As you might expect, recipes for Serbian Christmas bread known as cesnica (chesnica, chesnitsa) or "money bread" vary from family to family. This "peasant-style" recipe comes from Pattee Russell-Curry of California. It was handed down to her by a cousin, Nedja Vignevic Jacobs (deceased), whose mother and sisters emigrated to the McKeesport/Aliquippa, Pa., areas from Ponikve in the former Yugoslavia.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Rising time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours, 55 minutes
Yield: 1 Serbian Christmas bread
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 3 1/2 cups or more all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 heaping soup spoon vegetable shortening
- In a large bowl, mix yeast with warm water and shortening until yeast is dissolved. Add salt and flour and mix until the dough comes away from your hands and cleans the bowl, adding more flour as necessary.
- Transfer dough to a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled. Punch down and let rise again until doubled.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until shiny. Add a silver coin that has been sterilized in boiling water for 3 minutes (Don't use a copper coin because it will turn the dough green.) and knead again, making sure the coin doesn't pop out.
- Shape into a round and place on a greased cookie sheet. Make an indentation with the top of a glass in center. Then make 4 slight slits radiating from the center with symbols for wheat, rice, oats and rye to ensure a good harvest that year. Let rise until almost doubled.
- Bake about 40 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 190 degrees. Cool on a wire rack.