As a follow-up to my Christmas cookies of Czech Republic post, I decided to share my mother-in-law’s Easter bread recipe (“Mazanec”, in Czech). Mazanec is a slightly sweet bread with some fruit and nuts, and subtle vanilla and lemon flavor. My Czech husband has always preferred Mazanec over the similar, but differently shaped, Christmas bread, called “Vánočka”.
Mazanec is a large firm crusty yeast-based bread that is usually enjoyed plain or with fruit jam and/or butter. The authentic recipe below was always made with Czech polohruba mouka, but US all-purpose flour yields a similar enough result. For US cooks, I have also included US cup measurements along with the original metric ones. The original recipe calls for fresh yeast, but since that is unavailable in my area, I’ve also included instructions using active dry or instant/quick rise yeasts. Choose the relevant “Step 1” and follow the instructions, accordingly. The recipe has been made with success with each of the yeasts mentioned.
Thinking about also making potato salad for Easter? Consider making a yummy Czech potato and vegetable salad. Recipe here.
- Yeast (see Step 1 options below)
- 8 ½ Tbs (120 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- ½ cup (120 g) granulated sugar (plus a little extra, if using fresh yeast)
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract OR, one packet (8 or 9 g) of powdery vanilla sugar
- 3 large egg yolks
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 ¼ cups (500 g), or more, all-purpose flour OR, polohrubé mouky + trochu hladké mouky na poprášení těsta
- 1 cup (237 ml) or more warm milk (plus extra, depending on yeast choice – see below)
- ¼ cup (50-60 g) raisins (soaked in rum, then drained)
- ¼ cup or more (50-60 g) slivered almonds
- ¼ cup (30-40 g) whole blanched almonds (skins removed – see note at bottom) OR, about 1/3 cup slivered almonds
- 1 extra egg, beaten (for egg wash)
The first step will depend on the type of yeast you are using. Just below are different versions of Step 1. Use the Step 1 version for the yeast type you have.
- Step 1 (using fresh yeast – Czech type): Mix together about 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp flour, 30 grams fresh yeast, and ¼ cup warm milk (~95˚F or 35˚C). Cover with a cloth and let stand (rise) for about 10 minutes. Proceed to Step 2.
- Step 1 (using active dry yeast): You will always use half the weight of active dry yeast as you would fresh yeast. In this case, use ½ oz (two standard packets in the US). That is about 15 grams. With active dry yeast, you need to “proof” it by first dissolving it in about ¼ cup slightly hot milk (105˚F to 115˚F or 41˚C to 46˚C). Let sit about 10 minutes until slightly foamy on top. Proceed to Step 2.
- Step 1 (using instant/rapid rise dry yeast): You will always use 25% less instant/rapid rise yeast than active dry yeast. That equates to a little under ½ oz (11 to 13 g). This yeast does not need to be proofed. It can be added at the same time as the recipe’s main flour in Step 3. Start recipe with Step 2. The dough may or may not rise quicker than with other yeasts.
Step 2: In a large bowl (I use my Kitchenaid mixer bowl), mix butter, sugar, lemon rind, vanilla (or vanilla sugar), 3 egg yolks, and about ¼ teaspoon salt. If using fresh or active dry yeast, add that starter/proofed mixture to this. Mix to combine until smooth.
Step 3: To the butter mixture above, alternately add the flour and heated milk (plus instant/rapid rise yeast, if using). I switch to my mixer’s dough attachment for most of this task. Otherwise, knead by hand. If the dough is very sticky, you can add a little more flour. [Which I usually have to do, using US all-purpose flour (up to ~75 g or 2/3 cup). Czech flour may be different.] If very dry, add a little more heated milk. Then knead in the drained soaked raisins and slivered almonds, until distributed evenly throughout dough.
Step 4: Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise for about an hour or so, in a warm place.
Step 5: Knead the dough again, briefly. On a large parchment lined baking sheet, form dough into a round loaf shape. Let rise again for 45 to 60 minutes or so, then decorate with several blanched and skinned whole almonds (or slivers). Gently brush dough with the egg wash. [Note: The dough may or may not look well risen, but will rise quite a bit more when baking.] If you like, cut a small shallow cross shape in the middle of the dough.
Step 6: Preheat oven to 350˚F (180˚C), then bake Mazanec on the center oven rack for about 45 to 60 minutes. Check color of the loaf at almost 45 minutes in. If the Mazanec is getting very brown, turn down the oven heat slightly and cover lightly with aluminum foil, to finish. Cool completely and slice, as needed.
Veselé Velikonoce! (Happy Easter!)
Blanching and Skinning Almonds: If you can’t find blanched and skinned whole almonds, it’s easy to do at home. Simply bring a small pot of water to a boil. Place your raw (not roasted) skin-on almonds in the boiling water, and boil for exactly 1 minute, no more. Remove from heat and drain using a colander or sieve. Cool quickly by running cold water over them, while in the sieve. Blot the almonds dry with a towel. Use your fingers to gently squeeze the almonds out of their skins. Dry skinned almonds during dough rising.