Kalács-Hungarian Nut Roll brings back so many childhood Christmas memories. This is my Hungarian aunt’s recipe and Christmas is not the same without it. This recipe yields four rolls, so you can gift them to people you love.
I’m finally finding the time to catch up on a few recipes I made in these last months. This kalács (Hungarian nut roll)recipe is a favorite of mine and I’m not sure why it took me so long to share it here with all of you.
Originally published April 14, 2013 and updated January 3, 2021. This is a very special Hungarian sweet yeast holiday nut roll. Today is the anniversary of my Sicilian dad's passing. He just loved it when Mariskaneni would bake this for us at Christmas time. I finally updated the photos and couldn't want to share again with all of you. In Hungarian it is called karácsonyi kalács (Christmas kalacs).
In Trieste, Italy (which is in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region) they make a Gubana, which is so similar to a Hungarian nut roll (I will share that very soon!). In Trieste, there are recipes that are found in Hungary (due to it once belonging to the Austro-Hungarian Empire). For example, my plum gnocchi from Trieste can be found in Hungary.
Everyone has certain memories of the holidays. Most may be filled with special cakes or cookies. This is a recipe that transforms me back to Christmas Eve every time we bake it. My sweet Mariskaneni (my mom’s aunt from Hungary) would greet us at her house with her kalács and other Hungarian treats and we would open a present and enjoy a relaxing evening together.
Mariskaneni made them with her incredible walnut-raisin filling and also with poppy seeds. I have to say I enjoyed both fillings equally. If there wasn’t kalács or kifli it wasn’t Christmas.
And now it’s the same at my house at holiday time. The kids remind me after the cookie baking frenzy is over that it’s time to make our special Hungarian rolls.
Kalács is a Hungarian rolled yeast dough filled with walnut or poppy seeds. It is a traditional holiday recipe that is enjoyed on most Hungarian homes during Christmas even Easter.
It is not as difficult to make as you may imagine! It is very easy to prepare and everyone will love it. This Christmas I shipped some to my cousins in Ohio and my aunt in Miami. I made some for my next door neighbors and my brother. I made this recipe about 4 times in the span of 2 weeks.
Very important note so the dough will not break open on top is to make sure you do not add all the flour at once. You have to take your time to make this dough. And your baking environment will affect how the dough turns out. My kitchen is sometimes a bit humid or just hot.
When I'm adding the last amount of flour, I stop the mixer and check my dough texture. I may end up needing a little bit more as it's still sticky, so I add it in one tablespoon at a time.
The same thing should be done if you're making the dough by hand. You will get to know the dough better each time you bake it. Also important to note, the egg yolks and sour cream (or coconut milk yogurt, if you're dairy free)should be at room temperature.
This is a holiday recipe that has become a tradition to prepare in our home. My mother remembers eating it as a little girl in Hungary during the holidays when her mom made it. We now bake it together with my kids. I know one day they will carry on the tradition of keeping a little bit of their Hungarian culture alive in their families.
I have my Mariskaneni's original recipe written entirely in Hungarian. As it is with very old recipes, and translating it to English, it was a little hard to follow. I found a NY Times recipe (by the famous food author and journalist Molly O'Neill, whom has since passed) and mom said it's practically same as Mariskaneni's, so I used that as my guide.
Mariskaneni used to make her dough completely by hand and that is fine if you prefer working out your arms. She then started to use her mixer. I like to use my mixer with the dough hook attached. But feel free to make the dough by hand.
What ingredients are in a Kalács-Hungarian Nut Roll?
For the dough:
- milk (I use unsweetened almond milk for my dairy-free family members)
- unsalted butter (I use margarine)
- lemon zest
- egg yolks
- sour cream (I use unsweetened coconut or almond milk yogurt)
For the filling:
- walnuts (you could sub hazelnuts or pecans if you need to, or a combo)
- brandy (or other liqueur or orange juice)
- milk (I use unsweetened almond milk)
- egg white
How to make Hungarian nut roll?
To make the dough, heat the milk in a saucepan until lukewarm. Pour the milk into the bowl of a mixer. Add the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar and let it become very foamy, about 10 minutes. Beat in the butter and the egg yolks one at a time until combined. Mix in the remaining 5 Tablespoons of sugar, lemon zest and sour cream and beat until combined.
Slowly add in the flour one cup at a time. Mix together on medium-low speed stopping the machine to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Slowly add the rest of the flour and mix until combined.
Stop the machine as you add each cup of the flour to scrape the sides of the bowl and incorporate the flour. Mix on low speed until dough is incorporated. The dough should be soft and supple. IF you find the dough to still be sticky, Add flour if needed 1 Tablespoon at a time until it is nice and soft.
Take dough out of the mixer and form the dough into a ball. Place into a bowl oiled with vegetable oil (when I put the dough in the bowl I swish the dough around the bottom of the bowl and then flip it over so all of the dough is covered in a light film of oil).
Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in size (about 1-1 1/2 hours).
To make the filling:
Gather all your ingredients.
In a small bowl, mix together the ground walnuts, sugar, chopped raisins, brandy and milk until combined; set aside.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Divide the dough into 4 balls. Start with first ball of dough and cover rest of dough with a towel so they don't dry out.
On a floured surface, roll out the first ball into a 9-by-13-inch rectangle. Spread 1/4 of the walnut mixture evenly over it and roll it up into a 13-inch-long log.
Be sure to leave a bit of edge around the dough without filling.
Dab some egg white along the seam and place the log seam side down onto a well-buttered 9-by-13-inch pan. Repeat with the remaining dough.
I switched the placement of the these logs to go side by side lengthwise. I just took a quick photo to show you the rolled logs.
Cover and let rise for 45 minutes.
Brush the whole beaten egg over the tops of the loaves. Bake until lightly browned, about 45 minutes.
Transfer loaves to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. If you like, dust with confectioner’s sugar. Slice and serve warm or at room temperature.
Mom says no dusting of confectioner's sugar. She says that is only to hide any imperfections of the dough or the nuts peeking out. You could do however you please.
Happy Baking! xo Lora
Some other holiday recipes to enjoy:
Slight adaptations to the recipe of Hungarian grandmother Olga, that the author Molly O'Neill featured in the NY Times in 1998.
Kalács-Rolled Walnut Bread
- For the dough:
- ½ cup milk*
- 2 packages 4 1/2 teaspoons yeast
- ½ teaspoon plus 5 tablespoons sugar
- 4 cups flour sifted, plus more for the work surface
- 1 cup 2 sticks unsalted butter*, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 5 large egg yolks room temperature
- ¼ cup sour cream* room temperature
- For the filling:
- 1 ½ pounds walnuts finely ground
- 1 cup sugar
- ⅔ cup raisins chopped
- 2 Tbsp. brandy or other liqueur, or orange juice is fine
- ⅓ cup warm milk*
- 1 large egg white beaten, to seal the edges
- 1 whole egg beaten, for egg wash
- To make the dough, heat the milk in a saucepan until lukewarm. Pour the milk into the bowl of a mixer. Add the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar and let it become very foamy, about 10 minutes. Beat in the butter and the egg yolks one at a time until combined. Mix in the remaining 5 Tablespoons of sugar, lemon zest and sour cream and beat until combined.
- *You could make the entire dough by hand by mixing the ingredients with a wooden spoon and then working the dough with your clean hands. It is a good warm workout. If doing by hand knead until the dough is smooth and doesn’t stick to your hands anymore. Then follow rest of the directions.
- Slowly add in the flour one cup at a time. Mix together on medium-low speed stopping the machine to scrape down the sides of the bowl and incorporate the flour. Slowly add the rest of the flour and mix until combined. Stop the machine as you add each cup of the flour to scrape the sides of the bowl and incorporate the flour. Mix on low speed until dough is incorporated. The dough should be soft and supple. If it is still a bit sticky, add flour 1 Tablespoon at a time.
- Take dough out of the mixer and form the dough into a ball. Place into a bowl oiled with vegetable oil (when I put the dough in the bowl I swish the dough around the bottom of the bowl and then flip it over so all of the dough is covered in a light film of oil).
- Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in size (about 1-1 1/2 hours).
- To make the filling: In a small bowl, mix together the walnuts, sugar, raisins, brandy and milk until fully combined and all the ingredients are incorporated together; set aside.
- Assemble rolls:
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or silicone baking mats).
- Preheat oven to 325F degrees. Divide the dough into 4 balls. On a lightly floured (clean) surface (only flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking), roll out the first ball into a 9-by-13-inch rectangle. Cover remaining dough with a towel while you roll each one out, otherwise the dough will dry out.
- Spread one-fourth of the filling to within ½-inch of the edges. Be sure to leave a bit of edge around the dough without filling. Roll up with the longer side in front of you, and pinch the seams shut using a little bit of the egg white to seal the dough together.
- Place the log seam side down on the prepared baking sheets, 2 rolls per sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap.
- Repeat with the remaining dough. Cover and let rise for 45 minutes. You could make 2 very large rolls or 4 smaller rolls if you divide the dough into 4 even portions.
- Brush the whole beaten egg over the tops of the loaves.
- Bake on 325F one pan at a time. Bake until lightly browned, about 40-45 minutes. Transfer loaves to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Optional: Dust with confectioner’s sugar.
- Slice and serve warm or at room temperature.
Please keep in mind that the nutritional information presented below is an approximation and may vary depending on the exact ingredients used.
To freeze: The nut roll can be frozen by wrapping in plastic wrap, then again in foil, and stored in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Thaw at room temperature.