I am back on 196 flavors with a traditional recipe for Christmas! Today, I am taking you to the Czech Republic with a braided sweet bread with raisins called vánočka (pronounced van-otch-ka).
As you can see, this is a large braided brioche. The traditions behind the preparation of this sweet bread gives it its originality. Indeed, according to ancient customs, the housewife must knead the dough, wearing a white apron and wearing a headscarf. Where the plot thickens is that she must not speak during the preparation of the brioche – mission impossible for me. Also, she has to jump up and down during the rising of the dough. If the ritual proves to be a very effective cardio exercise, my neighbors downstairs really did not appreciate the joke, much less the shaking.
Another custom of yesteryear shows similarities to Charles Perrault’s tale Donkeyskin (Peau d’Ane). No ring in the cake, but a coin introduced into the brioche dough. The lucky person who finds the coin in his or her slice of brioche was assured of receiving wealth and health throughout the year. It goes without saying that the selfish person who eats his cake solo will have a higher chance of receiving all the blessings. Also good to know: a burned or torn vánočka is a sign of bad omen. Beware!
Today, vánočka is present on almost all Czech Christmas tables. Some are buying it at the local bakery. Others prepare it at home. When preparing it, the difficulty lies in the execution of the lower braid: you are supposed to make a nine-strand braid. In general, homemade vánočkas are made with a lower four-strand braid, three in the middle and two at the top. Personally, I opted for a six-strand vánočka.
This sweet bread with raisins was a huge success at breakfast. I think I will make it again soon. I have a few days until Christmas and I intend to enjoy those.
Merry Christmas !
This recipe is featured in our FREE eBook Christmas – A world of flavors, available on 196 flavors.
This recipe is validated by our culinary expert in Czech cuisine, Kristyna Koutna. You can find Kristyna on her food blog CzechCookbook.com.
Vánočka is a large braided sweet bread with raisins, traditional of Christmas in the Czech Republic.
- 6 cups flour
- 10 tablespoons sugar
- ½ cup butter (at room temperature)
- 1 tablespoon yeast
- 1 cup milk (lukewarm)
- 1 yolk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Rind of 1 lemon
- 3 tablespoons raisins
- 1 egg
- Activate yeast with one tablespoon of lukewarm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add lukewarm milk and 1 yolk. Combine. Add butter, sugar and salt. Stir to combine.
- Add the flour. Knead for 15 to 20 minutes. When the dough no longer sticks to the side of the bowl, add the raisins, lemon rind, and mix.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double in size, about 1 hour.
Punch down the dough and turn over onto lightly floured board. Divide dough into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope, about 14 inches long. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, braid the pieces loosely and pinch the ends together. Cover with a cloth or greased plastic wrap and let rise 60 to 90 minutes in a warm place.
- Heat oven to 400 F. Brush vanocka with 1 beaten egg. Bake 15 minutes, reduce heat to 375 F and bake for another 25 minutes.
Let cool completely before slicing. Dust with icing sugar before cutting, if desired.