Walnut Roll Pastry

Imagine a cinnamon roll that is less gooey-sweet, but with the delicious richness of ground walnuts; something like baklava without honey.

Now add to that the ability to slice off the serving size you want and the entire pastry staying soft and fresh for days. Best thing ever, right?

But wait there’s more: You can make this pastry in less than four hours, from craving to cooling rack. I’m talking about a yeast-leavened walnut roll pastry that’s a blend of Jewish kuchen and Slovak kolache (also called orechovnik), and has various manifestations throughout Central Europe. For example one of our newsletter subscribers wrote to us about the Croatian and Slovenian potica, a similar walnut roll cake.

The flavor is so delicious and the process is simple, fast, and fun–I had to write it up for the Breadtopia community and for my own future bakes. I used SAF Gold instant yeast in this recipe, which is ideal for leavening sweeter doughs. This yeast is “osmotolerant,” meaning it better stands up to the reduced water availability caused by sugar. Osmotolerant yeast is recommended in dough with more than 10% sugar weight relative to flour weight. I’ve had a pound of this yeast in my freezer for several years, and it’s as powerful as ever. You can use regular instant yeast (or even active yeast), and the dough will simply take a little longer to rise, probably a 30-to-60-minute difference. At some point I may try sourdough leavening (here’s a conversion how-to for that), but I really enjoyed the speed and yeasty flavor of this recipe as is.

Filling and risen dough (visible fresh-ground nutmeg in the dough)

The filling is from this Slovak kolache recipe, often made at Easter and Christmas, and the dough is from this Jewish kuchen roll recipe, from the fascinating book, The Settlement Cook Book, first published in 1901 as a home management guide for immigrant women. Many thanks to Breadtopia forum participants @Abe for sharing the dough recipe link, and @Melissa_Florida, @Evnpar and @Abe for raving about kuchen in the bialys recipe comments thread. They inspired me to try this pastry.

You can fill the dough with anything you enjoy (prune or date paste, chocolate, strawberry jam), but I absolutely love nuts, so when a friend suggested I try the walnut filling of Slovak kolache, I jumped on the idea. You can see my earlier versions of this pastry with different fillings in this forum thread.

Roll out the dough out, brush on melted butter, sprinkle with ground nuts-sugar-cinnamon, and roll up into a tube.

Note: The photo above shows the recipe doubled, but the ingredient amounts below are for one roll that’s about 14 inches in length.

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