Croatian Almond Roll
This classic Croatian sweet yeast bread is made with a homemade almond filling and swirled into a roulade shape. The end result is something in between a babka and a pound cake—moist from the addition of sour cream–bursting with sweet almond and topped with white icing and (more) flaked almonds!Jump to Recipe
Christmas for Easter
I entered the Christmas season with a plan to make 12 days of Christmas baking recipes in less than two weeks. Then, I felt overwhelmed and squeezed my time into an almost impossible plan. I like to do that, since I tend to work better under pressure.
Then, I got a quick, but more focused three day chest cold. This was before the current virus quarantine. Not even one New Yorker had been diagnosed yet. Those seem like paradise laden days now.
The bottom line–I did not make most of my Croatian Christmas specialties. Almond Roll is my very favorite. Makovnjaca, Poppyseed Roll, and either Povitica or Orahnjaca, different versions of Walnut Roll, are both sisters to this Almond Roll. All of these sweet filled breads found in Croatian culture emanate from the centuries of Austro-Hungarian rule. Many Hungarians believe that their baked traditions even informed Austria, who took it all over as their own.
Almonds go so well in baking and are very popular in Croatian, Hungarian, and Italian desserts, and this style of swirled filling captured in dough based breads is rife in Central Europe. The sweetness of the almond filling inside is what makes it my personal favorite.
My mother is always on the lookout for Solo brand fillings, which include almond and poppy seed. Two cans are generally needed to make two rolls, which our recipe does. I finally worked up the courage to make my own almond filling (and shall soon write up a guide to the different almond concoctions: almond paste, almond filling, frangipane cream, etc.). I can’t resist the challenge. This filling is nice and sweet, but less manufactured and came out in the beautiful consistency between Bakewell Tart filling and Frangipane.
Our recipe usually makes two giant almond rolls, but they tend to bust during baking, so I split the recipe into four conservatively medium loaves.
I made things easy for myself and if you can too, do. I created the basis for the dough in a food processor, moved it to the mixer and its dough hook to knead it and then only kneaded a bit further for a moment or two to adapt it to being immediately rolled out.
The almond paste filling is spread over the rough square shape of rolled out dough, followed by a layer of ground almonds.
The whole things rolls up like a roulade, though more gingerly, since the dough is quite soft and tends towards being sticky. Only then do the filled rolls proof for 90 minutes and then bake until golden brown.
Perfection is elusive; just enjoy the classic European tradition of making an almond roll, enjoy the sweet filling, and eat for breakfast on any holiday or lazy Sunday (or Tuesday, or Wednesday, or whatever day it is) you have at hand.
Croatian Almond Roll
- Food processor optional for bringing dough together; Mixer with dough hook optional for mixing dough.
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- ½ cup warm water
- 4½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 stick unsalted butter, cold
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks, beaten
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1¼ cup almond flour
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 1 egg, plus one egg white
- 1 tbsp whole milk
- 1 tsp light corn syrup
- ¾ tsp almond extract
- ½ cup almond flour for assembly
- 1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
- 2 Tbsp milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Additional toasted flakes almonds for top of rolls
For the Almond Filling
- In a food processor or with a hand mixer, combine the butter, sugar and salt.
- Add in the flours, eggs, corn syrup, and almond extract until spreadable consistency. Set aside.
For the Dough
- Add yeast to warm water, stir, and set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix flour, butter, sugar, and salt, either by hand or in a food processor. If a food processor, pulse about 10-12 times until the mix is the consistency of fine crumbs.
- Stir the eggs into the yeast mixture. Then, add in the sour cream and vanilla and add the entire mixture into the flour mixture. Pulse repeatedly until the dough begins to come together.
- You can turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for five minutes, or place the very wet dough into a mixer and knead on lower speed with a dough hook for five minutes.
- If not on a floured surface yet, turn out the dough. Cut in half (or in four if making smaller almond rolls) and cover all but the dough you are working with in plastic wrap.
- On floured parchment paper, roll out the dough until roughly a 12" square, or 6" if making four in total. Try to make sure the thickness is as even as possible throughout.
- Spread half of the almond filling (or one quarter of the filling if making four rolls) onto the dough evenly. Sprinkle ¼ cup of the ground almonds on top (or ⅛ if making four), making sure to evenly distribute.
- Very gently, start rolling up the dough like a roulade. The dough is very soft, since we did not refrigerate it yet, so be ginger and allow the parchment paper to do the work as you roll.
- Bring the roll back to the center of the paper and tuck in both ends, slightly compressing the roll and slide the parchment paper onto a baking sheet. Repeat process with the other parts of the dough, whether making two or four.
- Cover baking sheets/rolls with towels or plastic and let proof for one and a half hours. I like to place in an oven after heating to 200 degrees and shutting off, and leaving the oven door slightly ajar.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake rolls for 40-45 minutes if making two rolls, and 30 minutes if making four rolls, or until golden brown.
- Immediately move to wire rack to cool.
For the Icing
- To make icing, combine confectioners sugar, milk, and vanilla and whisk until desired consistency. Pour over rolls when slightly cooled.
- Sprinkle with sliced almonds while icing is fresh and slice to enjoy…anytime;)