Cooking Croatia: Walnut Roll

Tamara Novacoviç with a bread recipe that can pose as a “typical” bread from many different countries.
Text And Photo By Tamara Novacoviç

This is a traditional recipe and I must say that I have stumbled upon many recipes like this one on the Internet, where it is said that this is a traditional Hungarian bread, Slovenian bread, Polish bread…All of this is actually true: it is a sweet bread made in many countries in Eastern Europe. It goes by many names: Povitica, Potica and in Croatia Orahnaca. I believe some of you may be familiar with this cake. It represents a taste of home land to families from Eastern European countries who emigrated.

For me, this cake represents some of the sweetest childhood memories. My grandma’s friend (we called her aunt Franca) used to bake the best walnut roll in the world. I remember the sweet smell coming from her apartment, which meant we were going to get a real, freshly baked treat. The best companions to this roll are milk and coffee. I remember the greatest feeling of waking up to a freshly baked walnut roll with a glass of milk that awaited me on the table. Mornings like this were my favorite part of the day. I used to eat it for dinner, before bed too. Today, nothing has changed, I still enjoy fresh from the oven roll, but the difference is that I personally make it.

Rolls like this one are usually made for holidays, especially Easter and Christmas. The secret of their great flavor comes from the filling, made with walnuts or poppy seeds (known as Makovnaca), raisins and rum. Also, the dough is often flavored with lemon or orange zest. My favorite version uses walnuts and here I’m giving you a recipe I tried for this Easter. It is from a traditional Croatian cooking book I got as a present.

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Croatian walnut roll
 
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The secret of this roll's great flavor comes from the filling, made with walnuts or poppy seeds, raisins and rum. Also, the dough is often flavored with lemon or orange zest.
Author:
Recipe Type: Baking
Ingredients
For the dough
  • 1 oz (30 g) fresh yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • ¼ cup (30 g) all purpose flour
  • ⅕ cup (50 ml) warm milk
  • 3½ cups (350 g) all purpose flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup (50 g) butter
  • ⅛ cup (30 g) sugar
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 cup (250 ml) milk
  • 1 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 egg for the egg wash
For the filling
  • 3½ cups cups (350 g) ground walnuts
  • 3 tbsp rum
  • ⅔ cup (150 g) sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (100 g) raisins
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 0.8 cups (200 ml) milk
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
Instructions
  1. First, crumble fresh yeast with warm milk, sugar and flour. Let rise for 15 minutes, covered with clean kitchen towel, until frothy.
  2. In a separate bowl combine flour with salt, melted butter, sugar and lemon zest. Add yolks and 1 whole egg, sour cream and yeast mixture. Knead until soft dough forms. Let rise in an oiled bowl, covered with clean kitchen towel in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 hour).
  3. In the meantime, make the filling: combine ground walnuts with sugar and vanilla sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon and hones. Combine raisins with rum and let stand for 15 minutes. Add raisins with rum to the previous mixture. Add boiling milk and combine everything. Let cool until you roll out the dough.
  4. Punch down risen dough. Divide in two equal parts. Roll out each part onto floured surface into a rectangle (that fits the size of your baking pan) approximately 35 x 30 cm. Spread with filling, leaving1/2- inch (1 cm) border uncovered. Starting at long side, roll up, pinching seam to seal.
  5. Place rolls seam side down in a greased baking pan. Let rise again, until doubled in size.
  6. Preheat oven to 392 F (200 Celsius).
  7. Brush rolls with whisked egg and bake for about 40 minutes.
  8. Let cool completely before slicing. You can dust it with powdered sugar before serving.
17 Comments
  1. Well, I didn’t know this bread and I find it lovely. I love nuts in sweet bread and the crunch they impart. I will definitely try it! My recipe to-do list is miles long already…

  2. We had this several years ago at Christmas when my grandma managed to find some potica (my mom’s family is from former Yugoslavia) and I’ve been wanting to try my hand at this for a while. Looks delicious!

  3. Thank-you for this recipe. My mother-in-law, who was born in Zagreb, used to make this bread at Easter. My hubby loves it, and I had no idea how to make it. Today is the day! Thanks again.

  4. My great grandmother and grandma and all my aunts and some of the girl cousins make povetica every year after thanksgiving and then freeze it as a Christmas treat. However, ours is much more flakey and almost more like a pastry than a bread. We make two versions–walnut (of course mixed with butter and more to make almost a nut paste) and cheese which is more of a cream cheese filling. They both taste fabulous chilled, room temp, or even under the broiler with some butter spread on top. My favorite holiday treat!

  5. Hi Katherine, I’m so glad this recipe brings back memories for you
    I love the cheese version as well, it’s definitely among my favorites

  6. I’m going to try and make this, I hope it turns out, I luv this receipe it reminds me of when I was a child visiting my Baka and deda in Zagreb, the poppy seed one is good as well, I’ve tried to find it in a croatian store, but they don’t make it in Canada. At least I don’t know of any.

  7. My grandmother made this every year, we looked forward to it as a tradition. When she grew too old to make it, I took over the tradition. I love the idea of rum, granma would have loved it as well. Am going to make your version this year in addition to granma’s recipe. Her great-great grandchildren look forward to it now. Cheers

  8. Barbra, I’m really glad it reminds you of your childhood. Love it when people have such fond memories. I always put rum into cakes that use walnuts. Glad you will bake this, enjoy!
    Cheers

  9. My grandmother made this every year – and poppy seed roll, too. We haven’t had it since she died 20 years ago. I think I’ll make one this year for my dad – the men in my family used to fight over these breads – they were so good! Thanks for the recipe – keep our traditions alive!

  10. Thank you so much for your recipes of walnut cake
    From Sydney
    But my parents from Croatia I was born in Sydney Croatian lily x

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