Chec Cu Nucă (Romanian Walnut Panettone)
This traditional Romanian sweet bread studded with rum-laced candied walnuts, makes a delicious dessert, breakfast bread, or teatime snack. This recipe first appeared in our March 2012 issue with Alexander Lobrano's article Eternal Terrain.
Enlarge Image Credit: Landon NordemanSERVES 8–10
Ingredients2 cups milk
¾ cup plus ½ tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 ¼-oz. packages active dry yeast
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped and reserved
4 cups flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 tbsp. rum
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Instructions1. Make the dough: Combine 1 cup milk, heated to 115°, with ½ tsp. sugar, nutmeg, yeast, and vanilla seeds in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Whisk in ¼ cup sugar and egg until smooth; add flour and salt, and mix until dough forms. Increase speed to medium-high, and knead for 4 minutes. While mixer is running, slowly add butter to dough, 1 tbsp. at a time, and mix until smooth; continue kneading for 4 minutes more. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
2. Meanwhile, bring remaining milk, sugar, walnuts, and rum to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat, and cook, stirring often, until liquid is reduced and mixture is brown and has thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in juice; let walnut mixture cool completely. Punch down dough, and add walnut mixture to dough; return to mixer fitted with the hook attachment, and mix on low speed until walnut mixture is evenly incorporated into the dough. Transfer dough to a greased 8″ x 5 1/2″ x 2″ loaf pan and cover loosely with plastic wrap; let sit until slightly risen, about 45 minutes.
3. Heat oven to 350°. Uncover loaf, and bake until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer reads 190°, about 1 hour, 15 minutes. Let cool completely.