My family didn’t have many holiday traditions, at least when it came to food. We did make tamales sometimes, but we only started doing this when I was in my late teens and my brother’s wife made some and shared the recipe.
However, my best friend Jill’s family had many culinary holiday traditions. One of them was a nut roll that was made and served after midnight mass. It is eastern European in origin and goes by many names. The Thomas’s called it Orahnjača, which is the Croatian name. It is an enriched sweet yeast dough that is rolled out thinly and spread with a ground walnut paste. The dough is then rolled up and baked.
The tradition lives on although her grandparents have both since passed away. It’s a lovely reminder and I’m happy the the kids and grandkids continue to make this holiday treat.
The original recipe is not vegan, but can be made so with a few substitutions. This is a very rich bread with lots of sugar and fat and takes several hours to make. No wonder it’s a holiday treat. It is fun to make, particularly if you have family and friends to help. Although Gram would prefer the traditional egg and dairy version, I’m glad I can continue to enjoy this lovely bread that reminds me of her kindness and love.
This recipe will make two loaves.
Vegan Nut Roll (Orahnjača)
A vegan version of a traditional holiday nut roll.
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. Add the sugar, salt, butter, sour cream, egg substitute and mix well. Add 3 cups flour. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).
Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, egg substitute, vanilla and cinnamon. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture reaches 160° or is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from the heat; gently stir in walnuts and apple. Cool completely.
Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into two portions. Roll each into a 12-in. x 10-in. rectangle. Spread filling to within 1/2 in. of edges. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seams to seal. Place seam side down on parchment lined baking sheets. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.
Bake at 350° for 30-40 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.