It’s Christmas time! And what that means for our family is nut rolls! Kolacky as they are called in my family’s Slovak dialect. A nut roll is a yummy pastry consisting of a sweet yeast dough that is rolled out thin, spread with a paste made from sweetened ground nuts, poppy seeds, fruit, or even cottage cheese, then rolled up into a log shape, baked and sliced to show off their sexy layers!
This recipe has been handed down for multiple generations in my family with tiny tweaks for modernization (hard to find cake yeast these days) or technique simplification (like rolling into a circle rather than a rectangle which also helps there not be too much dough on the ends) and even personal tastes (like me not wanting my rolls too brown)! But it is basically the same and comes out tasty every time.
Check out the unkept photo of my Dad and I making Kolacky!
I am blessed to have Dad here with me and to garner his expertise on family recipes like this one. As you can see in this next photo, he is much faster and better at spreading the nut filling than I am!
And so you can see what the rolls should (sort of) look like before they go in the oven. The single poppy seed roll is in the front. I didn’t have enough poppy seeds for more, but that’s ok with me because I like the nut filling so much better!
I didn’t seem to get a picture of the rolls right after they came out of the oven, but trust me, they looked beautiful with no splitting! The trick is to make sure you don’t add too much flour. This can cause the dough to be too dry and split when baking. But, even if they do, they still taste great!
Feel free to half the recipe and make just 4 rolls, if you like. Just remember they freeze very well. It’s a bit of work to make too few!
I hope you will find the time to make these nut rolls some time and let me know what you think. They are a labor of love, but they freeze well and also make great holiday gifts – and not just for Christmas! I may make another batch for Easter… hope Dad is up for it!
Slovakian Nut Rolls (Kolacky)
- 4 cups milk warmed to about 100°F (38°C) - 475 mL
- 1½ packages dry yeast
- ½ cup sugar divided - 100g
- 6 egg yolks
- ½ pound butter 230g
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 2½ pounds All-purpose flour plus more for shaping - may need less
- 1 egg for egg wash
- 1 tablespoon sugar optional - for sprinkling on top before baking
- 4½ cups walnuts finely ground, see instructions -
- ¾-1 cup sugar depending on sweetness desired - 150-200g
- 6 egg whites
- 1 tablespoon milk only if needed to make filling spreadable
- Before you begin, set out yeast, eggs and milk to get to room temperature.
- Warm milk to about 100°F (38°C). Mix in the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Using your fingers to help dissolve the yeast. Let sit for 5-10 minutes or until foamy.
- In a standing mixer (or you can do it by hand - it will just take longer) with a dough hook, add the remaining sugar, egg yolks, butter, salt and yeast mixture and blend briefly. As mixer is going, add in the flour, 1 cup or so at a time until it forms a sticky dough. Do not add too much. The dough should come together but still be slightly sticky. This will help reduce splitting.
- Form into a ball in the mixing bowl and cover and sit in a warm place for 2 hours.
- While dough is rising, prepare your filling (recipe below).
- Place dough out on a floured surface and knead gently. Divide your dough into 8 equal balls.
- Work with one or two at a time, keeping the others covered so they don't dry out. Roll each ball into approximately an 8" x 12" (20cm x 30cm) rectangle (or as we did, just a rough circle about 12" in diameter), making sure the long edge is in front of you. Feel free to go slightly bigger. Dough should be fairly thin.
- Spread ⅛ of the filling onto the rolled out dough, to within ½-inch of the edge. How I do this is weigh the filling and divide by 8. Then use that weighted amount for each roll. You can eyeball it, but when I have done that, I sometimes run out of filling!
- With the long side in front of you, roll up gently (not too tight) and pinch the seams shut. Place on prepared baking sheets, 4 rolls per sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Repeat with all eight pieces of dough.
- Let sit 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 340°F (170°C). Brush rolls with egg wash (just blend up the egg a bit in a small bowl) and sprinkle sugar on top, if using. Then bake rolls on middle racks 25-30 minutes or until tops are lightly browned. Start checking on them after 20 minutes. You don't want the bottoms to get too dark.
- Cool completely before slicing. I usually get about 10 pieces from each roll. This note is important because my hubby is known to cut himself a slice that is about 1/4th of the roll! Wrap leftovers tightly in plastic wrap, foil or airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 1 week. The nut rolls can be frozen by wrapping in plastic wrap, then again in foil, and stored in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw at room temperature.
- If grinding your own walnuts, I find it best to use a food processor and add a few tablespoons of the sugar while processing to absorb a bit of the oils. This allows you to grind fairly fine without it turning into a paste. Pulse gently at the end and don't take it too far.
- Mix together the ground walnuts, remaining sugar and egg whites until you get a spreadable paste. Only add the milk if it is too thick to spread. Set aside until ready to use.