Every year thousands of people from Sofia and all over the country come to the Dutch bakery to buy Easter bread. The story begins in 2006 ....
How the Dutch baker learned the secrets of the Bulgarian kozunak from a granny?
Just before Easter 2006 one of my bakers came to me with a special bread. What is this? I asked. “This is Bulgarian Easter bread, it is called kozunak and everyone enjoy it during Easter, this is our tradition. We like to eat it with yogurt, then it is even better. With a handy movement he snapped pieces of the warm kozunak, you should not use a knife, that is not good, he said.” That same day the baker made more than a hundred of them.
This was my first experience with the Bulgarian tradition of Easter bread, a special moment. I started thinking about the words of the baker and became more and more curious. Through a friend of mine I came into contact with a dear old Bulgarian granny. Do you want to know how we Bulgarians bake the most delicious Easter bread, she asked? I will show you, she said invitingly. It was Saturday early morning, the day before Easter, I knocked on her door and the kitchen was already warmed from the oven. It must be warm in the house, the grandmother said. Otherwise the bread will be not good.
The kitchen table was full of delicious ingredients; raisins, pieces of dried fruit, chocolate, butter, vanilla, oil, eggs and much more. The grandmother starts kneading the dough by hands and at the same time she was adding the sunflower oil, kneading and oil added and so on. In between, the dough was given time to rise and this took hours. The dough was divided into several pieces and the bread was formed. One was filled with chocolate and walnuts, another with raisins and a third with pieces of dried fruit. It already looked deliciously. On the kitchen table all baking tins were filled with dough and covered with a cloth. That's important, the grandmother said, it has to stay warm otherwise it will get dry and won't rise.
After a few hours the Easter bread finally went into the oven and the kitchen was filled with all kinds of different smells and the delicious aromas of vanilla, chocolate and nuts. And what a sensation when grandma opened the oven. The first warm bread was broken into pieces and this was a magic moment. The family was attracted by the smell of the freshly baked Easter bread which filled the house. We ate big pieces of this culinary pleasure together, with yogurt of course. The taste of homemade Kozunak is delightful! Now Easter has started, grandma said satisfied, meanwhile it was 2:00 PM.
I realized what a great experience that was. I understood that it won’t be easy to carry out grandma’s recipe to my bakery. But I was convinced that on this way I would offer my customers the best Easter bread in Sofia. I decided to take up the challenge together with our bakers. We were going to use grandma's recipe and I wanted to combine this with my own bakery experience. Months of trials, failures, improvements and experiments followed. The endless possibilities of kneading, rising and baking drove us almost desperate.
It was January 2007. Until Easter there was not much time left. It is after three months and we were not done yet. Making homemade Easter bread in a bakery was a big challenge. Finally, it is Easter and there is a nervous atmosphere in the bakery. Are we going to succeed? Will our customers appreciate grandma's Easter bread recipe?
A long line of waiting customers had gathered in front of the bakery, the atmosphere was slightly tense. I will not hide that I panicked in this view. And then I saw exactly what every baker wants to see. Customers with happy faces coming out with bags filled with Easter bread. With a gentle movement a mother snapped pieces of the warm Easter bread and gave it to the smiling children. We passed!
I felt exactly the same way when I silently tried the Easter bread in grandmother's kitchen. Happy! In that year we baked more than 1000 Easter breads. And now many years later, and not only at Easter, you can buy the tastiest Easter bread in our bakery. With the taste of grandma’s homemade recipe and the signature of the Dutch baker Jovan.
Thanks for visiting us and on behalf of my staff I wish you and your family Happy Easter!