Enhancing Cozonac

by Martina Mollenhauer
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Cozonac is a traditional specialty bread slightly reminiscent of German Stollen or Italian panettone. Originally baked in Romania and also Bulgaria for the major feast days like Christmas and Easter, cozonac is now available all year round. Every baker, every housewife, swears by his or her own recipe, but common to all the variants is a basic dough made from wheat flour, sugar, butter, eggs, salt, yeast and milk. Raisins, rum, vanilla or grated orange or lemon peel are added to the basic recipe, according to the region. The sweet bread is filled with a succulent mass made from hazel nuts or walnuts, sugar or syrup, cocoa, eggs, raisins, or sometimes poppy seeds. To ensure that the marbled appearance of the cozonac – the contrast between the dark filling and the light-colored dough – remains visible when the loaf is cut, the filled dough is shaped into a roll before baking.

Example of a basic cozonac recipe:

1 kg wheat flour
20 g wheat gluten
250 g sugar
100 g butter
15 g salt
50 g yeast
100 g egg yolk
500 g milk

Cozonac characteristics

The characteristic feature of sweet, yeast-raised products of this kind is the almost fibrous crumb structure that results from high levels of protein. The natural gluten content of a standard flour is not usually enough to make these typical features as prominent as they should be. At a protein level of 11% to 12% in the wheat flour, the average amount of vital gluten added is 4% to 8%.

For similar Easter bread varieties in Greece, up to 15% vital gluten is added.

The large proportion of sugar and fat necessitates baking times of three hours or more. Because of the high gluten content, the doughs have a tendency to spring back. To prevent this they are kneaded briefly several times during the fermentation process. This restores some of the dough’s elasticity and makes the texture finer. The products are baked either as hearth bread or in pans.

However, the fluctuating price and availability of vital gluten is increasingly leading the milling and baking industries to seek alternative products for treating their flours.

With its EMCEgluten Enhancer range, Mühlenchemie has developed an extremely effective gluten booster that significantly improves the performance of the gluten in the flour – irrespective of whether this gluten is naturally present or has been added in the form of vital gluten. The combination of enzymes and vegetable fibers is designed to strengthen the gluten structure as far as possible and may be used as a replacement for added vital gluten.

If the flour used is good, with a large proportion of high-quality gluten, EMCEgluten Enhancer may replace the addition of dry gluten entirely. With medium-quality flours, 50% substitution is possible.

Since enzyme compounds are effective in much smaller amounts than conventional gluten, handling of the raw materials and dosage is simpler, too. In the case of EMCEgluten Enhancer, the general rule is that 1% of this active substance can replace 8 to 10% dry gluten.

Preparation of the dough requires no special adjustments when the gluten booster is used. However, with all heavy yeast doughs like cozonac, working with a sponge dough is recommended.

A further optimization of the product with the aid of functional additives concerns the elasticity of the crumb. With yeast doughs rich in sugar and fat, especially, the crumb tends to lose its succulence quickly. This effect can be counteracted with maltogenic amylase such as the Mühlenchemie product Alphamalt Fresh. Alphamalt Fresh delays re-crystallization of the starch gelatinized in the baking process by breaking down amylopectin into short-chain dextrins. In this way the crumb stays soft and succulent much longer.

Standardization at the bakery

If the bakery, as well as the mill, is seeking help with basic treatment of the dough for the production of cozonac, the answer may lie in functional systems from the DeutscheBack TopBack range. Depending on the specification, these premixes are made up of emulsifiers, enzymes with synergistic effects, vegetable fibers, and often guar gum powder. They enable greater standardization of product quality by generally strengthening and improving the doughs.

Since cozonac tends to dry out quickly, it is possible to work with TopBake WA Pure. This compound increases water absorption and enhances the moistness of the crumb.

All the above flour improvers are suitable not only for cozonac. They can also be used in similar products such as panettone, Stollen or the Greek Easter bread tsoureki and can be adjusted specially to meet the needs of individual mills or bakeries.

Romanian milling industry

Michael Saathoff, Applications Consultant for South-Eastern Europe with DeutscheBack, Ahrensburg, Germany, said that technology in the Romanian milling industry is advanced, thanks in part to considerable investment from the E.U.

“We often see that mills are no longer restricting themselves to grinding,” he said. “They are starting to work as bakeries, too. Then there are two buildings on one site; one is the mill, the other the bakery. There are also some large companies that carry out the whole process chain from growing of the grain through storage and milling to baking.”

He said Romania has good resources and mainly produces flours of medium quality.

“On the other hand the region is very susceptible to bug damage. The summer months in Eastern Europe are often very hot and dry, so it happens again and again that some of the wheat grains are bug-infested. In recent years this has not been much of a problem, but in the past there was sometimes massive impairment of the quality.”

Saathoff said the milling industry is impacted by the fact that the structure of Romanian agriculture is still characterized by small farms.

“There are still a great many smallholdings,” he said. “Then, at harvest time, you sometimes find several farmers queuing up outside the mill to deliver their wheat – each lot from a different little field. But small mills, especially, are not able to carry out complex receiving inspections, and of course they don’t have enough silos to separate the lots properly. So it’s the order of the day that qualities fluctuate all the time.”

Martina Mollenhauer is product manager for Mühlenchemie. She can be reached at mmollenhauer@muhlenchemie.de.

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High consumption, low taxation

Romania is one of the biggest consumers of bread and pastry goods in the European Union. The daily per capita consumption of bread is currently 546 grams – nearly twice the E.U. average of 300 grams. The standard bread is light-colored wheat bread, sold mostly in 400-gram loaves. It accompanies nearly every meal, served in thick slices. Other types of bread and specialties are not yet widely known.

The purchase tax on bread and pastry goods has recently been reduced: as of Sept. 1, 2013 the government in Bucharest cut the VAT from 24% to 9%.