Saturday, December 22, 2007

Czech Christmas Bread

Well, I finally found a few hours this weekend to put the annual Houska together. Try my recipe below and see how you like it. I used a baking sheet, but highly recommend a bread pan. The bread pan method will prevent the dough from expanding outwards and being too short.

Merry Christmas - 4Czech

Christmas Houska

The holidays aren’t quite complete without someone baking a houska for Christmas. These are perfect for Christmas morning breakfast or to bring as a gift to a Christmas party. I remember eating a slice of this sweetened bread every December going back about thirty five years. The preparation of Houska can be labor intense, but the final result will be worth all the effort. I have seen people use different ingredients in their Houska (e.g. assorted fruit peels, cherries, and nuts). I prefer the basic shaved almonds and raisins. Make sure to wrap the remaining loaf tightly after cutting your first piece because it will dry out quickly. If your houska dries out, use slices to make French toast. It is delicious.


6 cups flour
1 ½ c. milk
¾ c. raisins (Separate into two bowls ½ c and ¼ c)
½ c. sugar
½ c. butter
½ c. almonds (slivered) (Separate into two bowls ¼ c. each)
2 eggs
1 egg (separated)
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon (grated peel)
1 pkg dry yeast.

1. Place yeast in about ½ cup of warm water and mix until well dissolved.
2. Scald milk in saucepan adding butter, sugar, salt, and almond extract.
3. When milk becomes lukewarm, add yeast mixture, ½ c. raisins, lemon, ¼ c of almonds, and two beaten eggs.
4. Pour liquid mixture into large bowl and slowly fold in 6 cups of flour.
5.Knead dough until well blended and smooth. Extra “dusting” of flour may or may not be needed depending on stickiness of dough.
6.Place kneaded ball of dough into greased bowl and cover with towel for one hour in a warm place. (Ideal temp is 75 to 80 degrees).
7.Place dough onto floured surface and cut into 6 or 7 strips.
8.Roll each piece into about 12 to 14 inch long thin tubes.
9.Braid three to four tubes together and place onto greased cookie sheet.
10.Braid remaining three tubes together and place onto first braided layer.
11.Make sure to pinch ends together to connect braids at the ends and between layers.
12.Cover and let rise again for about one hour.
13.Take remaining separated egg and beat white together with nutmeg.
14.Brush braided houska with egg white mixture and spread remaining almonds and ¼ c. of raisins on top of bread.
15.Bake at 350 degrees for 40 – 45 minutes.
16.Remove from baking sheet and place on cooling rack.
17.When cool, wrap tightly with plastic wrap.


Anonymous said...

i just made vanocka a week ago from a family recipe and of course everyone loved it.
there is a different way of layering the braids. my mother taught me that the bottom layer is always a 4 strand braid, the second a three strand braid, and the top a two strand twist. (while the vanocka is rising, you may have to pin down the ends of the twist with tooth picks).

no matter though, always delicious

Anonymous said...

Whenever you have a bread that tends to dry out easily, the best way to cure that is to add lecithin. Lecithin in a natural product (from soy beans or egg yolks) that keeps your bread moist. Lecithin also helps you metabolize fat. For every 3 cups of flour in your recipe, just use 1-2 Tablespoons of granulated lecithin. Since this recipe calls for 6 cups of flour, you would use 2-4 Tablespoons. Granulated lecithin is inexpensive, and can be found at King Arthur Flour online. It does not affect the taste of the bread, just makes it seem fresher.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just found your blog and really appreciate it. I recently lived in Prague for 6 months with a Czech family and will be returning to Prague soon. This is such a great resource for Czech recipes in English. Just so you know, this kind of bread is actually called "vanocka" which comes from the word for Christmas. Houska is a word that refers to any round roll. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

My grandmother's houska is almost exactly the same except one of her spices was mace.