Mazanec (Czech Easter bread)
Submitted by Cyndee Sindelar
About the cook: I've been an enthusiastic home cook for over 40 years! My first creations were in my Easy Bake Oven, then I graduated to making scrambled eggs and toast, at eight years old. Before long, I was making pot roasts, seafood dishes, and Duck a l'Orange. Exploring foods from around the world has also been exciting, as has putting my own touches to dishes, and coming up with my own special creations.
About the dish: Mazanec is a traditional bread made in Czech Republic for Easter. A large, firm, crusty yeast-based bread, Mazenec is usually enjoyed for breakfast either plain or with fruit jam and/or butter. It is lightly sweetened, and includes subtle hints of vanilla and lemon, with rum soaked raisins and almonds, throughout.
National Origin: Czech
Estimated Time: Over 2 Hours
8 ½ Tbs (120 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup (120 g) granulated sugar
Zest from 1 lemon
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract OR, one packet (8 or 9 g) vanilla sugar
3 large egg yolks
¼ tsp salt
3 ½ cups (~500 g) all-purpose flour
½ oz (14 g) instant/quick rise dry yeast
1 cup warmed milk
¼ cup (60 g) raisins (soaked in rum or warm water, then drained)
¼ cup or more (50 g) slivered almonds
¼ cup (30 g) whole blanched almonds, skins removed, OR, about 1/3 cup slivered almonds
1 extra egg, beaten (for egg wash)
Step 1: In a large bowl (I use my Kitchenaid mixer bowl), beat together room temperature butter, sugar, lemon rind, vanilla (or vanilla sugar), 3 egg yolks, and about ¼ teaspoon salt, until smooth.
Step 2: To the butter mixture above, alternately add the flour, instant/quick rise yeast, and heated milk. I switch to my mixer’s dough attachment halfway through this task. Otherwise, mix together and knead by hand. If the dough is very sticky, you can add a little more flour. [I usually do.] If very dry, add a little more heated milk. Then knead in the drained soaked raisins and slivered almonds, until distributed evenly throughout dough.
Step 3: Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise for about an hour, in a warm place.
Step 4: Knead the dough again, briefly. On a large parchment lined baking sheet, form dough into a round loaf shape. Let rise again for 45 to 60 minutes or so, then decorate with several blanched and skinned whole almonds (or slivers). Gently brush dough with the egg wash. If you like, cut a small shallow cross shape in the middle of the dough mound. [Note: The dough may or may not look well risen, but will rise quite a bit more during the baking process.]
Step 5: Preheat oven to 350˚F (180˚C), then bake Mazanec on the center oven rack for about 45 to 60 minutes. Check color of the loaf at almost 45 minutes in. If the Mazanec is getting very brown, cover lightly with aluminum foil, to finish. Cool completely and slice, as needed.