The vanocka is part of the Christmas holidays in Czechoslovakia, whether made at home or bought in a store. At one time in history, vánoèka could only be made by a baker who was a guild craftsman. Preparing a vanocka isn't simple and therefore a variety of customs were once followed in preparing, braiding and baking the dough to ensure success. The woman of the house had to mix the dough while wearing a white apron and kerchief, she shouldn't talk, and she was supposed to jump up and down while the dough was rising. Another old custom was to bake in a coin (much like a King cake). The person who found it in their slice was assured of health and wealth for all of the following year. A burnt or ripped vanocka was a bad omen. Preparation time approximate.
- 1 compressed yeast cakes or 1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
- 1⁄4 cup water, warm
- 1⁄2 cup sugar
- 1⁄4 cup margarine
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 eggs
- 5 1⁄2-6 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk, warm
- 1 teaspoon lemon peel, finely shredded
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground mace
- 1 cup light raisins
- 1⁄2 cup nuts, chopped
- 1 egg yolk, beaten
- Soften yeast in warm water.
- In a mixer bowl, beat together sugar, margarine, and salt.
- Add eggs and beat well.
- Beat in 1 cup of flour.
- Beat in milk, lemon peel, mace, and yeast mixture.
- Stir in as much remaining flour as you can with a spoon.
- Stir in raisins and nuts.
- Turn out onto floured surface.
- Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3-5 minutes total).
- Place in a lightly greased bowl; turn once to grease surface.
- Cover, let rise in warm place till double; divide in half.
- Divide one portion of the dough into fourths for the bottom braid.
- Cover and let rest 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, divide the remaining dough into 5 portions for the other two layers of the dough.
- Cover those portions and set aside.
- On a lightly floured surface, form each of the first 4 portions into 16-inch long ropes.
- On a greased baking sheet, arrange the 4 ropes, 1 inch apart.
- Beginning in the middle of the ropes, braid together toward each end.
- To braid 4 ropes, overlap the center 2 ropes to form an X.
- Take the outside left rope and cross over the closest middle rope.
- Then, take the outside right rope and cross under the closest middle rope.
- Repeat braiding until you reach the end.
- Pinch ends together; tuck under.
- Turn baking sheet and braid on opposite end.
- Gently pull width of braid out slightly.
- Form remaining 5 portions into 16-inch long ropes.
- Braid 3 of the ropes together.
- Brush the 4-strand braid with water and center the second braid on top; gently pull width of top braid out.
- Twist the remaining two ropes of dough together.
- Brush the top braid with water; place the twist on top of the second braid.
- Cover the shaped dough and let rise till nearly double.
- While loaves are rising, preheat oven to 350°F.
- Brush surface of the shaped dough with egg yolk.
- Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes.