Sunday, April 4, 2010

cozonac, or hazelnut frangipane babka

cozonac is the romanian babka. it's traditionally made for all the big holidays. usually it's filled with walnuts, raisins, cubed turkish delight or cocoa. this past christmas i filled one with walnuts, and one with nutella and dried sour cherries. i wanted a new flavor for easter, and after some pondering i chose a hazelnut frangipane for one, and a drunken fig filling for the other. this was inspired by mark scarbrough's fig cookies. i used a mix of black mission figs, dried apricots and golden raisins. it's a great filling, but one that works best on a sturdy dough such as mark's biscotti, not on something that needs to rise and puff. it's a heavy mix, so i ended up with air pockets in the cozonac. not the most desirable effect, but still tasty. everybody loved the hazelnut frangipane, no flaws there.

this is not a spur-of-the-moment thing. you need to plan for it. it requires a half hour of furious kneading. (if your kid doesn't run in the kitchen all horror-stricken, you're not pounding hard enough). but once you got that part done, you can crack open a celebratory beer: prevailing wind is blowing. the recipe is here, and the only note is about the flour: the better the quality of it, the better your finished product will be. i typically use king arthur bread flour, even though some recipes call for plain flour.

i think the hazelnut frangipane recipe belongs to jacques pepin, but i'm not quite positive. i remember it was used in an apple tart, but where, i can't recall. you need one pound shelled hazelnuts, that's 454 gr. if you're lucky enough to find blanched ones, hooray for you, but if you don't it's really not a problem. toast the hazelnuts in a single layer, for 7-8 minutes at 375F. the skins will come off easily when you rub them with your fingers. it doesn't have to be perfect, you don't have to drive yourself crazy about it.

put the nuts in the food processor, with 3/4 cups sugar, 3 eggs, 3 tb butter and a ts vanilla. whizz until pulverized. i like a bit of texture, so i don't let it go to paste, i stop when it's still grainy. that's it. it's ready to be spread in the dough. i had a little bit left over, about 3/4 cup, but i promptly wrapped it up and put it in the freezer. it has aspirations of becoming the base lining in a sour cherry tart.

this is the fig filling. maybe it would have worked better had i used less, and i nearly wimped and did, but i had finished the celebratory beer by then, and i was feeling mucho macho.

the hazelnut one. very well balanced, the filling just a notch sweeter than the dough. this is exactly the kind of thing that pops into my mind when i hear the term 'home cooking'. it's comfort food, if not all desserts are comfort...
i love the crust. a lot of people sprinkle extra sugar or sesame seeds on top, but i like mine plain, with just the sheen given by the egg wash. what's more: cozonac makes a mean french toast or bread pudding when i have leftovers, which is rarely enough. not a bit goes to waste. i love food that permits a second shine.


  1. Beautiful!!! This one has been bookmarked - I plan on making it soon. When I do I'll report back to you :)

  2. Arata excelent!
    Paste fericit!

  3. Paste Fericit!
    NE asemanam, intr-o anumita privinta! Si eu sunt dependenta de ...Irina! Veeerddeee!

  4. Hristos a inviat!
    arata fantastic , felicitari!

  5. andrea, i'm glad you decided to try it! another great variety is filled with chopped chocolate and has a cinnamon streusel on top. can't wait to see what you'll pick!

    irina, gospodina si gaby: paste fericit si voua, si mersi de complimente!

  6. Paste fericit si binecuvantat!

  7. un seul mot magnifique!!!
    une mie spongieuse comme je les aime, ce pain doit être excellent, j'adore
    bonne journée

  8. Dana, they look amazing! The dough looks so rich and buttery, like a brioche - which I kind of guess it is, looking at the recipe. And I love the twisted shaping - do you roll the filled dough, or braid it?

    The fig filling is very nice, but as you say, heavy. I wonder if there is some way you could lighten it for next time - maybe cook it down less the night before?

    The Hungarians do something reminiscent called a beigli, filled with a cooked crushed poppy seed filling.

  9. miha, imi face mare bucurie sa te vad aici, multumesc! sper c-ai avut paste linistit si fericit!

    fimere, merci beaucoup!

    hi celia, thanks! it is a lot like brioche, or maybe even closer to challah. i fill two sheets, roll them up into logs and then just twist them around each other. a braid would be more work... i do it sometimes for plain dough, but when it's filled it's somewhat harder to work with.
    i'm sorry to say, there's no way this filling would work to my satisfaction. i only cooked it long enough for the sugar to melt, then let it cool. used it within the hour.
    i make beigli at least four times a year. i use the same filling for this dough, without a glitch. the authentic beigli is not a yeasted dough, i've recently learned - my mother makes a yeast one that always cracks on top, apparently that's unavoidable if yeast is used. cracked or not, it was one of my favourite things growing up. i always think of christmas at home whenever i smell it baking.

  10. Alta romanca culinareste prin Chicago :) Happy cooking!


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