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Cesnica Recipe #3 - Serbian Christmas Bread

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A Preserved Cesnica or Serbian Christmas Bread

Cesnica or Serbian Christmas Bread

© 2009 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.
This recipe for cesnica differs from Cesnica Recipe #1 and Cesnica Recipe #2 in that the dough has a touch of sweetness. The common tie among them is the silver coin baked inside. Whoever finds it will have good luck in the coming year.

Makes 1 large Cesnica or 12 servings

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups milk, warmed to 105 degrees
  • 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks (reserve the whites)
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) softened butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Sterilized silver coin
  • .
  • Sculpting Dough:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Milk as needed

Preparation:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer or other large bowl, combine warm milk and yeast until dissolved. Add sugar and let stand 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Knead 7 to 10 minutes by machine and 15 minutes by hand until a smooth, stiff dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl and your fingers.

  2. Place dough in a bowl that has been lightly coated with cooking spray, turning once to coat both sides. Cover and let rise until doubled. If, when the dough is touched lightly in the center, it springs back, it needs to rise more.

  3. Lightly coat a deep round baking pan or the ceramic liner from a small slow cooker with cooking spray. Punch down dough and knead a few minutes to release any air bubbles. Transfer to prepared pan and tuck a sterilized silver coin in the dough. Cover and let rise until doubled.

  4. Meanwhile, make the sculpting dough (a nonrising dough that will retain its shape when baked) for the decorations. In a small bowl, mix flour, yolk and enough milk to make a pliable dough. Pinch off pieces and roll by hand to create the decorations.

  5. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. When the bread has risen, dip the decorations in the reserved egg whites and "glue" them on. Typically, the bread is divided into quadrants with a braided rope or flat piece of dough in the shape of a cross. Religious symbols, or shapes denoting the occupation or hobby of members of the household, are placed in the four quadrants. A braided rope or flat ribbon of dough around the circumference of the bread is the final touch.

  6. Brush the entire top of the bread lightly, sculptures and all, with egg white. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then cover loosely with a foil tent and reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake 50 to 60 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 190 degrees. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

  7. The bread takes a place of honor on the Christmas table along with sprouted wheat that was planted on St. Nicholas Day, walnuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, and a lighted candle.
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