Do you want to know what the most Czech popular white bread is? The answer is short and clear: braided housky! Golden crispy beauties raised light and airy yet with the substance inside.
Housky Bread Meaning
Housky are a type of white Czech bread made from leavened dough. The risen dough is divided and rolled out in small strips, which are braided similar way to braided hair.
Before housky are baked, the surface is sprinkled with caraway seeds, whole poppy seeds, or coarse salt.
Housky taste the best right from the oven with butter and jam, or with salami and cheese.
Similar to housky is another Czech white bread, called rohlíky (bread rolls).
Do Not Confuse Houska and Vánočka
Don’t mistake houska for vánočka. When we Czechs say “housky” (plural) or houska (one piece), we mean small salty braided white bread, while vánočka is a type of sweet Christmas bread with raisins and almonds.
Back in the 19. century, Bohemians used to call houska what is today called vánočka. This “houska” recipe was then brought to the USA by Czech emigrants.
Later, people in the Czech Republic started calling the Christmas bread with the term vánočka, while the descendants of the emigrants still call it houska, a name they inherited from their ancestors.
Read also: What do Czechs eat at Christmas?
Making homemade housky (domácí housky) is very easy. You only need a few ingredients, but more time, which the dough takes to rise.
You will need:
- All-purpose flour; in Czech white wheat flour (hladká mouka)
- Softened butter; unsalted; the original recipe from the famous Czech cookbook written by Roman Vaněk calls for lard
- Fresh yeast; but it will work perfectly with instant yeast as well
- Milk; lukewarm
As you see, no egg is needed for this recipe, not even for egg wash.
You should also prepare the seeds you want to sprinkle the houska with: caraway, poppy or sesame seeds, coarse sea salt.
You might also like: Langos, Hungarian flatbread – don’t get confused, langoš (in Czech langoš) is typical street food in the Czech Republic!
Making Braided Rolls
The leavened dough needs a warm place, some time, and patience to rise. That’s why Czech bakers start making the dough for housky in the night, so housky are freshly baked and ready in the morning for breakfast.
- Sift the flour, crumble yeast, add softened butter, lukewarm milk, and a pinch of salt into a large bowl.
- Knead with your hand until the dough is firm and smooth and non-sticky.
- Let it rise for 20 minutes in a warm place.
- Split the dough into equally-sized pieces and make stripes out of them. Braid 3 strips to make 1 houska.
- Let the braided rolls raise a further 45 minutes.
- Brush some water over the top of raised housky and sprinkle with a topping of your liking.
- Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes.
Cook’s tip: Place a small pot with water on the bottom in the oven, so the housky bake in a steamy environment.
Baking housky this way, they will not become too dry on the surface.
🍲 More Czech Recipes:
- Obložené chlebíčky – Czech fancy open-face sandwiches
- Knedlíky – favorite side from the Czech cuisine
- Loupáčky – sweet crescent rolls sprinkled with poppy seeds
Before you bake the housky, they’re generally sprinkled with various seeds, which add even more taste to the housky.
Use these seeds as a topping:
- caraway seeds
- poppy seeds
- sesame seeds
- linen seeds
- coarse sea salt
Use what you have at home in your cupboard. You can also leave the rolls plain with no sprinkle.
What to Eat Houska with
Housky are a Czech favorite type of pastry, usually eaten with butter spread onto them.
Who likes sweet foods can add jam or honey. You can also put a slice of cheese, ham, or salami in your houska.
Houska is a typical part of Czech breakfast or as a snack for kids to school.
Housky taste best eaten fresh, right from the oven. They dry out and harden over time, so eat them the second day after baking at last.
Housky can also be frozen, ideally right after cooling down from the oven. Place housky in closed freeze bags before putting them into the freezer.
Browse the categery Czech bread recipes, if you want more inspiration!
Braided rolls – Czech Housky
- 4 cups (520 g) all purpose flour
- ½ stick (55 g) unsalted butter (softened at room temperature)
- 1 and ½ tsp salt
- 20 g fresh yeast (or 1 and ½ tsp active dry yeast)
- 1 and ¼ cups (280 ml) milk (lukewarm)
- caraway seeds
- poppy seeds
- coarse sea salt
- Add all ingredients to a bowl. First, mix with a fork, then knead with your hands until you have a smooth, non-sticky dough.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and split it into four equal parts.
- Form a bun out of each piece, cover it with a dishtowel and let it rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.
- Roll a cylinder out of each piece and split it again into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece out and split it into 3 stripes. Braid housky out of the stripes.
- Lay the housky on a parchment-lined baking tray, cover it with a dishtowel and let it rise for a further 45 minutes.
- Brush with water and sprinkle with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, or sea salt and caraway seeds mix (1:1 ratio).
- Fire up the oven to 440 °F (230 °C) and place a pot with water inside to bake the pastry in a steamy environment.
- Put the tray in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes until they turn golden brown.
DISCLAIMER: Because I come from Central Europe, my recipes are based on metric units such as grams or milliliters. Check out how I convert metric units to the U.S. system:Conversion chart
There is one funny Czech nursery rhyme about bakers making housky, here you are:
"Pekař peče housky, uždibuje kousky. Pekařka mu pomáhá, uždibují oba dva!"
Every little Czech kid knows this rhyme! 🙂