Total Preparation Time – About 4 Hours
Time Spent Waiting – About 3 ½ Hours
Cooking Time – About 40 Minutes
Growing up in a predominately Slovak household, one of the holiday treats was Nut Roll and Poppy Seed Roll. We had these rolls at Easter, Christmas, and sometimes Thanksgiving. I remember, at a young age, my grandmother and great aunts making these rolled breads. I found that Poppy Seed, for various people, wasn’t really appreciated and seemed to be an acquired taste. But, Walnuts and Pecans seem to be universally enjoyed. So, I tend to stick with Nut Roll, for a more generally enjoyed recipe.
To make Nut Roll, I use the recipe in my Slovak American Cookbook. I actually have two copies of the book. One is my grandmother’s copy, which is (WOW) 70 years old, and one is a new modern copy. Anyway, I make Nut Roll a couple of times a year, and have been trying the different bread recipe variants in the cookbook, to find a bread/nut combination that is perfect. This year, I chose one of the more complex/unusual bread recipes to see what happens. This recipe has a couple of things that make it a little more challenging than other breads.
To start, this is a yeast dough. Start by activating your yeast. Follow the instructions on the package. In my case, it’s Fleishcmann’s Dry Active Yeast. To activate, it’s ¼ cup of warm water (100 – 110 degrees), 1 Tablespoon of Granulated Sugar, and 2 ¼ Teaspoons of Yeast (or 1 Package). Wait about 5 – 10 minutes for the mixture to get adequately foamy. If the yeast isn’t foamy, then there is a problem and you should check the age of your yeast, the temperature of the water, and possible start again. An active yeast is quite possible the most important part of a good bread.
While the yeast is activating, microwave ½ cup of milk for about 45 seconds. The milk should be raised to no more than 140 degrees. Set aside to let cool to 100 – 110 degrees. In a bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 1 cup of flour. Add in the milk, at the right temperature, then add in the activated yeast mixture. Stir until combined. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes. We weren’t sure what this step was really about, in the recipe. I suspect that this was to activate the yeast. Even though we already activated the yeast, we stuck to the steps in the recipe.
While waiting for the 30 minutes for the initial raise, separate 3 eggs. Take the egg whites and beat until firm. Once firm, add half a teaspoon of vanilla and beat until blended. Also microwave 1 cup of milk for about 90 seconds. Set the milk aside to cool.
After the 30 minutes, in a stand mixer, add the flour/yeast mixture, egg yolks, 1 stick of softened butter, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of shortening, and the 1 cup of microwaved milk (not more than 110 degrees). Mix well. Stir in the beaten egg whites. Then with a dough hook, mix in 3 ½ cups of flour, ½ of a cup at a time. If the dough is not gathering on the dough hook and is wet and sticky, I recommend mixing in another ¼ cup of flour at a time until the dough is smooth, gathering on the dough hook, and is slightly sticky to the touch. It took me about 5 cups of flour total to get the dough to the right texture. It will vary each time you make the recipe.
Warm the oven to about 90 – 100 degrees. If you can’t touch the cooking rack with your bare hand, then the oven is too hot. In a greased bowl, place your dough and cover with a towel. Place the bowl of dough in the oven, and let raise for 45 – 60 minutes, or until double. When the dough has doubled, punch the dough down, reform into a ball, place back into the bowl. Cover the bowl and let the dough raise again for another 45 – 60 minutes.
While the dough is raising, you can prepare the nuts. There are a couple of methods for grinding nuts that I have used over the years. You can use a kitchen blender, chopping nuts 1 – 1 ½ cups of nuts at a time. You can use a food processor, chopping nuts 2 – 3 cups at a time. Or you can use a meat grinder. Of these, the meat grinder produces the best results, a nice light almost fluffy ground nut, but it takes a lot of time compared to the other methods. The goal is to have a finely ground nut but be careful that you don’t over process the nuts and have it become pasty. For every 2 cups of nuts, mix in about ½ cup of granulated sugar. It’s really about adding sugar to the flavor that you want. I like the nut mix to be somewhat sweet, but not overly sugary. Make sure the sugar and nuts are thoroughly mixed.
After the second raise, divide the dough into 4 equal parts. Roll out the one portion of dough into a shape roughly like a rectangle and about ¼ inch thick. Take your nut mixture and place about 1 cup of the mixture into the middle of the rectangle. Spread the nuts into an even layer of about ¼ inch thick. Add more nuts as needed. Press the nuts down lightly with your hand. Leave about ¼ to ½ inch from the edge of the dough clear of nuts.
Once the nuts have been spread evenly and pressed down, it’s time to roll the dough. Along the long edge, lift the edge and fold it over, about ½ inch. Then using both hands slowly roll the dough all the way to the other edge. Take the open edge and pinch the dough closed along the seam. Make sure the seam is pinched together completely. For the ends, pinch the ends together, until the ends are completely closed. It’s hard to describe the process, so I have included pictures. Repeat this for each of the remaining pieces of dough.
Put the rolls on a baking pan lined with parchment paper, 2 to a pan. Bake the rolls at 350 Degrees for about 30 – 45 minutes. About 15 minutes into the back, swap the pans between the top and bottom oven rack. After about another 10 minutes, rotate the pans. When the rolls reach a golden brown, remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. I like to rub the tops of the rolls with butter, to give the rolls a glossy sheen.
The rolls are best eaten warm. I actually like to eat slices with breakfast. With a slice of bacon or sausage, you can get a good sweet and savory bite, which is delicious. My sister likes to eat it warm with a pat of butter.
By the way, leftover nuts can be placed in an air tight freezer bag and stored in the freezer for between 6 months and a year.
Next time I make this, I will try to use a different bread recipe from the cookbook.
Hope you enjoy,
Kappy & Lady Di
Stand Mixer with Dough Hook Attachment
Food Processor, Blender, or Meat Grind
1 Package of Yeast
3 Tablespoons of Granulated Sugar
¼ Cup of water
1 ½ Cups of Milk
4 Cups of Flour
3 Eggs (Separated)
1 Stick of Butter (Softened)
1 Teaspoon of Salt
1 Tablespoon of Shortening
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
4 Cups of Walnuts
2 Cups of Pecans
1 ½ Cups of Granulated Sugar
1. Activate Yeast
2. Mix Yeast, ½ Cup of Warm Milk (100 – 110 Degrees), 1 Cup Flour, 2 Tablespoons Sugar
3. Let raise for 30 Minutes
4. Mix in 3 Egg Yolks, 1 Stick Softened Butter, 1 Tsp. Salt, 1 Tbsp. Shortening, 1 Cup of Warm Milk
5. Beat 3 Egg Whites until firm peaks, mix in 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
6. Mix Egg Whites into Mixture
7. Using Stand Mixer and Dough Hook, gradually add in flour
8. If dough is wet and sticky, add ¼ cup of flour at a time until the dough is soft and slightly sticky
9. Let dough raise for 60 minutes, punch down, let raise again for 60 minutes
10. Finely chop nuts and add in sugar
11. Divide Dough into 4 equal pieces
12. Roll out dough into rough rectangle shapes about ¼ inch thick
13. Spread about 1 cup of nut mixture on rolled out dough
14. Roll dough and pinch edges
15. Bake at 350 Degrees for about 30 – 40 minutes
16. Place on cooling rack and Brush with butter