Every year I like to make my version of Vanocka, a traditional Czech Christmas bread. It’s about the only Eastern European thing about me, except my last name (which is Czech and means parakeet).
Over the years, I’ve streamlined the recipe, taken out the spices and instead of using almond bits, have started using a layer of almond paste. The effect is like a marzipan jelly roll — and it makes me happy to make and to eat. I hope it makes you happy, too.
Natocka, Natasha’s Christmas Bread
2 tsp yeast
2 cups warm milk
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup soft butter
2 egg yolks (save the whites to glaze the bread)
2 whole eggs
zest of one half lemon, or 1 tsp extract
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup golden raisins
approx 8 cups bread flour
Mix well, and add flour as needed to create a very lovely dough. Knead well. Let rise until double. In my cold house, it took 4 hours.
Punch down and knead lightly Cut dough into sections. Each section will be a loaf. Roll out each section into a rectangle and spread with ALMOND PASTE — not too thick or it won’t cook through nicely.
Roll the rectangle tightly and place into a bread tin. I like to line mine with parchment paper to prevent sticking. Let rise until double. Do not skimp on rising time.
Bake at 325F or so for about 30 minutes. Glaze with egg white, then let bake another 10 or so minutes or until a bamboo skewer comes clean.
Let cool. And enjoy!
Makes amazing french toast.