January 10, 2011

Orahnjaca - Croatian Walnut Roll

While researching Croatia for our night tonight, I stumbled across this recipe, a walnut roll or orahnjaca.  It sounded very nice, simple and classy, a rolled yeast dough with walnut filling.  An approchable sweet from another country?  I'll try that for sure.  So I did, and I was very impressed, it was more than I expected.

In fact, when I took my first bite I said "It even tastes European!"  It's nowhere near the sweet level we are used to for loafs and cakes.  It's subtle and refined.  To start it has a beautiful crust, a clean, soft, golden brown.  Then you taste the dough, the bread, it's light and a bit delicate, but a little drier than I expected, nothing though, that can't be fixed with a smear of butter, which I've realized is my favourite way to eat a slice.  Finally you come to the filling which is a little bizzare to my western mind, ground up walnuts (not to a paste) soaked in hot milk, brightened with some lemon and balanced with some rum this roll goes awesome with tea.  I loved it.

Orahnjaca - Walnut Roll

I found there are a lot of different recipes to try, but this one seems a little more traditional, perhaps because it has less ingredients and a more classic preparation.  But I would venture to say that this roll isn't strictly Croatian and a person would make it the way their family did all over Eastern Europe, with whatever was accessible to them.

I completely overhauled the recipe I found, so I'm going to say now, that it belongs to me.

The dough recipe makes enough for two loaves, you could easily half it.  I didn't have enough walnuts I found out, for a full batch of filling, so I have half of this dough refrigerated.

400g (3 c +1/3 c) all purpose flour
7 g dry active yeast
200 ml (3/4 c + 1 Tbsp) warm milk
80 g (5 Tbsp) butter, melted
2 eggs
80 g (6 Tbsp) sugar
zest of one lemon
a pinch of salt

300 g ground walnuts
70 g (5.5 Tbsp) sugar
100 ml (7 Tbsp) boiling milk
2 Tbsp dark rum
1 tsp vanilla

Glaze (optional)
1 egg yolk, beaten
10 g (1 tsp) vanilla sugar
a tiny bit of lemon juice

Warm the milk in the microwave or on the stove, do not make it to hot!  Add the yeast and let proof for 10 minutes.  In the meantime put the rest of the ingredients into a large bowl.  Add the milk and mix well.  Cover the bowl, let the dough rise until doubled in size.  I little trick I learned was to heat some water and put it in a bowl, then stick the dough bowl in the water, this helps the proofing along and shaves off a little of the waiting time.  It's up to you wether it is worth the trouble.

Place the ground walnuts in a bowl and pour boiling milk overtop.  Add the remaining ingredients, stir well and set aside to cool.

To finish:
When the dough has risen, divide it in half.  Roll each piece 6 mm thick into a rectangle about 12 by 8 inches.  Divide the filling between the two and spread over dough.  Roll the dough the short way with the seam on the bottom.  Leave to rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Before baking the loaves, if you wish, glaze them with the beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar.  (I didn't have an egg yolk to spare.)  Bake the rolls for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 F and bake for a remaining 20 minutes.  Test the roll with a toothpick, if it comes out clean it is done.  Enjoy!

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