Walnut & Cinnamon Wreath

Walnut pastries, rolls, strudels, cakes and (you name it) all kinds of baked goods filled with walnut filling are an inherent part of a Slovak sweet culinary tradition. The abundance of walnuts and walnut trees growing in backyards and gardens behind the houses (both of my grandmas had at least one huge walnut tree in their gardens) make this nut a preference in many sweet recipes

I remember that when I was a child I really didn’t like a fall harvest season when we were picking-up nuts from under the trees for hours and then manually, one-by-one, breaking hard shells and taking the walnut seeds out. My hands and fingers would be stained for the days after because of the juice that fresh nuts release. I remember eating fresh white nuts out of a shell that would have a butter-like taste. Fresh nuts were then spread on top of the clean white cloth and left to dry out completely. After that, we would store them in huge glass mason jars in pantries, saved for winter bakes. You can learn more about walnuts, its harvest, storing and culinary use in this great article I found (in english)

The recipe below is one of the many ways to use walnuts in our traditional pastries and besides the wreath the pastry can be made in a form of a strudel. I decided to make a wreath out of it to give it a little more decorative and festive look. Cinnamon was not always added to the filling as it was more of a special and exotic spice back in days that was available only during the big holidays like Christmas. I hope that you try this traditional recipe and will be very happy if you let me know in the comments below if you made your own Walnut wreath, how it went and how you liked it


INGREDIENTS

(makes 1 big Walnut Wreath)

Dough

380g Flour, AP

60g Sugar, white

8g Active Dry Yeasts

1 Egg, whole

1 Egg Yolk

200-220g Milk

60g Butter, unsalted

A pinch of Salt

Filling

~ 200g Walnuts, finely ground

80-100g Sugar, white or brown

150g Milk

1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon

1 Tablespoon Rum, optional

Lemon Zest from 1/2 Lemon, optional


METHOD

1. In a smaller bowl warm-up 100g of Milk with 20g of Sugar (in the microwave or on the stovetop). The mixture should be warm enough for the sugar to dissolve but it shouldn’t be boiling. Once warm, add 8g of Active Dry Yeasts (or ~ 20g Fresh Yeasts) and mix until dissolved (dry yeasts won’t dissolve right away, they will float on the top of the milk). Cover the bowl with a clean towel/ beeswax wrap/ clean plate and let it sit to activate at room temperature for 10-15 minutes

2. In the meantime, in a bowl of your standing mixer or a bigger mixing bowl mix together 380g of Flour, rest 40g of Sugar, a pinch of Salt, and Lemon Zest. Once mixed, pour in the rest 100g of Milk, crack in 1 whole Egg and 1 Egg Yolk, chop in all 60g of softened Butter at once and pour in the Yeast-mixture that now should be frothy and bubbly with a strong yeasty smell. Start kneading slowly either with your hand or with a mixer using a hook attachment. The total kneading time should be around 8-10 minutes. The dough must be well incorporated, hold nicely together with no flour on the bottom of the bowl and without sticking to the sides of the bowl. Try to resist adding unnecessary flour if the dough feels wet & sticky. The longer you knead the dough, the less sticky it will be (with kneading you’re developing gluten and strenghtening the dough). If the dough is still wet (sticking to your hands) even after 8-10 minutes of kneading, add more flour. If the dough is too dry (not elastic and stretchable), add more milk and/ or butter. Once the dough is the well-kneaded cover it so it won’t dry out and place it in a warm place for 1 – 1.5 hours or until double in size

3. While the dough rests, prepare the filling. To make a Walnut filling, simply combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl – 200g of ground Walnuts, 80-100g of Sugar, 1/2 Teaspoon of Cinnamon and Lemon Zest. Once mixed, start pouring 150g of hot (boiling) Milk into dry ingredients little by little. You want to get a consistency of a thick paste that holds on your spoon. If you add too much milk at once you might end up with “soupy” filling that’s too runny (if that happens then simply cook the whole mixture in a smaller pot to evaporate some milk). Let the filling cool down before using it. The amount of milk used depends very much on how finely your walnuts are ground – the finer, the more milk they’ll absorb

4. Once the dough doubled its size take it out from the bowl and dust your work desk slightly with some flour. Start rolling the dough out into a rectangle-shape thick approximately 4-5mm. Spread your walnut filling evenly everywhere on the whole surface of the dough, spreading almost all the way to the edges

5. Once all the filling is spread, start rolling your dough slowly and tightly from one side all the way to another until you’ll get a nice roll. Cut your roll lengthwise into 2 equal-size coils, separating all layers. Now braid your coils just like when you’re braiding a Babka – one coil over another, alternating right coil over left (with the filling facing up) repeating all the way to the end. Then connect two ends of the braided tail to make a wreath. Transfer your wreath carefully on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and let it prove/rise for a second time, covered with a clean towel for some 30-45 minutes

6. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F and bake your Walnut wreath for 35-45 minutes (test if it’s properly baked by inserting a skewer in the center of the dough – the skewer should come out clean with no raw dough on it). Once baked, let it cool down for at least 1/2 hour (it is still baking from the residual heat) before slicing it. You can dust your wreath with some powdered sugar and enjoy

Dobrú chuť,
Lenka

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