In Bulgaria, the big family meals and get-togethers occur on Christmas Eve. The menus are generally comprised of an odd number of meatless dishes and include Koledna Pitka, a beautifully designed honey bread with a surprise inside. Traditionally, a coin in baked into the bread. Whoever finds the coin will be the breadwinner in the next year. I wrapped a large coin in parchment. Squeamish about using change? You can also substitute with a whole pecan or similar item.
I need to work on my decoration skills a bit, but I am still happy with the results. I loved the design of Seasons & Suppers’ bread, so I kept it for mine. The patterns can become quite intricate. You can also find entire loaves shaped like sunflowers, wreaths, coils, and other designs.
I formed three ropes into wheat and and topped it with a bow. I used scissors to cut into the top of the wheat to give it some texture. I also formed two flowers with petals next to the wheat and used scissors to score each petal in half. Make sure you press down on the designs fairly well to stick it to the loaf. I was a little light and a couple of the petals started to fall off/separate from the flower. Try to keep them away from the very edge.
Make sure to allow the dough to rise until doubled. My house was cool and needed a bit more than the hour. I was running short on time and should have let it go closer to two hours, so the result was a few tears in the top of the loaf after baking. I have also included an additional 30 minute rise after forming to help prevent tears.
3/4 cup lukewarm water, 105-115 degrees F
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
500 grams (~4 cups) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Let sit for a minute before stirring to combine. Allow to sit until frothy, about 10 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or large bowl, combine flour and salt. Mix in yeast with water, vegetable oil, and honey to bring together dough. If too dry, slowly add more water. If too sticky, add a little more flour. Knead until smooth and elastic.
Grease a large bowl with oil and add dough, turning to coat. Cover and allow to rest at room temperature until doubled, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
On a lightly floured surface, briefly knead dough. Remove a fist full of dough, about a 1/3rd piece, and set aside. If using, place a large coin wrapped in parchment (or a whole pecan if not using a coin) inside the remaining larger portion of dough and shape into a smooth ball. Place on prepared baking sheet and flatten into a large circle, about 1 1/2 inch thick.
Use reserved dough to create shapes such as wheat, flowers, or fruit on top of the bread, using scissors as needed to help shape the wheat or flower petals. Press down lightly on the finished designs to seal into the loaf of bread. Cover and allow to rest until puffed, about 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon of honey and vegetable oil. Brush over the entire top of the bread.
Bake in preheated oven until golden and cooked through, 20-25 minutes. If starting to darken too much, cover with aluminum foil. Allow to cool slightly before serving.