Romania is predominantly an Orthodox country and many of its religious customs have roots in biblical traditions.
This dessert is traditionally an Easter cake. When the first Christian followers had to leave Egypt in a rush, they didn’t have time to take leavened bread with them. So they ate unleavened bread, what today is the Jewish matzah flat bread – the only bread allowed to be eaten during the Passover festival.
In Romania, we have a similar tradition at Easter. A plain leavened bread is cut into small pieces and taken to the church to be blessed on the night before the Easter day. On the Easter morning, on empty stomachs, we all eat a piece of this bread, and drink a little red wine.
In time, we developed another recipe alongside the plain one. We make a brioche dough and fill it with luxurious sweet cheese and sultanas, to make it a celebratory cake. Both breads represent the pain that the Christians had to go through in Egypt, and also the joy and celebration of the new faith.
For the brioche:
For the filling:
Make the brioche:
Put the milk and the yeast into a bowl and stir to dissolve the yeast.
Put the flour, slat and eggs into a mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix.
Pour the yeast and milk mixture.
Knead at medium speed for 10 minutes.
Start adding the butter, piece by piece, and the sugar until it’s all incorporated.
Increase the speed and knead for another 10 minutes.
Set aside, covered loosely with clingfilm, to proof for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, knock the dough back by flipping it over 2 or 3 times. Put in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight.
Make the filling:
In a mixing bowl put the cheese, eggs, sugar, raisins, vanilla extract and stir to combine.
Assemble the cake:
Heat the oven to 200C
When the dough is ready to use, divide in 4 parts.
Take one piece and roll it out in a 10 inch/25cm circle. Place it on the bottom of a well buttered 10 inch springform.
The remaining three pieces shape them in thing ropes, about 3 feet/90cm long each.
Braid them and gently place them in the springform pan, braiding the ends together to form a sealed circle.
Cover and let rise for another 40 minutes.
Pour the cheese filling in the middle of the braided circle and bake for 15 minutes.
Brush the dough with the ehh wash
Without opening the oven door, lower the oven temperature to 180C and bake for 45 more minutes, or until the crust is deep brown
Leave to cool completely.
Tip: If you have any left over mixture, pour it in a lined oven-proof dish and bake it at 220C for 15 minutes or until just firm.
Serve it with a cup of lemon and ginger tea or an afternoon coffee.