Chris Vlahonasios is a law graduate from Victoria University and Orthodox media writer for TRANSFIGURE Media.
Craciunels are braided breads with knots made to celebrate Christmas. They are given to family and friends, symbolising the spirit of giving at Christmas. When children go door-to-door caroling on Christmas Eve, they are rewarded with fresh Craciunels as well as nuts, dried fruit, and money. The carolers carry a wooden bar for collecting the Craciunels.
This traditional Christmas bread is kept near the icon till spring, when (in rural areas) it would be fed to livestock, blessing them to ensure survival and good health. In urban environments, the Craciunel is kept by the icon corner as an offering/blessing for the household until replaced with next year’s one.
Yields 12 small rings or 1 large loaf.
2 cups milk, divided
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
2 package d ried yeast
½ cup warm water
3 egg whites
8 cups flour
100g chopped walnuts
1. Scald 1 cup milk. Add butter to hot milk, stir until dissolved. Add sugar and salt.
2. Place yeast in ½ cup warm water and add a pinch of sugar.
3. Beat remaining milk with eggs and egg yolks. Mix together with hot milk and add yeast. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, and knead until smooth. (NOTE: It is at this stage that you add the optional dried fruit.) Place in a bowl and cover with warm damp towel, and let rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
4. Take fist-size portion of dough and roll out into a long, thin rope. To make wreath-shape, loop ends around each other. To make a knot-style, twist two long ropes of dough together, then fold each platted end over the other. Brush Craciunels with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on rack. Can be frozen for up to 6 months.
Recipe sourced and adapted from www.kentucky.com
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