Gluten-Free Serbian/Croatian Nut Rolls Recipe

Gluten-Free Croatian Nut Roll Recipe Image Teri Gruss
Gluten-Free Croatian Nut Roll. © 2013 Teri Gruss
  • 105 mins
  • Prep: 75 mins,
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Yield: 1 15-inch roll (14-16 servings)
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Our accomplished Eastern European Food Expert, Barbara Rolek recently contacted me to ask if I could develop a gluten-free version of her very popular Serbian / Croatian Nut Roll recipe.

Barbara defines Eastern European Food as "the culinary and cultural traditions of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine."

When I think of the cuisine of the Eastern European countries, delicious traditional baked goods are the first food visions that come to my mind. That's why I am so excited to develop some gluten-free versions of classic Eastern European recipes, like Barbara's Serbian / Croatian Nut Roll for our readers.

I am happy with how my gluten-free version of this recipe turned out. The recipe calls for simple gluten-free ingredients that should be easy for most cooks to find at their local grocery.

Any baker who's worked with gluten-free yeast breads before understands the challenges inherent in coaxing gluten-free flours and starches into free-form shapes without the stretchy, expandable nature of gluten in the mix.

As you can see, our gluten-free nut roll, rolled up jelly-roll style and baked free form on a large baking sheet held its' shape nicely. This recipe doesn't require a special baking pan for structural support like other gluten-free yeast breads do. The nut roll freezes beautifully and best of all, this is a delicious and attractive gluten-free sweet roll recipe.

As always with gluten-free baking recipes, I highly recommend using the exact ingredients specified in the recipe, weighing the flours and starches instead of using measuring cups and using both guar gum and xanthan gum for their synergistic properties.

The ideal tool for mixing gluten-free dough is a stand mixer with a paddle attachment - not a dough hook. If you don't have a stand mixer, use a powerful electric hand mixer.

What You'll Need

  • For the Nut Filling:
  • 6 ounces walnuts (finely ground)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup cane sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tablespoons butter (preferably salted)
  • For the Dough:
  • 2 large eggs (at room temperature, separate whites from yolks one yolk used in sour cream mixture and one for egg wash to brush on nut roll before baking)
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (can substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (most commercial brands - 1 packet equal 2 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1 cup/128 grams brown rice flour (Bob's Red Mill used)
  • 1/2 cup/74 grams sorghum flour (sweet white, Bob's Red Mill used)
  • 1/2 cup/62 grams tapioca flour (Now Foods brand used)
  • 1/4 cup/42 grams potato starch (not flour - Frontier Coop brand used)
  • 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 3/4 teaspoon guar gum
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup flour (or as needed, for dusting surface to roll dough)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon warm water

How to Make It

To prepare filling:

  1. Put nuts in a food process and pulse for about 15 seconds or until nuts are finely ground and have the texture of sawdust.
  2. Place the ground nuts, milk, sugar, egg and butter in a heavy saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium-high heat until it begins to bubble. Stir constantly to avoid scorching. Lower heat to medium-low and continue to cook and stir for about 3 more minutes or until the mixture is thick and bubbling. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

    To prepare dough:

    1. Separate egg whites from yolks. Place egg whites in a large mixing bowl. Put one yolk in a heavy saucepan. Place the remaining egg yolk in a small bowl to be used in the egg wash.
    2. Add 4 tablespoons milk, sour cream, butter and sugar to the saucepan with the egg yolk. Stir to blend and cook over medium-high heat, constantly stirring until mixture just begins to boil. Remove from heat. When the mixture is lukewarm, sprinkle dry yeast over the top and let sit for about 5 minutes. If the mixture is too hot, it will kill the yeast!
    3. For the very best results use an accurate kitchen scale to weigh rice flour, tapioca, sorghum flour and potato starch. Add xanthan and guar gum, salt, and baking soda. Whisk to blend dry ingredients.
    4. Beat egg whites in mixing bowl on high until frothy but not stiff. Add dry ingredients and then the lukewarm wet mixture. Beat on high for about 4 minutes. The dough should be stiff and will form a slightly sticky ball when removed from the mixing bowl.

    To assemble the nut roll:

    1. Scrape the dough onto a large cutting board that is lightly dusted with gluten-free flour. You can use any of your gluten-free flours for this. Shape the dough into a rectangle log. Dust a rolling pin and roll the dough evenly until it is 1/4-inch thick and forms a 15 by 10-inch rectangle. Be careful not to roll the dough too thin as this can cause cracking during baking. See Cook's Note below.
    2. Use a spatula to evenly spread the cooled nut mixture on the dough, leaving about 1/2-inch uncovered on all sides. Roll up jelly roll style starting at the long side closest to you. Roll gently and evenly until to the opposite edge.
    3. Lightly press in on the seam. Carefully transfer the log to a large baking sheet covered with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Place the seam side down and use your hands to even up the dough on the pan.
    4. Preheat oven to 350° F / 176° C. Cover the nut roll lightly with plastic wrap and place the baking sheet in a warm location. Let the roll rise for about 1 1/2 hours. Add 1 tablespoon warm water to the reserved egg yolk. Whisk with a fork. Brush evening over the nut roll. Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes until golden brown. Cool before cutting into 1 or 2-inch slices.
    5. When completely cool the nut roll can be tightly wrapped and frozen.

    Cook's Note:

    Sometimes nut rolls crack in the oven. While many cooks aren't bothered by this and find it adds to the homemade quality of nut rolls, cracks and splits can be annoying. To avoid baking nut rolls that crack, make sure not to roll your dough out too thin and also make sure your oven temperature is accurate. Thinly rolled dough and overly hot ovens are the primary cause of nut rolls splitting or cracking during baking.