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Sweet Walnut Roll known as “Cozonac cu Nuca” is a traditional Romanian sweet bread made with raisins and walnuts or pecans enjoyed at Christmas and Easter.
The Best Walnut Roll Recipe
This Walnut Roll is one of my favorite Romanian recipes and it’s such a classic. This walnut roll surely is a treat. This is such a traditional Romanian “dessert” that we always make for the holidays and we call it “cozonac cu nuca“. It’s a crowd pleaser and although this recipe makes 3 rolls, there is never enough!
I don’t think there’s a Christmas or Easter that goes by and this nut roll isn’t on the table. It truly is a favorite, and everyone just loves it. This is another recipe I shared with you a very long time ago and I’m reposting because it’s one of my favorites. If I had to pick 10 recipes from my blog that are my favorite, this recipe will be at the top.
I have to give credit to my mother in law for this “cozonac cu nuca” and while I may be a bit biased, I’ll go as far as saying that this is the best walnut roll recipe ever!
Why You’ll Love This Walnut Roll
- Easy Recipe! With the help of a stand mixer, the dough is really easy to make and form into loaves. You don’t need any fancy ingredients or a lot of bread making experience to make this recipe.
- Authentic Flavor! This classic Romanian sweet bread filled with rum soaked raisins and a walnut filling is absolutely delicious. It bakes up perfectly golden brown with a lovely soft texture.
- Perfect For Holidays! Your family will love this special recipe around the holidays. Walnut rolls are typically enjoyed around Christmas and Easter in Romania.
- Raisins – An important ingredient that makes the bread along with the nuts.
- Rum – I usually use dark rum, but both dark and light rum are delicious choices.
- Active Dry Yeast – Make sure to check the expiration date on your yeast. It’s what makes the bread rise in the oven.
- Water – You need warm water for this recipe.
- Milk – Any type of milk will work including plant-based varieties. Ideally, use room temperature milk.
- Butter – Always use unsalted butter to control the amount of added salt. The butter will be melted in this recipe.
- Lemon Zest – Adds a hint of acid that enhances all the flavors. You can also add a bit of orange zest.
- Sugar – White granulated sugar is used to sweeten the walnut roll.
- Flour – Simple all-purpose flour is all you need.
- Eggs – The large eggs need to be separated and should be at room temperature.
- Vanilla – Use pure vanilla extract for the best flavor.
- Nuts – Walnuts or pecans work best. You can also use a mixture of the two. I love to use pecans but traditionally walnuts are used.
- Sugar – White sugar adds a bit of sweetness to the filling.
- Cocoa Powder – Dutch process cocoa powder is the best choice if you have it on hand. It adds the best chocolate flavor to the nut roll recipe. You can also add a pinch of cinnamon if you like.
- Oil – Oil is used in place of flour to ensure that the dough doesn’t stick when being rolled out.
- Egg – Used to make an egg wash that gives the bread a lovely shine.
- Sugar – It’s an optional ingredient used to sprinkle on the bread before it goes into the oven.
This recipe may look complicated, but it’s actually pretty easy! The mixer does most of the hard work and the dough is really easy to fill and form into loaves. All you have to do is follow these easy steps that I’ve outlined for you here.
To begin, the raisins need time to soak up the rum. So add the raisins to a small bowl and then cover them with the rum. Then allow the raisins to sit in the rum to plump up while you continue on with the recipe.
Now, in a separate bowl, you need to bloom the yeast. To do this, stir the yeast and warm water together and then let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes undisturbed to activate. The yeast should foam up and be bubbly. If it doesn’t, don’t move forward with the recipe. It means that your yeast is dead and your bread will not rise.
Next, add the milk, butter, lemon zest, and sugar to a saucepan. Then heat the mixture over medium-low heat just until the butter melts while string with a wooden spoon. You do not want to boil it or it will kill the yeast. You just need to dissolve the sugar.
Now, you can drain the raisins if you wish, but I add them with the rum and all to the mixer bowl. Then add the flour, 5 egg yolks, vanilla extract, milk mixture, yeast mixture, and raisins to the bowl of your stand mixer. Then use the dough hook to mix everything together for about 5 minutes on medium speed. When the dough is ready there should be no bits of flour and it should come off the sides of the bowl. It’s a very sticky soft dough, so the more you mix it the fluffier it will be.
After the dough is made it needs time to rise. Form the dough into a smooth ball and then place it into a large bowl that has been greased with one tablespoon of oil. Then rub another tablespoon of oil over the dough. Now, cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and then set it in a warm, draft free environment until the dough doubles in size. It normally takes the dough 1 to 2 hours to rise.
After the dough has been rising for a bit, grease 3 loaf pans that are 12 x 4.5 x 3 inches. You can also use the regular smaller loaf pans too if you prefer. The most important thing is that you grease them well so that the bread doesn’t stick.
Make the filling while the dough is rising. Add the nuts to a food processor and pulse a few times until they are finely ground. Then add the sugar and cocoa powder and pulse a few more times until everything is well incorporated.
Now, whip the egg whites in the bowl of your stand mixer until stiff peaks form. Next, gently fold the nut mixture into the egg whites. Then place the filling in the fridge for a later step.
Once the dough has doubled in size, divide it into 3 equal portions. Then oil a clean work surface to roll out the dough. In this case, we won’t be using a floured surface. Next, use a rolling pin to roll out one piece of the dough into a rectangle that is about ½ inch in thickness and the width of your loaf pan.
Now, spread ⅓ of the nut mixture over the dough, roll it up jelly style, and place it in the pan seam side down. Then repeat the process with the other 2 pieces of dough.
You can also divide each of the 3 equal portions into 2 pieces and roll out each piece and spread walnut mixture over it and roll it. Then take the two rolls and twist them and place the twist into the prepared pan. You can also get creative making these, you can make them round or sometimes I’ll braid them in 3, sometimes when I’m feeling brave I’ll braid them in 6 and they turn out gorgeous. The thing is, that no matter how you shape them, the end result is divine.
Now that the rolls are formed, they need to rise before being baked. Cover the loaf pans with a clean kitchen towel or plastic bag. Then place the pans in a warm, draft free environment for 25 to 30 minutes or until the rolls have doubled in size.
While the loaves are rising, preheat your oven temperature to 350°F (177°C) to get it ready for baking. Then once the rolls have doubled in size, brush each one with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Adding the sugar is optional but yummy.
When the oven is fully preheated, put the walnut rolls in to bake for 35 to 45 minutes. When done, the top will be golden brown in color and a toothpick inserted into the middle will come out clean.
After you remove the loaves from the oven, allow them to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Next, run a knife around the edges of the pan to ensure the bread didn’t stick. Then remove the loaves and put them on a wire cooling rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.
Is There A Way To Speed Up The Dough Rise Time?
Yes, it is possible to speed up the dough’s rising time. Just heat your oven to 200°F (95°C) and then turn it off once the dough is ready. Now, place the dough in the oven with the door closed. The warm environment will encourage the dough to rise fairly quickly.
Can These Walnut Rolls Be Made With Instant Yeast?
Yes, they can. However, instant yeast doesn’t need to be activated, so you can just add it in with the flour. However, you will need to add the ¼ cup of water in the recipe so that the ratios remain the same.
- Check the date on your yeast. The number one reason that bread recipes fail is due to old expired yeast. If your yeast doesn’t bubble and foam up it won’t work.
- Warm water is a must. If the water is too cold the yeast will not bloom. If it’s too hot it will kill it. It’s really important that you use warm water to activate the yeast.
- Use room-temperature milk and eggs. Take the eggs and milk out of the fridge an hour before you start the recipe. This helps the dough to properly emulsify and come together.
- Don’t overwork your dough. Rolling and rerolling the dough will push the air out and result in tough bread. So when rolling out the dough, try to do it just once.
These walnut rolls (Cozonac Cu Nuca) will keep at room temperature for up to 4 days in a container, bag, or covered with aluminum foil. You can also store them in the freezer for up to 3 months in a sealed bag or wrapped really well in plastic wrap. Then when ready to eat, just allow the rolls to thaw out at room temperature for a few hours and rewarm them at 300°F(149°C) for 10 minutes.
Other Delicious Romanian Recipes To Try
- Romanian Meatball Soup (Ciorba de Perisoare)
- Stuffed Peppers (Ardei Umpluti)
- Romanian Meatballs (Chiftele)
- Cabbage Rolls (Sarmale)
- Traditional Romanian Polenta (Mamaliga cu Branza in Paturi)
- White Bean Dip
- Add the raisins to a small bowl and pour the rum over them. Let the raisins soak up the rum and plump up while preparing everything else.
- In another bowl add the yeast and warm water, stir it a bit and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes to activate. The yeast should bubble up. If you don’t see it bubble up, then the yeast is old. Do not proceed because your bread will not rise.
- In a sauce pan add the milk, butter, lemon zest and sugar. Heat it over medium-low heat just until the butter melts and the sugar is dissolved. Do not boil it, it just needs to be hot. If it gets too hot it can kill the yeast.
- Drain the raisins. To the bowl of your mixer add the flour, the 5 egg yolks, vanilla extract, the milk mixture, yeast mixture and raisins. Using the dough hook mix everything for about 5 minutes until everything is well blended together and the dough should come off the sides of the bowl. The dough will be a softer dough and somewhat sticky to your hands. The more you mix the dough the fluffier it will be.
- Take a large bowl and oil it with about 1 tablespoons of the vegetable oil. Place the dough in the bowl and use the other tbsp of vegetable oil to rub over the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft free environment. Let the dough rise until it doubles in size, could take 1 to 2 hours.
- Great 3 loaf pans with oil or butter. My loaf pans are 12 x 4.5 x 3 inches, but the regular smaller loaf pans work just as well.
Make The Filling
- While the dough is rising add the walnuts or pecans to a food processor and pulse a few times until the nuts are finely ground. Add the sugar and cocoa powder to the processor and pulse a few more times until everything is well incorporated.
- In the bowl of your mixer add the egg whites and mix until stiff peaks form. Fold in the nut mixture. Place this in the fridge until ready to use.
Assemble The Rolls
- Once the dough has doubled in size, divide it in 3 equal pieces. On a big surface where you can work the dough, oil the surface, we will not use flour here, I find that oil works better. Take one piece and roll it out using a rolling pin, into a rectangle that's about 1/2 inch in thickness and the width of your loaf pans. Spread about 1/3 of the nut mixture over the dough. then roll it up jelly style. Place the roll in the prepared loaf pan. Repeat with remaining dough pieces.
- Cover the loaf pans with a clean damp kitchen towel, place in a warm, draft free environment and let the loaves rest until doubled in size.
Bake The Rolls
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Place the loaves in the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown. To test if they are done inside, insert a toothpick into the center and if it comes out clean the loaves are done.
- Let the loaves cool for about 10 minutes in the loaf pans. Run a knife around the edges of the loaves, to make sure they didn’t stick, then remove the loaves from the loaf pans, transfer them to a wire rack and let them cool completely before slicing into them and serving.
- The rum in this recipe can be replaced by whatever is more convenient to you. For example: brandy, whiskey, or bourbon would also work.
- If you wouldn’t like to use alcohol at all, you can plump the raisins up in juice or some water.
- To make the dough rise faster and create that warm, draft free environment for the dough to rise in, I usually turn the oven on to 200 F degrees, turn it off, then place the dough in the oven with the door closed.
- Once the loaves have cooled completely, I usually wrap them in plastic wrap and store them just on the counter for up to 4 days. You can also place them in the refrigerator. You can also freeze them, just make sure they are tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and you can freeze them for up to a month.
- This recipe will yield 3 loaves.
Notice: Nutrition is auto-calculated for your convenience. Where relevant, we recommend using your own nutrition calculations.