my grandmother's walnut sweet roll
Updated: Jun 16, 2019
Regardless if it is Christmas, New Year's, Easter or any family gathering for that matter, my grandmother always bakes this sweet roll. She either fills it with walnut, poppyseeds, sweet cheese, Turkish delight, or apples. I grew up with it, and therefore without it there is no holiday. I made this one at Christmas time so that I could take it to Kentucky to enjoy during a family visit with my uncle and aunt that live there. It was a delight served warm with coffee in the morning or as a quick snack right before bed (for those of us not dieting; that doesn't include me I'm afraid). Hope you enjoy it as much as our family does, and get ready to put in all the work since it's a handful (you will get what I mean when you see all the steps involved, all the pots and bowls involved, and the kneading time required).
for the dough:
3 1/2 tablespoons of dried yeast
2 cups of lukewarm milk, divided
1 1/2 cups of white granulated sugar, divided
8 cups white bread flour, divided, keep in a warm place
1 teaspoon salt
7 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1 tablespoon rum extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 sticks + 2 tablespoons melted butter, divided
for the filling:
8 cups ground walnuts
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup milk
for the glaze:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons warm milk
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm milk (make sure it is not hot, since hot milk inactivates the yeast and stops the dough from rising), and a little bit of sugar. Cover it and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.
In a saucepan mix 1/4 cup from the milk and 3 tablespoons from the flour and start simmering on low heat until thickened. Mix constantly with a whisk so that no lumps are formed. When it reaches a toothpaste consistency, take from the heat and let it cool down.
Once the flour mixture is cool enough, pour the yeast mixture on top and by the help of a hand mixer beat until big bubbles start to show (about 20 minutes). Sprinkle with a little bit of flour so as to cover the mixture, wrap the bowl in clear wrap and let rise in a warm spot for an hour.
Meanwhile beat the egg yolks with the salt and the remaining sugar until they turn foamy and lighter in color.
Right before the one hour for the yeast mixture is over, beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form.
Pour the yeast mixture, egg yolk mixture, the beaten egg whites, the rum and vanilla extracts, and the 2 sticks of melted butter over the remaining flour, and knead vigorously for at least half an hour (I used my Smeg mixer, which gave up on me after 20 minutes because it was overheated, so I had to continue by hand). At this stage if the dough is too sticky add more flour little by little, or if it is too hard add more warm milk little by little (just pay attention not to make the dough too heavy since it will stop rising and it will end up too doughy; you want a soft, smooth dough).
Place the dough in a big pot (I used my dutch oven pot), cover and let rise for four hours in a warm spot (I put the pot on top of a chair and the chair on top of a heat vent).
Meanwhile make the filling in a saucepan by mixing the walnuts, sugar and salt and incorporating them in the hot milk. Simmer for about 10 minutes, while mixing constantly, and then set aside to cool.
Brush two 9x3 inch round tins with butter and coat with parchment paper (I used Swans Down baking pans that are equipped with vents on the side, and one in the middle - see picture above, to make sure the dough gets done all the way; other pans alternatives can be used, but then the braids have to be smaller in order to assure a full bake).
When the dough is done and risen to double in size, divide into 4 equal parts. Roll each part into a rectangle, 1/4 th of an inch thick and spread a thin layer of the walnut filling all around so as to cover the dough. Roll each part and braid in two. You will get two braids made of two rolls each, one for each pan.
Arrange in the pans in a circular shape (much like a crown), place each pan in a proofing bag and let rise in a warm place for at least an hour.
Warm the oven to 450 degrees F and after the dough has risen place it in the oven. Cover the top with a wet parchment paper sheet to avoid browning the top too much.
Bake for about an hour (even more if the dough looks not done, the top should look golden brown and not burnt). Take them out the oven and brush with milk while still hot, and then sprinkle with the granulated sugar.
Place the pans on a wire rack and let cool completely before removing the rolls out of the pan.
Once the rolls are cool, dust with confectioner's sugar and serve. Can be kept in an enclosed plastic bag, at room temperature for about a week.