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Barbara Rolek

Serbian Cesnica or Christmas Bread

By December 29, 2012

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Serbian Cesnica or Christmas Bread
One Version of Serbian Cesnica or Christmas Bread
2009 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.
Serbian cesnica, also known as bozicni kolac, Christmas bread or money bread, is very subjective. In some families, it is made without eggs or dairy (and probably served for the fasting meal on Christmas Eve - badnje vece), others make a sweeter version with raisins, and yet others use strudel dough and nuts to make something akin to baklava. What remains universal is the silver coin that is baked inside. Most hosts tear the cesnica into as many pieces as there are guests plus one extra for the polozajnik. Whoever gets the coin will be lucky for the entire year.

The Busic Sisters
The Busic Sisters taken in the early 1900s.
Pattee Russell-Curry licensed to About.com, Inc.
Pattee Russell-Curry of California shares a simple recipe for cesnica, handed down by her cousin Nedja Vignevic Jacobs (deceased) of North Versailles, Pa., and some of the delightful traditions surrounding this symbolic bread. View this larger image of The Busic Sisters taken in the early 1900s in McKeesport, Pa., or Aliquippa, Pa. Standing from the left are Lata Busic Vignevic (the mother of Nedja Vignevic Jacobs), Sima Busic Lalich and Danica Busic Zatesla. Seated is Boja Busic Gvozden (Russell-Curry's great-grandmother). The sisters were born in Ponikve in the former Yugoslavia before emigrating to the United States.

"Whoever finds the money will be very lucky in the coming year. This bread is not cut, it is broken, first in half by the host and hostess, or by the host and guest. Then it is passed around the table. It is just plain bread, because as you know, we are of peasant stock, but I love it," as written by Jacobs to Russell-Curry.

"The [silver coin] must be washed and sterilized 3 minutes. It must be all silver (no copper). The copper turns the dough green around the coin, but it doesn't hurt anything. ... We have used the same [coin] for 50 years. Whoever finds the money doesn't keep it, but returns it to the host. He'll be lucky all year," Jacobs wrote.

Here are two more Serbian Christmas bread recipes:
  • Cesnica Recipe #2
  • Cesnica Recipe #3

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  • Comments

    January 8, 2009 at 4:32 pm
    (1) Pattee says:

    This basic bread makes a simple round loaf, but does not look like a cake as in the picture. That one is a different recipe. Also, using an egg wash on the loaf will give it a nice sheen, if desired.

    January 8, 2009 at 4:35 pm
    (2) Pattee says:

    Ponikve and Ogulin are two different places, Boja and her sisters were from Ponikve, and Boja’s husband was from an area outside of Ogulin.

    The bread pictured is not the same as the one in the recipe…my bread is a simple round loaf, whereas the one pictured looks more like a cake. My loaf can have an eggwash on top to give it a sheen, but it will never look like a cake…it is just a round loaf of bread, but with the good luck coin inside!

    January 8, 2009 at 9:50 pm
    (3) easteuropeanfood says:

    Hi Pattee! I’ve addressed your concerns here and in the recipe. Thanks.

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