Favourites / Old Country Recipes

Orehnjača (Croatian Walnut Roll)

Lo and behold, another dough to roll. This time I’ve upped my game and added yeast into mix to make a very traditional Croatian walnut cake.

Tips when working with yeast:

When working with yeast, there are a few things you need to know. First of all, all ingredients much be room temperature because anything too hot or too cold will kill the yeast. Salt is another thing that kills it, and thus yeast should never directly touch salt (you’ll see that in this recipe, it’s important to stir the salt well into the flour before we add the yeast). If you’ve rolled out the dough and it insists on shrinking back, it means that you haven’t given it enough time to rise. It would be too late to fix the problem at this point, but keep it in mind for future reference.

This recipe is courtesy of a very dear family friend, Baka Milka from Virovitica, Croatia.

I’m going to divide this recipe into 3 parts. Since each is prepared separately, this makes it a bit easier to follow.


Yeast Mixture

300 ml whole milk (about 1 ½ cup)

1 tsp all-purpose flour

1 tsp sugar

40 grams of fresh yeast (or 1 package active dry yeast– 7 grams)


500 grams of all-purpose flour (4 cups)

80 grams sugar (1/2 cup)

pinch of salt

zest of 1 lemon

3 egg yolks

80 grams melted butter (1/3 cup)

Walnut Filling

200 grams sugar (1 cup)

400 grams ground walnuts (5 ½ cups) –I increase this to 600 grams because I like it extra walnuty

200 ml milk (3/4 cup)


Yeast Mixture

Warm the milk until it is lukewarm. (not too hot, not too cold)

Into the milk, add 1 tsp of sugar and 1 tsp of all-purpose flour. Stir. Crumble the fresh yeast into the mixture; don’t stir. Put it aside until it rises (it will form a thick layer on the top) –an approximate 10-20 minutes, depending on the temperature of the room.


In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, a pinch of salt, and the zest of half a lemon.

Warm up the butter so that it’s just melted (again, lukewarm, not hot!) and place 3 whole eggs into warm water to bring them to room temperature.

When the yeast has risen, pour the melted butter into the flour. Separate the egg yolks from egg whites and add the yolks in as well (you won’t be needing the egg whites). Finally, add the yeast mixture into the flour and stir with a wooden spoon.

When it’s combined, knead it into dough until it no longer sticks to the sides of the dish, about 7-8 minutes. When you’ve finished, set the bowl aside in a warm place (usually room temperature is fine, but somewhere near the oven is best), cover it with a cloth, and leave it until it has doubled in size; about 45-60 minutes.

Walnut Filling

As the dough is rising, prepare the walnut mixture. Combine the sugar and walnuts in a dish. Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan; when it begins to boil, take it off the stove and mix it into the ground walnuts and sugar. Stir it well and then leave it to cool.

Putting it all together

When the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 350F (175C)

Lay out a clean tablecloth on which you can roll it. Sprinkle it with flour, and gently place the dough onto it. Stretch it out slightly and form it into a rectangle. Gently roll it with a rolling pin until it is about a ¼ inch in thickness.

Spoon the entire walnut mixture onto it and spread it as evenly as possible, leaving about a 1” perimeter. Roll it (lengthwise), using the tablecloth.

Grease (with vegetable oil) a pan using your fingertips. When it’s coated (but not enough to drip), transfer the rolls onto it. If the roll is too big to fit onto the pan, cut it in half using a serrated knife. Brush the top and sides of the roll with vegetable oil.

Leave the rolls in the pan without touching them for another 10 minutes before you put them in the oven. It will rise a little bit more. After 10 minutes, put it into the preheated oven and bake until it’s golden brown, about 45 minutes. (If you feel that the top is browning too quickly and inconsistently with the rest of the roll, cover the top with tin foil and let it finish baking).

When you take it out of the oven, wrap it in the tablecloth you used to roll it on (on the non-floured side) and let it cool.

 Dobar Tek!

9 thoughts on “Orehnjača (Croatian Walnut Roll)

  1. Love the old school nut grinder! My mom still uses one; I now use a food processor, but if I could get my hands on one of those I would definitely snatch it up.

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