Sunday, January 12, 2014

Walnut Sweet Bread & Apple Pie Rose Bites

Last Monday was the birthday of a team member Ana. She was born & raised in Romania and I wanted to make something special for her. Having just finished up the holiday season I was a little bit sugared out on cookies & cakes, but I knew I wanted to make her something sweet that was also traditional Romanian. 

What I opted for is a Walnut Sweet Bread, aka Cozonac cu Nuca I won't give you the recipe here, but I can provide the ingredients list at least.

It has a lovely light taste, somewhere in between the flavors of a Hawaiian King Bread & Challah. It does take a bit of time to make (2 rising times) but it is definitely worth it and I think I'll be making it again around Easter time.

0.6 oz (16 g) Dry Yeast or 2 oz (60 g) Fresh
8.8 oz (250 g) chopped Walnuts or Pecans
2.3 lb (1 kg) All Purpose Flour
10.5 oz (300 g) White Sugar
5 Eggs
2 cups (500 ml) Milk
8.8 oz (250 g) Butter, melted
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 tbsp Cocoa Powder
½ cup Raisins
¼ cup Vegetable Oil
1 Zest from one Lemon

+ 2Tbsp warm milk, 1 Tbsp sugar, 2 Tbsp flour
+ 2 more Tbsp sugar

The link above is a pretty good guide by I do have a couple of notes to add.
1) Notice the inclusion of Vanilla in the ingredients, but not in the instructions. Another Romanian friend who was able to try the bread, remembers making this with her mom as a child.  She said you should add the vanilla into the egg white/sugar/nut mixture.

2) There are a couple of places where you will need too add additional milk or sugar & flour.  The first time it tells you how much, the second time it doesn't.  I opted for 2 Tbsp of sugar on the second time, it came out delicious.

3) The recipe is intended to create 3 full size loaves.  I wanted to be able to make a small gift loaf so I modified it just a bit and one of my main loaves is a bit smaller.  The sweet roll pan is filled with the ends from my 4 loaves.  Somehow I ended up making one loaf to wide so I had a little bit of extra width to cut.
(this makes amazing sweet bread by the way).

I also made some apple roses.  This was really fun to do and they came out great. They had a lovely delicate flavor and texture.  My only complaint is that my single pie dough recipe only left me enough to make a small amount of roses... 18.  Because the dough was a little over worked and I wasn't going to get it to pull together for a successful additional few, I used some of my leftover apples and the pie dough to make a gallete.  My husband and I had that for dessert and it was a perfect little sweet treat.

The recipe I went with is this...
Select 4-5 red apples (I used Pink Lady, but it doesn't really want a nice sturdy apple that can hold up to boiling)
4 cups unsweetened apple juice
2 cups sugar
a mandolin slicer & apple corer could make this easier too
1 pie worth of pie dough or even puff pastry - pick your favorite. I used Alton Brown's recipe

No need to peel your apples, but what you do want is even and thin slices, I cut mine down the center vertically, then in half again.. took those to the mandolin and sliced them straight into water (to keep from browning).  Once all your apples are sliced, boil in the apple juice & sugar for 10 minutes.  
Drain carefully, reserving your apple juice (collander in a bowl works great).

Give your apples some time to cool so you don't burn your fingers and put your juice back on the stove to reduce further.  (You'll end up with a really nice apple flavor syrup that is not only used to drizzle over the top of your finished roses, but makes a really great pancake syrup).

Peek over here to see how they are assembled.  

Bake at 400 Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes.  This was more like an experiment.  Yo might find a lower temp and longer time gives better results. I was watching for my dough to be cooked through and the tips of my roses browned.  

After removing from the oven, drizzle your apple syrup over the top, let cool and enjoy.

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