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.
I'm czeck living in usa for long time , but I tried and tried so many recipes for vanocka , but all the recepies were using soft yeast and it was in the gr or mgr and first of all confusing. This recipe is fantastic. It deserve at least 6 stars. Thank you , you made my holkiday. Ilona
This recipe brings me down memory lane... It's exactly how my Grandma used to make it! She passed this recipe down to me. She learned it from the Sokol Hall where she grew up in Omaha, Nebraska during the great depression. We would eat this wonderful bread on her deck overlooking the mountains in Northern California.
I'm a beginner but had great success following this recipe. There are good videos on YouTube that demonstrate how to braid the bread. My Czech husband was very impressed!