Vianočka – Traditional Sweet Braided Bread

Vianočka is a traditional sweet braided or plaited bread with the shape that resembles Challah. The word Vianočka in Slovak & Czech language means “Christmassy” (Vianoce means Christmas) because back in the days Vianočka was baked mainly around Christmas time (when I say back in the days the first mention of bread comes from the 14th century). Not anymore, though, is Vianočka baked only around Christmas and it is nowadays enjoyed year-round, available daily in grocery stores and bakery shops back home. Vianočka is a taste of my childhood and a staple breakfast pastry. Commonly, is a slice of Vianočka enjoyed for breakfast with butter and jam on top but I really love it as a side to hearty soups and stews as well

Even though the shape of the Vianočka resembles traditional Jewish Challah the dough and the symbolism of the bread is very different. Vianočka dough is a type of an enriched dough, similar to brioche containing dairy and eggs while Challah bread is made kosher. There are several shapes, braiding techniques & sizes of the bread – it can be braided and built up from three progressively smaller plaits stacked on top of one another. In this recipe I would like to show you a simple technique for two-layered Vianočka bread

And what are some of the traditional customs when making Vianočka? It is said that while you’re kneading Vianočka, you should jump up really high to help the dough prove well, you should wear a white-colored apron and resist from talking while kneading. Which of the customs you’re going to try while making Vianocka, I’ll leave to you : ) Jumping one is a great way to do some workout while baking – have fun and enjoy making your (maybe) first Vianočka bread


INGREDIENTS

500g AP or Pastry Flour

220-250g Whole Milk, at room temperature

30g Fresh Yeasts or 12g Active Dry Yeasts

100g Sugar, white

110g Butter, unsalted, melted and cooled down

2 Egg Yolks, at room temperature

1 Whole Egg, at room temperature

8g Salt

Zest from 1 Lemon

Other

2 Tablespoons Rum-soaked Raisins, optional

1 Tablespoon Almond Slices

1 Whole Egg, for Egg Wash

1 Tablespoon Powdered Sugar, for dusting


METHOD

1. Start with pre-hydrating your yeasts. In a small bowl combine together 100g of Milk with 20g of Sugar. Heat it up until warm (not boiling) and stir a couple times to dissolve the sugar. Mix in 12g of Dry or 30g of Fresh Yeasts, cover the bowl with a clean towel/ clean plate and let it rest for ~ 10 minutes until frothy

2. In a meantime, in the bowl of your standing mixer or in any bigger mixing bowl combine together 500g of Flour (sift the flour into the bowl), 80g of Sugar, 8g of Salt and Zest from 1 Lemon. Mix well with a spoon or whisk. Pour in 120g of Milk (eventually you might add another 20-30g of Milk, depending on the texture of the dough), 110g of melted Butter, 2 Egg Yolks, 1 Whole Egg and Yeasts mixture. Start kneading the dough with a hook attachment or with your hand for approximately 8-10 minutes until fully incorporated, smooth, silky and not sticking to your hands or to the sides of your standing mixer. Try to resist from adding unnecessary extra flour to the dough. After a few minutes of kneading you’ll start strenghtening a gluten and the dough will become more elastic and less sticky. Cover the bowl with a clean towel or plate and let it prove in a warm place for next 60-90 minutes or until double in size

3. Once the dough is well proved, it’s time to shape Vianočka. Divide the dough into 5 equal-size balls and if you’re using Rum-soaked raisins, divide them equally and incorporate into individual doughs at this stage. Roll each of 5 dough balls out into five equal-length coils (long ~ 40cm/ 16 inch). Braid 3 coils together into a tail and transfer it carefully on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Twist rest two coils around each other and place them on top of the three-coil tail and tackle to hold together. Cover your Vianočka with a clean towel and let it prove for the the second time for ~ 45 minutes to one hour

4. To bake Vianočka, preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit/ 200° Celsius. Brush your bread generously with an Egg Wash and sprinkle your Vianočka with some Almond Slices. Place it into the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 375° Fahrenheit/ 190° Celsius. Bake for ~ 35-45 minutes, depending on the size of your Vianočka Once baked, let it cool down, dust with some Powdered Sugar (if preferred), slice and enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee by itself or with a butter & jam on top

Dobrú chuť,
Lenka

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