“As soon as the Yom Kippur fast ends, we slice or cut a large piece of the cozonac, raise a glass of wisniak (cherry liqueur that I make almost every summer) and wish each other a happy new year,” says Eva Gelberg Naftali, who emigrated to Israel with her parents from Oradea in Romania in 1964 when she was 14. “Like all of the pastries from my mother – Paula Gelberg – I follow the recipe exactly, the same one that was passed down to her from her mother and grandmother, and connect us to family and to lives that were lost in the Holocaust.” Cozonac is a tall and airy yeast cake reminiscent of bread, with a dough similar to brioche and filled with butter and cinnamon or butter and vanilla. In the Gelberg-Naftali family, it is prepared on two holidays only- Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur- and it symbolizes a sweet new beginning.
Ingredients for Cozonac - Yeast Cake
For the dough:
- 3½ cups + 1 tablespoon (500 grams) flour sifted
- ½ cup (100 grams) Sugar
- grated lemon peel from one lemon
- 1⅓ tablespoons (12.5 grams) fresh yeast
- ½ cup less 1 tablespoon (110 grams) milk lukewarm
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolks
- pinch Salt
- ½ cup less 2 tablespoons (100 grams) water lukewarm
- 1 tablespoon (10 grams) cognac or rum
- 1.75 oz (50 grams) butter very soft
- 3 tablespoons (30 grams) oil
For the cinnamon filling:
- 3.5 oz (100 grams) butter very soft
- 2 tablespoons (20 grams) cinnamon
- ⅓ cups (60 grams) Sugar
- 2⅓ teaspoon (10 grams) vanilla sugar (1 packet)
For the vanilla filling:
- 3.5 oz (100 grams) butter very soft
- about 2½ tablespoons (30 grams) vanilla sugar (3 packets)
- 3-4 tablespoons Sugar
For baking and egg wash:
- about 1½ tablespoons (20 grams) butter to grease the mold
- a little flour to dust the mold
- 1 egg beaten with a little milk or water
Prepare the dough:
1. Mix flour, sugar and grated lemon peel in a wide bowl.
2. Crumble the yeast with 2 teaspoons (about 10 grams) of the lukewarm milk in a small bowl. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar and a pinch of flour on top and place in a warm place for fifteen minutes until the mixture is bubbly and thick.
3. Beat the egg and the yolk with 2 tablespoons of the lukewarm milk and a pinch of salt in a separate bowl and set aside.
4. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and start kneading while slowly and gradually adding lukewarm water and what's left of the lukewarm milk to get a uniform and sticky dough. Add the egg, yolk and milk mixture and knead to obtain a uniform, pliable and sticky dough, if it is too firm and not sticky add a little water or lukewarm milk.
5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured bowl, cover with a clean towel and leave to rise for about 45 minutes or until the dough almost doubles in volume.
6. Add soft butter to the dough and mix it in, add oil and mix again until absorbed into the dough. Add rum or cognac and knead to absorb. Knead into a uniform and flexible dough, return to the bowl and leave to rise for about 45 minutes or until the dough almost doubles in volume.
Shape, fill, and rise:
7. Grease a high sided baking dish or a small oven safe pot with butter and lightly flour.
8. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, flatten the dough into a circle with your hands and roll it out with a rolling pin into a rectangle a ⅓-inch (a little less than 1 cm) thick.
9. Mix cinnamon, sugar and vanilla sugar (for cinnamon filling) or sugar and vanilla sugar (for sugar filling). Spread the soft butter on the dough, sprinkle evenly with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar or a mixture of sugar and vanilla sugar (choose one filling) and roll from the long side to the opposite side into a tight log.
10. Roll the log into a coil and transfer to the baking tray or pot.
11. Cover the pan or pot with a towel and leave to rise again for about 30 minutes or until the dough almost doubles in volume. Towards the end of the rise, heat the oven to 355F (180C) degrees.
Brush and bake:
12. At the end of the rise, brush the cozonac with egg wash and pierce the surface of the pastry gently with a fork.
13. Transfer to the oven and bake for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, check it: if the pastry is brown and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out dry, the pastry is ready. If the cover is brown and the knife comes out covered with unbaked dough, cover the pastry with parchment paper and bake for another 5-10 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool to room temperature and remove from the mold. The cake will keep, covered, outside the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
In December 2021, we launched the first festival of its kind in the country, which aims to revive home baked goods that are disappearing from the landscape to ensure that they will remain with us for many years to come. We started by researching and locating nine bakers from different ethnicities who prepare traditional pastries that are now extinct, we connected them to 9 selected bakeries from around the country and launched the festival of lost pastries: ten days in which each bakery prepared one pastry and offered it for sale.
About the bakery:
Limor Wilman, pastry chef and manager of the Lechem Tomer branch in Jerusalem, comes from a Spanish Iraqi family, her paternal grandmother – Tzipora Pardo, was a celebrated baker, who made Spanish borekas and borekitas alongside tall and decorated tortes that she learned from newspapers and neighbors. The baking bug passed both to Tsipora’s daughter-in-law, Limor’s mother, and to Limor herself. Two years ago, Limor devoted herself to her love for pastry and turned it – at the age of 45 – into a profession. “After years at Bezeq, I turned to Tomer Blas from Tomer Bakery who found me a place in the bakery and I’ve been there ever since, enjoying every moment.” Tomer, he is the one who chose Cozonac for the festival, because he really likes yeast cakes. Limor was entrusted with the preparation. “Making a pastry that has been embedded in family’s home, making it generation after generation, was very exciting for me and so was meeting Eva Naftali- this pastry is part of who she is, both from her past growing up, and future, in what she passes on to her family. Getting to know the stories hidden inside the folds of the pastry is not something that happens in everyday work and it is a great privilege to learn about the lives of others through it.”