Kolache: A Slovakian Walnut Roll
As I’ve learned, kolache is an incredibly regional dish. In Texas, it’s a sweet roll with a hot dog or sausage in the middle. I’ve seen others that look more like danishes. This kolache recipe is very similar to a Hungarian or Polish walnut roll, but it’s Slovak. Whatever you call it, it’s delicious!
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Every family has that recipe that is handed down through the generations and is enjoyed every year with the same enthusiasm as the previous hundred years. Kolache is that recipe in my husband’s family. It’s a Slovakian walnut roll that we enjoy every Christmas and Easter.
For years this special treat has been made by only one uncle, who happens to live inconveniently far away. Before Ben was born, I got to “attend” a masterclass with our resident kolache expert. He’s got it down, and I didn’t have the nerve to try it solo until now. It’s not perfect, but it did taste great!
Learning to Make Kolache Like a Pro
This recipe is not overly complicated. We’re going to make a sweet enriched yeast dough and roll it up with walnuts and cinnamon sugar. How could I not nail it? Well, the trick is all in the roll, and that takes practice. Give me another dozen years and I should be up to par with our current family pro.
I decided to make this in my stand mixer, but you could just as easily make this dough by hand. Simply combine the wet ingredients in a bowl, then half of the flour. Stir until clumpy and sticky. Now add the salt and nearly all of the remaining flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl. Turn out and knead. Boom!
Active Dry vs. Instant Yeast
The difference between these two is the size of the yeast granules. Active dry is larger and must be re-hydrated in warm water before using in a recipe. Instant yeast is smaller and can be added straight into the bowl with the dry ingredients.
The original recipe, handwritten by my husband’s grandmother, calls for active dry yeast to be re-hydrated in warm water before the rest of the ingredients are brought together. I only had instant, so that’s what I went with. Use what you have on hand, or what you are more familiar with.
Why Scald the Milk?
This is a little tidbit I learned in one of my baking classes and then read about in On Food and Cooking. Milk contains proteins that will make it difficult for gluten to develop. Without gluten, the dough won’t be able to trap the gas produced by the yeast and you end up with a flat, dense bread. No one wants that.
But when we scald the milk by simply warming it up until hot, but not simmering or boiling, it breaks down those bad proteins. However, it is very important that you let that HOT milk cool down so that you don’t kill the yeast. You can read a bit more in my Cardamom Coffee Braid post.
Related Reading: 10 Christmas Cookie Recipes
Let’s Talk Bench Scrapers
Who knew it was possible to have so many opinions on bench scrapers? If you don’t already have one, get on this. I actually have three, but I use them all differently. With this recipe, I used these flexible ones to scrape the dough out of the bowl. Then I used this heavy duty guy to divide the dough.
I also have one from the Dollar Tree that is perfect for cake decorating. It’s lightweight and easy to hold, so I love using it to smooth the sides of my cakes. And it’s only $1, so there’s no reason to not own at least one bench scraper.
Top Tips for Yeast Breads
- Make sure your liquid is between 100℉- 115℉ before you add your yeast.
- Knead the dough until it passes the window pane test. You should be able to gently stretch a small bit of dough until you can see light through it.
- Is your house cold? Preheat your oven to its lowest setting while you prep the dough, then turn it off. Let your dough rise (covered) in the warm oven.
- Make sure to pinch the seams well and place the logs seam side down to avoid blowouts.
- Tent with foil if the bread begins to darken too much.
Bread Flour vs. All Purpose Flour
The original family recipe uses just all purpose flour, but I actually like to use a bit of both. All purpose flour will give you a more tender kolache. But bread flour adds a nice chew and more structure so that the loaves stay rounded instead of flattening out a bit. If you use just bread flour, the rolls might end up being too chewy for kolache, but still delicious.
Luckily, you can’t go wrong with either flour. Use what you have on hand and I know you’ll be pleased! If you’re curious about the difference between the different types of flour, you can read even more in the Ingredient Glossary in the Resource Library (free for subscribers).
Slovak Word of the Day
Every year, we end up trying to figure out how to spell some Slovak words that we use in the family. When I was writing up this post, one awesome uncle did some searching and got me the kolache spellings! This walnut variety is orechovy and pronounced Or-A-Ko-Vee.
The poppyseed variety is called Muck-A-Vee or makovy. That one is usually on the table as a matter of tradition. I wanted to earn a place in the family during my first few Christmases by boldly eating an entire slice with a smile. Now that I’ve logged over a decade, I pass and save that plate space for more cookies! Look, makovy is not bad, but it can’t hold a candle to walnut chocolate chip cookies. That’s all I’m sayin’.
Baking With Less Stress
As much as we all love kolache, it’s just one of those recipes that we only enjoy about twice a year. And of course, those two times are Christmas and Easter, which means stressful kitchen days. But it doesn’t have to be! I made a little Celebration Meal Planner printable that’s available for free in the Resource Library.
Print it off whenever a big food day rolls around and make notes for all of your baking and cooking. It helps me stay organized and figure out when I’m making what. Total life saver.
Kolache is a treasured recipe in our family, and once you try this sweet walnut roll, you’ll understand why. The flavors of nuts, cinnamon, and sugar all wrapped in sweet bread are a guaranteed hit any day of the year. If you’d like to see more recipes like this one, follow Bakes and Blunders on Pinterest!
- ¾ cup whole milk 6 fl oz
- ¼ cup warm water 2 fl oz
- ¼ cup unsalted butter melted (or any oil), 2 oz
- 1 egg room temperature
- 1 package instant yeast
- ¼ cup sugar 2 oz
- 3- 3 ¼ cups flour bread, all-purpose or a combo of both, 13- 14 oz
- 1 tsp salt
- 2- 2 ½ cups ground walnuts 10 oz
- ½- ¾ cup sugar 6 oz
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 6 Tbsps melted butter
- Place the milk in a small saucepan and scald over medium heat. Do not let the milk simmer or boil. Once scalded, remove from heat to cool to 115℉ before continuing.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, combine the milk, water, butter, egg, yeast, and sugar. Add most of the flour, then add the salt. Beat on a low speed for 2- 3 minutes to combine, then knead on medium- high for 5- 7 minutes.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cover with cling wrap. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Finish kneading the dough by hand until smooth and elastic.
- Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat, and allow to rise in a warm, draft free location for about 1- 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
- After the first rise, punch the dough down and allow it to rise for another 30- 45 minutes. (This second rise is optional.)
- Combine the walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon to make the filling and set aside. If the walnuts are in large chunks, pulse in a food processor until fine/ medium- fine.
- Punch the dough down to expel any gas, then divide into 2 equal portions. Roll into rectangles, ⅛ inch thick. Keep the portions you are not working with covered so they don’t dry out.
- Brush the dough with melted butter and cover with the filling. Be sure to leave space along the far, long edge of the dough for when you roll it up.
- Roll the dough lengthwise, like a jelly roll, keeping it tight. Pinch the seam and ends closed and move to a cookie sheet, seam side down. Repeat with remaining portion.
- Allow the loaves to rise for one hour. Make sure they are covered with cling wrap to prevent the dough from drying out. Preheat the oven to 350°F for at least 30 minutes before baking.
- Bake the loaves at 350℉ for 30- 40 minutes. If they are browning too quickly you can tent a piece of foil over them. Allow to cool completely before slicing and serving.
- If using active dry yeast: Sprinkle yeast over the warm water and dissolve. Stir after 5 minutes, then let it completely dissolve for another 5 minutes. Then add to wet ingredients.
- Make by hand: Add all of the wet ingredients to a bowl, then half of the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until wet and clumpy. Add the salt and nearly all of the remaining flour. Stir until the dough clears the side of the bowl. Turn out and knead until smooth, about 7- 10 minutes.
- Makes 2 loaves.
My Favorite Products for this Recipe
Hi there! I’m Colleen, a novice baker with a passion for learning and improving my bakes… and blunders. On Bakes and Blunders, you can find all sorts of tasty recipes that range in difficulty, but most importantly, I’ll try to explain the reason behind important steps. If you know why a recipe works, you can tweak and adapt it to suit your unique tastes, and you’ll be able to reliably produce some very delicious treats. If you love baking and want to expand and grow your skills, or if you are a casual baker and just need some pointers, my blog is right up your alley! Join me on my baking journey and we’ll learn how to make more impressive recipes together.
Thank you sooooooo much! This tastes like my Mother made!!.It also tastes like what I ordered for my cousins on line from Butter Maid Bakery in Youngstown Ohio. They provide coupons/discounts also from this fourth generation bakery.
The bakery sounds wonderful!
I have been searching for this recipe to try and duplicate my Slovak mother-in-laws missing one. It was my husbands favourite. Could you do the dough mixture in breadmaker or would you lose something in the consistancy?
I’ve never used a bread machine, so I really can’t say. It may be worth a try just to find out.
Thanks so much for this! We have my grandma’s recipe for nut roll, but it’s one of those old family recipes that’s missing half the steps and we’ve never been able to properly recreate it. This helped me figure out what was going wrong and now we’ll be having grandma’s nut roll Christmas morning for the first time in years!
So happy you get to enjoy your grandma’s nut roll again!
Thanks for posting this. We picked up a few good tips here. My mom used to make Kolachi or Kolache. She was 2nd generation immigrants from Transylvania, Romania. All of her “Sachsen” friends here would have had recipes and she had a collection of them. She also made individual-sized nut or poppyseed roll-ups that are often called Kipfel or Kiffel…..same basic recipe. I think that the description from janie driska about something round that seems to be more like a Danish is what they bake in Texas also but not what’s made here in N.E. Ohio. We have had a lot of various working-class immigrants from Eastern Europeean areas.
I love all of the different varieties!
Trying to make these for my MIL who is Slovakian and Russian. Can you freeze these after baking? My first try spilt and I saw in the comments the error of my ways. I’ll try again tomorrow. Thanks!
My uncles frequently freeze these after baking. Cut the loaves in half (for easy storage) and wrap well in cling wrap, then place them in a freezer bag. Enjoy!
My Volga German grandmother made this and it was always a favorite of mine! Unfortunately I no longer have her recipe and have tried several others over the years with none coming close to her’s. Until I found yours! It tastes just like my grandmother’s and my family loves it! Thank you so much! This is a new Christmas tradition in my house from now on!☺️
I’m so glad you found this recipe 😀
Colleen, you are an angel! 40 years ago my father and I stood by while my grandmother made her kolache and he attempted to create a recipe since she didn’t measure anything. Over the years we tried many times to perfect the recipe and never got it quite right. Also, it was all by hand and a bit overwhelming. Dad has since passed on and I still kept trying his handwritten recipe. This year I searched the internet and came upon your recipe. While my rolling was off (they are monster loaves), the kolache tastes just like I remember my grandmother’s. Can’t thank you enough. My family is going to be so excited at Christmas thanks to you!!
This brings me so much joy!!! I’m so glad that my family’s recipe was able to help your family. Merry Christmas 😀
Phyllis I use Solo Almond filling in mine. Nutella sounds great. I can do 6 rolls with the recipe given to me from a dear friend with whom I lost contact. I have a problem with my dough recipe which is unlike Colleens. Colleen if you can help me as well, I now have Colleens from this great website but it would be greatly appreciated if you would share yours. If you use all these different less bulky fillings and your rolls don’t split I would love to know why. When mine turn out they are wonderful but I just baked the rolls and they all split again during baking. My recipe states, bake 2 at a time on a cookie sheet. I bake them 2 at a time and in the past, rarely split. I don’t know if my ovens are too hot, or the yeast, as Colleen stated was wrong for the wet ingredients which are cold, is the problem. I have done this the same way for years. The last 2 years I have had problems. I use the same recipe and in the same kitchen and some split or “blow out”. I slice them and use them on cookie trays for the holidays along with all the other cookies I bake this time of year or I give a roll or to a friend or relative. Hope to hear from you. Thanks Colleen for your website. I just stumbled across it.
The most common cause of the kolache loaves splitting is how you roll them up. If they are rolled too tightly, as they expand in the oven, they will burst. If the dough is not sealed well after you roll them up, that can also cause splitting. I also suggest making sure the loaves are seam side down to help prevent them from unraveling.
Hi Colleen, I have a light hand in rolling my nutrolls, but they still split on the sides. I asked my aunt why and she said my filling was too wet. I omited the egg whites (not whipped) and less milk and that seemed to do the trick. Hope this helps others who’s nut rolls split on the sides. What do you think?
I don’t use egg whites or milk in my filling, it’s actually quite a dry filling. Hopefully this tip helps anyone else with a wet filling. There are so many different ways to fill these 😀
I have my husband’s grandmother’s recipe for this. Your recipe looks similar. His family called this Buchta and their Kolache was sweet dough cut in 2-3″ circles topped with prune, walnuts and cinnamon OR farmer’s cheese. Then another cut out circle (with a cut out center) was placed on top and sealed. Small squares of a mixture of butter and sugar were put on top and then baked. They lived in upstate New York so that’s probably what they made in their area of Slovakia. Someday I will perfect these recipes!! Thanks, I enjoy your blog.
That sounds delicious! I love hearing about the different varieties. Thanks for reading my blog 😀
Love nutrolls and for years have tried my late grandmother’s recipe and have never been satisfied with the results. I guess being a Slovak grandma helps. I gave up last Christmas and this year thought I would try a different recipe and came across yours and gave it a try. It’s pretty similar except the her filling was more a walnut paste and her dough was denser but love the results. Glad I tried it — it was a big success. Very tasty. Thanks for posting make this recipe available.
So glad this recipe could help you out! I love hearing about all the different variations other Slovak families have 😀
I enjoyed reading your comments. I haven’t tried your recipe, but I compared it with that of my mother, who was Slovak. Her recipe includes milk and raisins, which make it thick and gooey, without spaces. It holds together well and is delicious.
Also, I disagree with you about poppyseed, which I love, but probably because I grew up eating it every Christmas and Easter.
The milk and raisins sounds like a wonderful addition!! I think our poppyseed roll recipe needs some TLC. I love bobalki, which is dough balls tossed in honey and poppyseeds.
Your rolls are beautiful! I have not tried your recipe…yet, but Christmas is coming soon. Our family recipe makes 6 and we do not need that many now.
Several years ago my sisters and I visited Slovakia and dropped in on our distant relative who was making kolache for her daughter’s after school snack. She shared some with us. The filling was nutella and the dough was tender. The best kolache I have ever eaten.
Because our grandparents came to America when they were only making poppyseed and nut kolache filling, we tend to make those varieties…..It was eye openning to see that time had marched on in Slovakia. Since then we have made cheese, sugar and cinnamon, cherry and chocolate, apricot, etc.
I love reading the recipes and ideas that your share.
That’s so wonderful that you got to visit Slovakia and try some new flavors. Nutella would be an amazing filling! I’ve only ever had the poppyseed and the walnut varieties, but I’ve wanted to try cheese kolache for quite some time. Thanks for stopping by to check out my family’s recipe! I’m so glad you liked it 😀
Comparing to various iterations on now unreadable family note cards and black books, this version looks to be simple and straightforward. Could you recommend what the yeast scaling should be for a double or 2.5 batch? I usually make 4 or 5 as gifts.
For a double batch, you just double the yeast, so two packets. I’ve never tried a 2.5 batch, but I imagine it would work with 2.5 packages of yeast. You’ll just have to measure that half packet. I want to say a packet is 2 1/4 tsps, so I’d use 2 packets and 1 heaping teaspoon of a third. You could also just double the batch and make slightly smaller loaves. You’d just have to adjust the bake time slightly. Hope that helps!
Hi, your “ORECHOVNÍK” or “ORECHOVÝ ZÁVIN” ( Nut roll ) looks fantastic. Name for poppy seeds roll are “MAKOVNÍK” or “MAKOVÝ ZÁVIN”.
“KOLÁČE” (kolaches) are generally name for all pastry or some baked goods in Slovakia. And it is plural. One piece is KOLÁČ ( kolach ), more pieces are KOLÁČE ( kolaches ).
Round pastry ( sweet yeast dough) with filling on the top or inside or both in one, are “Moravian or Czech Kolaches” or another region or specific occasion name etc. ( Valašské, Klatovské puťové, Chodské, svadobné koláče, etc. )
Thanks so much for the information 😀 I love learning more about this!
Thank You! This was so helpful in reconstructing my in-laws’ family recipe. I had a photo of the original with the ever helpful “handful of sugar” and “5-10 dekagrams butter” (nice range there…) and no baking instructions at all. And I had an altered version that had lost the milk and egg entirely and been tweaked for high altitude use to boot. I knew this should be an enriched dough so the later version was just… wrong.
In a few more years I might be able to maks something presentable!
I’m so happy that I could help you sort out your family’s recipe! Our own handwritten copy was missing instructions too, but luckily they still remembered the missing bits.
This is not my grandma’s Kolachi.
She called this not roll. Kolachi is a bread with potatoes in it!
Maybe your family is from a different branch of Slovacks
Kolache can vary greatly depending on the region. I’d bet your Grandma is from a different part of Slovakia. Her version of kolache sounds super delicious though!
I haven’t tried your recipe because we have our own treasured family recipe. I thought I’d pass on the secret in ours. It’s lemonnrind instead of cinnamon. It gives it a completely different spin on things. The grated rind of two whole lemons gives quite a zip to things. Yum!
That sounds delicious! I love citrus in general, so I’m sure that tastes wonderful 😀
Because of my love of sweets and having to watch my cholesterol intake I modified this recipe. I used coconut oil in place of butter and soy milk instead of regular milk. They turned out delicious. Thank you for sharing!
That’s wonderful! I’m glad that those switches worked out. I’ve been curious about using non-dairy alternatives more often.
Came out very good but I’m confused by the recipe. It says to divide into 4 doughs but at the bottom it says makes 2. Which is it?
I’m confused. At the beginning you say to divide into 4 loaves, then at the bottom you say makes 2. Which is it?
Thanks for catching that! It’s 2 😀 All fixed.
Thank you for your reply. I made 4 of the nut rolls and even though I should have done only 2, they still were just like my mother’s . Besides, That gave me more to gift to others. Next time I’ll try only 2.
I’m so glad they came out like your mom’s! 4 mini loaves actually sounds like a pretty good idea. Maybe I’ll do that next year 😀
And thank you for letting me know about my typo. So glad I was able to fix that!
Thank goodness your ingredients are similar to that of my great grandma! When my mother was 13 she tried to write down everything her grandma said as she was making them, but the dough portion didn’t make any sense. I truly thought I was doing the technical challenge of the Great British Baking Show!
I’m so glad this recipe was able to help you! My handwritten copies are a bit hard to read, so I was lucky to be able to ask my uncle who is in charge of kolache baking every Christmas. We don’t want to lose these precious family recipes 😀
I had never heard of a kolache until we moved to Texas! It didn’t take long for me to be hooked!! I’m so glad I came across your recipe, it’s absolutely delicious!
I love it 😀
Oh my gosh! I did not know that little secret about scalding the milk! I knew some recipes called for it and I never knew why. Also I call it either a walnut roll or walnut log lol. There’s a Christmas log and pumpkin roll I make hehe. I guess it’s all about where u are in the world lol
The scalding info was new to me too! I love learning why recipes are a certain way. It makes me feel like I’m baking with purpose instead of baking with a blindfold on.
This walnut roll looks delicious. I’m going to give it a try!
It’s so yummy!