Christmas Bread – Vánočka



Prep: 20 minutes
Rise: 2 hours
Hands On & Braid: 30 minutes
Second Rise: 1 hour
Bake: 350 °F (180 °C) 45 – 50 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 40 minutes

Heavy duty aluminum foil
Wooden skewers

1 1⁄4 cups (290 ml) milk
3⁄4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
3 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 cups (580 g) all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 lemon for zest
2 egg yolks
1 stick (1⁄2 cup / 8 Tbsp / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted
1⁄3 cup (50 g) raisins

1 egg
1⁄4 cup (30 g) sliced or slivered almonds
Powdered sugar

  1. I know we all appreciate your hard work on this recipe. Can’t wait to make it a part of our Christmas celebration!! Do you hang foil wrapped chocolates on your Christmas tree? Thank you so much for all the great recipes and the easy and fun way you (and Steve) present them. Have a merry Christmas and we wish you a healthy, prosperous new year.

    1. Thank you so much Jodi. 🙂 Merry Christmas to you and your family as well. We do hang wrapped chocolates on our Christmas tree. 🙂 We buy them in World market and they are also very delicious not only beautiful. I love that tradition. 🙂

  2. Christina, what a great video. I think the portioning and braiding was the hardest part. Thanks so much for the detail. Mele Kalikimaka!

    1. Thank you, glad you liked it. 🙂 Yes, those were the hardest parts for me to figure out. Are you in Hawaii? Merry Christmas!

  3. Kristyna – I have the 1st one in the oven now. Thanks for your hard work. I am the cook in the family & you converting everything to American makes it so easy to make this for my girls. Tom
    Zdravime Krystynu:) Doufam, ze Vas recept budge fungovat, protoze vypada mnohem snadneji nez cela ” vanockova procedura” u nas doma. Diky, Simona

    1. 🙂 Thank you Tom and Simona for your nice comment. 🙂 That is very sweet of you Tom to cook for your girls.

  4. Thank you for the recipe! Made it tonight, first time try & turned out to be very nice. My husband & son love it:) Merry Christmas!

    1. That is great to hear. Thank you for your feedback. I am glad you all enjoyed it. 🙂 Merry Christmas!

  5. Thank you !! What a success – this year’s Vanocka was the best I have ever made. I have tried so many times to achieve same lovely bread as my Czech mother-in-law used to make. But between confusing volume vs weight conversions, and differences in flour, I was never really pleased with the end product. Now I have a perfect recipe and a video, no less. Guaranteed results!! Thank you for doing this.

    1. Thank you Patricia for such a great feedback. I am so happy to hear this. 🙂

  6. I’m getting ready to make this right now!

    1. Yay! Wishing you success.

  7. Hi Kristýna!

    Thank you so much for this recipe!! I am a New Zealander currently living in your home town of Brno – I love it here and I also love to bake traditional Czech sweets, cakes and breads. After searching for the best vanocka recipe I found yours and I’m so happy I did. Your hard work to get this recipe right is much appreciated! I currently have my Vanocka proofing and I’m looking forward to the results. Because I live here in Czech I tried mine with a combination of Polohruba and Hladka mouka – hopefully it works 🙂

    Thanks again.


    1. Wow! That is wonderful! 🙂 Thank you Sarah for your sweet words! 🙂 I hope your Vanocka came out great. 🙂

  8. Hi, I am very excited to find this recipe. My great-grandmother came to America from the-Czechoslovakia (in the original Bohemia) in the early 1900’s. She and her husband had a restaurant and bakery in New York until they retired in southern California. I was fortunate enough to enjoy her cooking as a child until she passed at 106 years old. I have always said that she could turn a bag of sand and a brick into something delicious, but this bread was always something I looked forward to (her dumplings too!). I have tried to make it in the past, but it always comes out too flat.

    Do you have the instructions written out somewhere? It is easier to refer to in the kitchen.

    1. That is wonderful Brian! Wow 106 years old! What a blessing to have your great grandma in your life for this long. 🙂 I am sorry, but I don’t have written instructions yet. We are working on Kindle cookbooks for anyone who wants to have it all written down. Looking forward making those available. 🙂

  9. So I made your recipe last year and it turned out awesome! Just made one tonight and although it raised up nicely before it baked, while it baked it sort of spread out a bit and lost some of the braided look. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Carla, that sometimes happens. This year I baked for the first time at my parent’s oven, that I am not familiar with at all and it all fell down even though it was braided nicely and at my home it comes out always amazing. It could have been either yeast or the oven.

      1. secure vanocka before baking with toothpicks. Also on each part of braids, make u with your roling pin, before you put on the second braid, and same before putting the 3rd one, and let the vanocka raised again before baking.

  10. After several years, I made your recipe in December and it was wonderful. I much prefer King Arthur Bread Flour in my bread recipes; it has greatly improved the quality of the bread I make. I cut the loaves into half to make sure they cook well in the thickest part; yes, they do spread–suppose a foil collar would help this some.

    1. Glad to hear you liked it. 🙂 You could also make two smaller ones, which works nicely as well.

  11. Naprosto dokonalá!!! Děkuji za recept a video v tomto týdnu ji dělám již po třetí ale jednů darujeme jako mazanec. Krásný den

    1. Jee, to je paradni! To mam radost, ze tak chutna. 🙂 Krasny den a Vesele Velikonoce!

  12. Dear Krystina, have you some thoughts on how to make your excellent Vanocka using gluten free products? I have enjoyed your Vanocka for many years but sadly my husband is now allergic to gluten and we have no alternative to your product. Any suggestions? Many of my friends are in the same position. Why not make it a project to come up with as superb a gluten free version as your orginal product. While you are at it, you might like to consider Vanilkove rohlicky as well. Kind regards and thanks, Iva Rosario, Prague, Cz Rep

    1. I am sorry to hear about your husband and his allergies. 🙁 I am not experienced with gluten free flour so I am not able to give you suggestions. But I would love to work on gluten free version of Vanocka in the future. 🙂 Many greetings to Prague!

  13. Hi Kristyna!

    I follow so many of your recipes! My husband is Czech, so I always try to make him his tradition cuisine. My question is, “Can I store the Vánočka in the fridge after braiding and then bake in the morning? Thanks in advance!

    1. Hm, I have never tried it. Theoretically it could work since the cold will stop the rising. I would braid it and put into the fridge right away. In the morning it will need to wake up and maybe rise some more. If you try it please let me know.

  14. What is the difference between a Hoska Christmas Bread and Vánočka Christmas Bread.

    1. Many centuries ago this bread was called Houska. These days it is called Vanocka from the word Vanoce. Houska these days is small braided salty bread.

      1. Kristýna – thank you for these wonderful recipes and the fantastic videos. I am half Czech, and I grew up knowing this sweet braided bread as houska from my grandparents. My děde, who arrived in NY in 1923 when he was 24 years old, was born in Polšnik (which is in what was then Yugoslavia and now Slovenia), and my Babi is from Mistřín and arrived in the US when she was 26. My prateta moved here when she was much older and never learned English. She brought me a beautiful Czech doll in a traditional Moravian dress; I still have her. My father didn’t speak English until he learned in school, and Czech was spoken whenever we were with my grandparents. This discussion about houska & vánočka came up a few years ago when I mentioned making houska (vánočka) to a Czech friend here in NY. Another friend from the CR actually took photos of houska at a market to show me as proof that houska is savory and not sweet . I just can’t get used to calling it vánočka, having grown up knowing it as houska lol. I even have my babi’s recipe, handwritten by my father, and it says “houska”. My prateta came here in the 1970”s and she also said “houska” for the sweet, braided bread. We are dinosaurs, my family – really clinging on to the old name for this Christmas bread . I also have the family recipe for knedlík. It means a lot to me to have these recipes from my babi, prateta, and father now that they have all passed away, and finding this site with so many traditional Czech dishes that I never got the family recipes for made me so happy! Děkuji moc!
        Posílám ti úsměv
        Teresa Večeře (a very fitting last name )

        1. Thank you Teresa 🙂 Yes very long time ago this sweet bread used to be called Houska. These days Houska in the Czech Republic is small braided salty bread. I completely understand it would be hard to start calling it something else since you have always known it as Houska. 🙂 I hope you enjoy my recipes. You have great last name. 🙂

  15. In my family we would put candied fruits in it. I’d that okay and how much it was to add color and sweetness Babi said. Please sdvise

    1. Traditionally we would put only raisins in. Easter bread which is almost identical to Christmas bread would usually have candied fruit.

  16. Kristynko, uz jsem jich upekla hodne, ale nikdy nebyla takova vlaha jako ta tvoje. Definitivne je to tim ze jsi prizpusobila ingredience severoamerickym – zijeme v Kanade. Moc dekuji za idiot-proof recept. Tento rok planuju jich napect nekolik a podarovat sousedy. Jiny recept uz nehledam, budu pouzivat jen ten tvuj. Zjistila jsem ze ta vanocka je snad jeste lepsi den po upeceni. Taky jsem musela na nakup, kdyz uz byla zapletena, a zpozdila jsem se o vice nez hodinu, takze kynula pres dve hodiny – a to bylo stesti, protoze stridka byla krasne lehoucka. Nekde jsem se docetla proc se vlastne pletla z tolika pramenu: ctyri spodni prameny reprezentuji slunce, vodu, zemi a vzduch, prostredni tri rozum, vuli a cit, vrchni dva lasku a vedeni. Prameny se krizuji aby ochranily rodinu a blizke pred zlymi vlivy.
    Jeste jednou dekuji a preji krasne svatky vanocni a mnoho zdravi a stesti do noveho roku!

    1. Jee, dekuji Ivetko za krasne vysvetleni a krasna slova! To je hezke. 🙂 Jsem rada, ze vanocka chutnala a povedla se! Vesele Vanoce! 🙂

  17. I have been making Vanocka for many years … at Czech rep. and here in Canada …. I never used tinfoil to cover it while baking. So tried this time and it did turn out great. Thanks for the idea.
    Merry Christmas

    1. Glad to hear! 🙂

  18. This was so helpful!!!! And it turned out amazing! I need to work on the braids but the fact that they weren’t perfect didn’t take away the beauty of the loaf! My sister’s husband is Czech and makes so many cookies and delicious foods every year; a very traditional man. I am going to surprise him with this for Christmas breakfast! Thank you so much for this video- I am a visual learner, and I felt like I was baking with a friend!!! Veselé Vánoce a šťastný nový rok!

    1. That is great! So thoughtful of you to surprise your brother in law with this. Vesele Vánoce! ☺️

  19. Hi Krystyna, I just made my first vánočka using this recipe this afternoon. It turned out great and it’s nothing like the ‘not that great’ store bought ones here in Prague. Half of the vánočka is now gone *lol* Thank you for sharing this recipe. Šťastný nový rok!

    1. Thank you Mandy for letting me know! I am so happy to hear how fast it is disappearing. 😀 I completely get it with store bought. I tried one and I was shocked how different it tastes now. 🙁 Stastny novy rok 2019! 🙂

  20. Vážená Kristýno!
    Právě ted’ jsem uviděl video receptu vánočky a mám slzy v očích. Vánočka má i pro mne symbolický význam, ale nepochybně je má (moje! = morav.) zkušenost jiná než u ostatních Vašich čtenářů. K vysvětlení: Pokud vím, nemám ani jednu kapku slovanské krve (jsem řeckého a francouzského původu) ale jako mladý student na universitě mezi roky 1977-1985 jsem studoval Rusko, Východní a Střední Evropu. Vánočka přinese mi vzpomínky na mé milé profesory a profesorky češtiny a českých dějin, z kterých někteří už nežijí (mezi nimi je profesorka Hana Benešová, která byla dcerou Eduarda Beneše, 2. prezidenta Československa). Vánočku jsem udělal osobně jen jednou (ale úspěšně) podle receptu mé profesorky – to bylo před 37 lety. Ješte mám z roku 1981 fotku naší profesorky Marty a nás studentů s její [dokonalou] vánočkou ve třídě (“Čeština pro začátečníky”) Tak má mnoho vzpomínky na drahé lidi, je něják spojením mému mládí a spojením s dobou, když bylo všechno nové a vzrušující… Skoro jsem se rozplakal…
    S pozdravem

    1. To je hezke Jim! Jsem rada ze vanocka prinesla tak pekne vzpominky. 🙂 Dekuji za vas pribeh. 🙂 Moc zdravim!

  21. How long should the yeast take to grow in the milk

    1. 10 minutes

  22. Today I made my second Vánočka. The first lone I made earlier this week I did not have your recipe. Today I followed your recipe and video and have a couple of questions:

    1 – My dough seemed to be kind of “greasy”. Yours did not look as oily as mine. I used one stick of unsalted butter. What could have caused this?

    2 – My loaf fell, for lack of a better term. It just kind of spread out on the pan and was not very high. It looked good after the second rise, but when baked it was rather flat. What would have caused this?

    The only change I made was to add 1 tsp of vanilla …… the flavor of the bread is very good, it just doesn’t look right. Love your videos and posts …… both recipes and sharing of the Czech heritage!

    1. Hi Randy, even adding little bit of vanilla could effect the dough to being too runny. It looks like it needed more flour. Also because it didn’t hold the shape well. Definitely more flour will fix that or skipping the vanilla extract. 🙂

      1. Nazdar Krystinko, musela jste strávit mnoho hodin převést gr. na cups a hlavně drozdi tady to je potvora, já pořad pracovala s čerstvým . Tento rok zkusím Vás recept, chtěla bych se zeptat jestli nevíte proč se zapletene copy potrhaji někdy už než dam vanocku do trouby a někdy při pečení. Pecu to hlavně pro manžela moji neteře ten je Američan a do vanocky je blázen. Já ztratila manžela po 49 letech ve 2018, takže nemám ani chuť něco slavit bez něho, vanocku miloval . Udělal mi taky velký “VAL” krasne se na tom pracuje.
        Kdybyste věděla kde je ta chyba ze se vanocka potrha prosím dejte mi vědět.
        Mnoho díku a přeji krasne Vánoce a hlavně hodně zdravicka Vám a cele Vasi rodině upřímně, Helena

        1. Dobry den Heleno, omlouvam se ze jsem se k tomu dostala az ted. Snad se vam moje vanocka povedla. Hm to musi byt chyba v teste. Moje je krasne elasticke a vlacne. Copy se netrhaji. Mozna je malo masla a moc mouky. Je mi lito ze jste prisla o manzela po tam dlouhe dobe. 🙁 To je vzdy tezke obdobi behem vanoc. 🙁 Preji vam jen to nejlepsi v novem roce 2020!

  23. I grew up with Vanocka, I never learned to make it as a child or young woman because I did not like to cook or bake or anything like that, mom always made it and managed to get a loaf to me at Christmas. The last couple of years it was not possible so I was determined to learn how to make this. Your blog and video not only made this possible, but an absolute pleasure that I enjoy! And they turn out every time, which makes me giggle because every now and then mom would complain that something went wrong with her Vanocka LOL! This year she’s coming to visit so she’ll get to taste my/your version, she’s so curious to try it.
    Thanks so much for this, I refer to it every year!
    Vesele Vanoce a Bozi pozechnani v 2020

    1. Aww, that is wonderful! Did your mom enjoy it? 🙂 Dekuji a take preji Vesele Vanoce a Bozi pozehnani! 🙂

  24. My Mom used to make this bread at Easter each year and she recently passed away. I haven’t made this bread in more than 30 years, and thought I would try it again since we’re all at home with so much time on her hands. I was only able to find part of her recipe, so searched the internet. I’ve baked two other versions and yours was the third. This is perfect! It’s light and fluffy and just sweet enough. Thank you so much for posting this.

    FYI – My Mom was Bohemian and my Dad was Polish & I can’t wait to try out some of your other recipes.

    1. I am so sorry to hear about your mom passing! My condolences! I am glad to hear you enjoyed it. 🙂

  25. We are missing my son and daughter-in-law who live in Brno, so my daughter and I made a vanocka following your recipe and instructions. We are not experienced bakers but it turned out perfectly! Our Czech family even said they are impressed! Thank you so much for the marvelous recipe.

    1. I am so happy to hear! 🙂

  26. This was an incredibly helpful video! Thanks! Without it, I doubt I would ever have figured out how to do all of the braiding and assembly, and more. I’ll admit that I must use my mother-in-law’s recipe. You know how that can go. Also, I currently live in Czech Republic so need to use the flour she used, which is a bit different than all-purpose. And oh how difficult it has been for me trying to convert American flour-based baked good recipes to Czech versions. I’ve had some successes, and some failures. My culinary Czech has improved fast as I regularly use Czech language recipes.
    I forget what it was, but I do remember watching at least one of your other videos. You present steps clearly and I like your light-hearted manner. Skvělé video! Děkuji!

    1. Thank you Elaine 🙂 I am currently almost 3 years living in the Czech Republic so I make my recipes using Czech ingredients. I made Vanocka already twice or three times using Hladka mouka (all purpose flour) and it worked out perfectly. 🙂 Wishing you success with it. 🙂

      1. I live in New Zealand, and wanted to make something traditionally Czech as a surprise for Czech friends who are coming for Christmas this year. I make brioche all the time, and decided to use your recipe in my bread machine to make the dough like I do for brioche, and it turned out really well! Thank you so much for the braiding video, I still need some practice to get it perfect for the big day but it was pretty good for a first attempt, and we are enjoying eating the trial ones 🙂

        1. How thoughtful of you! I am sure they will be very happy. 🙂

  27. I am pulling my hair out. I have attempted this recipe twice and both times the bread does not rise. The yeast was good and bubbled as shown in your video but simply does not rise.

    What am I doing wrong.

    1. By any chance do you live in high elevation? This would explain why it doesn’t rise too well. You could try this. Heat up the oven to the lowest setting and when it reaches the temperature, turn the oven off. This will create little heat. Let the bread rise in the heated oven.

  28. Brilliant – thank you for posting this video. I rely on my (Czech) mother-in-law making this every year, but given the challenge of the Covid pandemic this is the second year when the family isn’t going to be together. Despite being English, Vanochka is now as much a part of Christmas for me as mince pies and Christmas pudding, so I’m going to make this by your recipe for the second year running as it’s (almost!) as good as Babi’s!

    1. Sounds good 🙂

  29. Thank you, used your recipe last year and all turned out amazing. Any tips for making two at the same time?

    1. I would split the dough into two smaller ones. Just shorten the baking time since those two will be smaller.

  30. Hi, I have already made the recipe once and it was delicious. Much lighter and fluffier than my Grandma’s, which was heavy like a brick.
    My question is: would this be a recipe that you could double, then split into two for rising? I know sometimes bakery gets messed up when you try to double.
    I want to make in loaf pans (my mother-in-law toasts hers in the toaster, and likes it taller like a slice of bread.)
    I have large loaf pans, 5 1/2 inch by 13 1/2 inch.
    Do you think doubling the recipe would work? Would I need to adjust baking time?

    1. I am happy to hear you enjoyed it. Yes you can double the recipe and for the baking part you might need to add more minutes. Definitely keep it covered with foil. Keep it covered longer.

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