I’m in a hurry or low on butter.
Makes one loaf
- 4 cups/480 grams flour
- 1 packet instant yeast
- 1 cup/240 ml milk
- 3 oz/85 g butter
- 3 eggs, plus one yolk for the egg wash
- 1/3 cup/80 g sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- zest of one lemon (about 1½ tsp)
- 1/3 cup/40 g raisins (optional)
- ¼ cup/20 g sliced almonds for topping (optional)
- Warm the milk and butter in a small saucepan until butter has melted; set aside to cool. Stir together 1 cup of the flour and the yeast in a large bowl. When milk mixture has cooled to lukewarm, stir it into the flour mixture until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until it is bubbly, about 15 minutes.
- Add the three eggs, sugar, salt, and lemon zest. Mix in the flour gradually until you have a soft dough that is still a bit sticky. Stir in the raisins.
- Turn out the dough and knead until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place the dough in a large clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise until doubled, about two hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.
- When dough has doubled, divide it into 6 portions, each weighing about 6oz/180 grams. Roll each portion into a rope, and braid the six ropes together, pinching each end to seal.
- Cover the braid with a cloth and leave to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees f/190 C.
- Brush the braid with the egg yolk mixed with about a teaspoon of water; sprinkle almonds over the top if desired (the loaf expands quite a lot when baked, so you can be generous with the topping!).
- Bake for 50-55 minutes or until top is a dark golden brown.