A traditional, Bulgarian Christmas Eve Honey Bread, topped with honey are decorated to celebrate abundance in the coming year.
Sometimes I find myself on a site without any idea how I got there. That’s what happened recently, when I stumbled on a blog post featuring a beautiful Christmas Eve Honey Bread – a Bulgarian traditional bread. I loved the story of the tradition …
Traditionally, the Bulgarian Christmas Eve table weighs down under the abundance of food the earth has presented us with – fruits and vegetables, nuts and beans, honey and wine. The center of the festive dinner is the ritual bread, decorated with pastry fruits, flowers and ears of wheat – symbol of fertility. Inside the bread is hidden a fortune coin – symbol of prosperity.
I’m not Bulgarian. Not even a little bit. But I thought the bread was so beautiful and since I love to make bread, I thought it would be a fun thing to bake up and share with my family on Christmas Eve.
Despite my lack of artistic talent, the process of shaping and attaching the pieces of dough was surprisingly easy. And fun. In fact, I wished I had waited until my daughter was home to make it with me. It was sort of like grown up playdough.
About that Fortune Coin: When I was young, my grandmother used to make a Money Cake for my birthday. Dimes, nickels and a single quarter were wrapped in waxed paper and baked into the cake. If you were lucky, you’d get the piece of cake with the quarter in it. That was a different time though, back when a quarter bought lots of candy, and we didn’t sit in car seats or wear bike helmets, either.
Today, the thought of baking a coin into my bread had visions of Heimlich maneuvers dancing in my head. I looked around my kitchen for something edible I could use to represent the fortune coin. I ended up settling on a whole pecan (yeah, I didn’t look around long). So I have a pecan, symbolizing a coin, symbolizing prosperity. Works for me.
I made my bread ahead and froze it. We’ll eat it on Christmas Eve with our family dinner. The person who gets the piece with the Fortune
coin pecan, will enjoy a particularly prosperous 2013. At least I think that’s the idea (I’m making up my own tradition here :)
Whatever your traditions or how ever you celebrate, I wish you the most wonderful holiday season, with lots of special moments with family and friends and of course, lots of great food.
Get the Recipe: Christmas Eve Honey Bread
- 3/4 cup (187.5 ml) warm water
- 2 tsp. (9.86 g) instant or dry active yeast
- 4 cups (500 g) all-purpose flour
- 4 Tbsp. (59.15 ml) vegetable, canola or any neutral tasting oil
- 2 Tbsp. (29.57 g) honey
- 1/2 tsp. (2.46 g) salt
- 1 Tbsp vegetable, canola or any neutral tasting oil
- 1 Tbsp honey
- Add yeast to warm water, stir and allow to sit for a few minutes. In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour. Add the yeast/water mixture, the honey, oil and salt. Mix the dough until it comes together, adding a bit more water or flour, as necessary, then knead by hand or with your dough hook, into a soft, smooth dough.
- Place the dough into a greased bowl, cover with plastic warp and let it rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 30-60 minutes.
- When the dough has doubled, place on a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or so. Cut out and set aside a fist-sized piece of dough (to be used to make the top decorations). Knead the fortune coin (I used a whole pecan in place of a real coin) into the remaining dough and then roll into a flat round shape. Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Using the reserved piece of dough, cut small pieces and shape into the various elements to decorate the top of the bread. Decorate the bread with ears of wheat, apples, grapes or flowers. To make the top of the wheat, use some clean kitchen scissors to snip v-shaped snips into the dough. Once all your shapes are placed on the bread round, press down lightly over the top of them to flatten slightly and ensure they stick. In a small bowl, prepare the glaze by combining the honey and oil and brush liberally over the entire top of the bread (you may not need to use it all).
- Bake in a preheated oven at 400° until golden and cooked through, about 20 - 25 minutes. Check the bread regularly after 10 minutes and cover the top with a piece of aluminum foil if the top is browning too much.
Can this be made in a bread machine? What setting would you use?
Hi Jack and yes, you should be able to mix the dough in the bread machine. Just the regular dough setting should work.
This bread looks heavenly. Thank you for sharing. Have you had any experience with freezing this bread?
Hi Terrie, I have found just about every bread freezes beautifully. For this one, I would wrap it in plastic wrap, then in a layer of foil. Should keep nicely in the freezer for 2-3 months.
How flat/large should I roll out the bread before baking?
Hi Vergil, I don’t remember exactly and really, it doesn’t much matter to be exact. Just roll it out into a circle about 1-inch thick, however large that makes it. Enjoy!
When I was little, my mother baked a holiday cake with a coin in it. I believe it was a dime. She , too, was afraid we’d choke, so as soon as you got your slice of cake , you had to tear it up with your fork to see if you got the dime….what a mess ! That got to be seventy years ago. Thanks f or the memory.
Oh yes. I think it’s a mother thing. Then and now :) Thanks for sharing your memory!
I made this bread for Christmas Eve and it was perfect! I tried copying your design and while it wasn’t as stunning as yours, it still turned out great. Thanks!
So glad you tried this recipe and that it turned out so well. I remember having such great fun making it and it was a special treat for Christmas Eve :)
Looks Awesome, surely gonna try this out. I LOVE stuff like this! Simple, healthy, quick, and how could it not be delish!?!
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This bread looks amazing! I’m a Bulgarian living in the USA trying to replicate my mom’s Cristmas Eve bread for years but having hard time with the measurement conversions :) I’ll be trying your recipe this Christmas, hopefully it turns out as beautiful as yours :) I usually put a different coin, wrapped in foil, in each slice and assign it a different luck e.g. health, money, love, new job, succes at school/work etc. This way everyone gets their luck for the New Year. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks Dessi. I hope this recipe works for you. I wasn’t very creative (just followed the example from the one picture I saw), but I bet you have some great ideas from your Mom. Merry Christmas!
Oh wow! Girl you did amazing work here :) This is so beautiful! If I can scrounge up enough time for a yeast bread in the next few days, I would love to have this on our Christmas Eve (or Christmas morning) table! Show-stopper!
Merry Christmas to you :)
Thanks so much, Sophie. It was such a fun little baking adventure and we’re looking forward to tasting it on Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas to you, as well!
I just discovered your blog and I have to tell you, I love it!!!! I’m an avid bread baker and I’m in love with this recipe as well as other!
Thanks Kim. I have a long-standing love affair with yeast-baking, so you’re sure to find more here in the coming months.
Very good result for somebody that is not Bulgarian! :D :)
I am Bulgarian and I am right now preparing the traditional bread for prosperity and health too.
The meaning of the coin in the bread is that whoever finds it will be the breadwinner for the New Year!!! Traditionally the eldest of the family blesses and breaks the bread. Ah, you brought lost of memories from my childhood :) …
Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to you all!
Hi Sophia and thank you so much. It was so great to share in your traditions and I can’t wait to enjoy it on Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas to you, as well!
Thanks Liz. We’re totally digging into this bread on Christmas Eve (have to find that pecan :) Happy holidays to you and your family as well, Liz. Looks like we’re going to have a white one (if the weather forecast is correct).
The bread is so beautiful, almost to nice to cut in to….notice how I said ‘almost’! Can’t resist a homemade slice of bread :) Happy holidays to you and your family!
This bread is a stunner, but I bet it also tastes amazing!
Thanks so much, Yelle. I haven’t tasted yet, but it smelled wonderful coming out of the oven. I’ll post an update after Christmas.