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.
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 around 7 years 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 recipe and while I may be a bit biased, I’ll go as far as saying that this is the best walnut roll recipe ever! However, all Romanian recipes I’ve received from my mother or mother in law, I’ve had to pretty much reinvent myself. Not the ingredients, but simply the instructions.
For some reason, Romanians love to complicate things, especially when it comes to recipes. After many trials and errors, I finally have the perfect recipe. Trust me when I say, you will not regret taking the time to make this.
How to Make Walnut Roll
As with any recipe, the key to making this as easy as possible is to prepare all the ingredients ahead of time. I usually start by coming all the wet ingredients together, the butter, milk, sugar and lemon zest. You have to heat these up until the butter melts. Do not bring it to a boil. If it does start to boil, let it cool completely, otherwise it will kill your yeast.
At the same time you should also activate your yeast, by placing it in a bit of warm water. If it starts to bubble up then your yeast is good, otherwise, I would not continue making this recipe. You could try adding a bit of sugar and see if that helps, but if nothing is happening, do not continue.
Combine all the dry ingredients together, then simply add all the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix everything together for a few minutes. The dough will be sticky but should come cleanly off the side of the bowl.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl and let it rise until doubled in size.
How to Make Filling for Walnut Roll
The filling is my favorite part of this walnut roll. It’s also super simple to make. All you need are walnuts or pecans that are finely chopped, the egg whites, cocoa powder and sugar. Sometimes I even double the filling recipe because I love it so much.
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form then fold in the rest of the ingredients.
How to Assemble Walnut Rolls
This recipe will make three rolls. Start by cutting the dough into three equal pieces. Simply roll out each piece of dough as though you were making cinnamon rolls, then spread a third of the filling over the rolls. Roll it up jelly roll style.
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.
Place them in greased loaf pans and let them rise until doubled in size again.
How to Bake Walnut Rolls
Because they’re in loaf pans, they will all fit in the oven at once. Bake them at 350 F degrees for about 45 minutes. The time will vary since all ovens are different. I usually test for doneness by inserting a long skewer into the center of each loaf. If it comes out clean, it’s done.
Not only do they look gorgeous, but they taste absolutely amazing. They’re not really sweet at all, but really nutty, they’re light and fluffy and they go great as a snack. My favorite way to enjoy this is with my morning cup of coffee or a glass of cold milk. Nothing beats that!
Hungry for More Romanian Recipes? Try These:
- Romanian Meatball Soup (Ciorba de Perisoare)
- Stuffed Peppers (Ardei Umpluti)
- Romanian Meatballs (Chiftele)
- Cabbage Rolls (Sarmale)
- Traditional Romanian Polenta (Mamaliga cu Branza in Paturi)
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Walnut Roll (Cozonac cu Nuca)
- 8 oz walnuts or pecans
- 5 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 egg beaten, for egg wash
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 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 tbsp 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.
- 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.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees.
- 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.
- 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.