Serbian Christmas Bread – Chesnitsa (Česnica)

Serbian Christmas Bread (Česnica)
Serbian Christmas Bread (Česnica)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 l milk,
  • 1 packet of yeast,
  • 2 eggs,
  • pinch of salt,
  • flour as needed (about 1 kg),
  • silver or gold coin.

Preparation:

  1. Dissolve yeast in little lukewarm milk. Beat one egg and add to yeast. Add salt and stir, gradually adding the flour and pouring the remaining lukewarm milk until you get a smooth dough.
  2. When the dough is stiff enough, start kneading it. Cover well kneaded dough with a clean cotton canvas cloth and leave it to rise.
  3. As soon as you notice that dough started to rise, place it onto kneading board and gently knead again. Dough for česnica should not rise completely, only partially – as a Serbian flat bread (pogača) dough.
  4. Česnica is also shaping same as Serbian flat bread – pogača. While shaping, place a coin inside the dough. If you do not have a silver one, you can put a coin made of some other stainless metal.
  5. Place česnica into a greased baking pan.
  6. Using edges of a small twig, make some patterns along the top surface of česnica. Twig of badnjak (similar to Yule log) it usually used. Use a soft brush to spread beaten egg all over patterns and surface area.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven until česnica gets to be golden brown. The initial oven baking temperature may be higher, but later reduce it.
  8. Baked česnica wrap in a clean white napkins, leave to stand for a while, and bring to the table while it is still warm.

Traditional Serbian Christmas lunch and Serbian Christmas Bread (Česnica):

Česnica is a type of Serbian flat bread (pogača) which is usually prepared in the morning hours of January 7 – Eastern Orthodox Christmas, the first day of Christmastide. It was named after old Serbian word – čest, which means a part, because Christmas ritual includes the breaking of česnica.

When česnica is baked and slightly cooled, then starts a serving of Christmas table which includes a plenty of food and drinks along with a Christmas tenderloin (Božićna pečenica). Table remains set up like that for three days, until the end of Christmas holidays, and symbolizes the prosperity in the year that will start soon. On Christmas table usually can be found paprikash (paprikaš) or sour cabbage rolls (sarma) made of pork giblets (except heart and kidneys), salty fatty pie (slana mrsna pita), lots of salads with tenderloin roast, and many sweets. Christmas table is full of various kinds of beverages, among which the wine is the center of attention.

The order of sitting at the table is always based on seniority of family members, first sits older, and then younger ones. According to this order is also servings of dishes.

Christmas breakfast in Serbia is combining with lunch, and the beginning of that ceremony, along with taking the heart and kidneys of tenderloin, is the breaking of česnica. So, česnica is not cutting with knife, but the head of the house break it by hand and gives each member a piece. One family member who receives a piece with a coin, according to traditional belief, will have luck in the coming year. Česnica is eating as bread with a Christmas meals served on the table.

The breaking of a 50-kg česnica at Terazije Square in Belgrade:

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