Thursday, January 7, 2010

Poppy seed and Walnut strudels for Eastern Orthodox Christmas

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Mir Božiji, Hristos se rodi!    The peace of God, Christ is born!  That is the greeting you will hear on January 7 across Serbia, other parts of former Yugoslavia and Russia.  Eastern Orthodox Christians remain the last holdouts against change of the theological calendar from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar.  Therefore, Christmas (Božić) comes two weeks after the rest of Christianity celebrates the birth of Christ.  Kids being kids, celebrating Christmas twice has never been a problem for our children who are products of an American father and a Serbian mother! 

046-crop v1So when everyone else is back to a normal schedule and on their first diet of the New Year, my parents are in full swing smoking meat and preparing the sour cabbage that has been fermenting for weeks for the sarme (cabbage rolls).  They also roast pork, and Mama makes a delicious Russian salad with chopped ham and vegetables . 

My job for Bož is to not forget to include the lucky coin in the česnica before I bake it!  The kids especially look forward to pulling their piece of bread from the česnica to see if it contains the lucky coin.  And this year I tried my hand at walnut and poppy seed strudels.  They are traditionally baked during the holidays and consist of a rich and buttery yeast dough with a sweet filling of nuts or poppy seeds.   Known as štrudle (pl.) in Serbia, these are also known as Beigli in Hungary, Potica in Slovenia, Povitica in Croatia, and Makowiec in Poland.  I am very pleased at how they turned out, having done a lot of research in books and on the web and finally combining several different recipes to create my own.  These strudels are very moist and can be eaten at any time of day.

Poppy seed and Walnut strudels.  Makes 4 12” rolls (2 walnut and 2 poppy seed)

For the dough:

1 1/2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast

5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

1 1/2 cups milk

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ozs) unsalted butter, cut into 1” pieces

6 egg yolks (the egg whites will be used in the walnut filling)

For the walnut filling:

1 1/2 pounds walnuts

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 ozs) unsalted butter, cut into 1” pieces

1/2 cup milk

6 egg whites

For the poppy seed filling:

2 cans poppy seed cake and pastry filling (I use Solo brand).  Open them and you’re ready to go!

To make the dough and strudels:

In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast and flour.  Using a paddle attachment, blend the two ingredients at low speed.  Set aside.

Measure milk, sugar, salt and butter in a microwaveable measuring cup.  Heat in microwave at 30 second intervals until the butter is melted and the mixture measures between 110F – 120F.   On low speed, pour the milk and egg yolks into the flour mixture.  Beat until the mixture has formed a sticky mass and the ingredients have blended, about 2 minutes.  Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl;  place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.   Because the dough is very rich with eggs and butter, it may even take up to 1 1/2 hours.

Line a large 12” x 18” baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper (grease parchment with oil).  Turn the dough onto a generously floured surface.  Pat it down with your hands into a large rectangle (photo left). 

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Cut the dough into two equal pieces.  Set one aside.  ***Roll one piece of dough to 1/4-inch thickness or 24” x 16”.  Spread with walnut filling up to about 1 inch of the edges (top right photo). 

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Fold the 1-inch edges over the filling at both short sides (see pictures above).  Starting with one long side, roll the dough tightly to the other end, like a jelly roll.  Cut the roll into two equal 12” strudels.  Pinch the exposed ends to seal the filling inside.  Place each roll on the prepared baking sheet so that the long seams are on the bottom and the rolls fit crosswise on the sheets.  Space the rolls out (you will have 4) so there will be space in between rolls for them to rise.

Now take the dough that has been set aside and roll it out the same way (instructions start here ***).  Fill it with poppy seed filling.  Roll up as instructed above, cut into two and place on baking pan.  You should now have 4 rolls.

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Cut a piece of wax paper large enough to cover the strudels.  Spray or grease one side with oil.  Cover the strudels and allow to rise until doubled in volume.  Gently spread the tops with a little of the beaten egg whites left over from the walnut filling.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 60 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.  Cool completely.  Slice into thin sections and using a sieve, dust with confectioner’s sugar.

To make the walnut filling:

Grind walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a food processor until finely ground.  Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan.  Add the butter and milk.  Over medium heat, stir the mixture constantly until the butter has melted and the mixture is starting to dry.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Beat the egg whites until they are stiff.  When the walnut mixture has cooled, add about 2/3 of the egg whites to it and fold gently with a spatula until completely combined (you will use the rest of the whites to spread the tops of the strudels before you bake them).  Use this filling as stated above. 

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I have submitted this recipe to Susan’s Yeastspotting roundup.  Check her site for more delicious yeast-driven recipes.

To my Eastern Orthodox family and friends: Želim vam Sretan BoŽić i najlepšu i uspešnu 2010!



  1. Vaistinu se rodi!
    Sretan Božić I sretna 2010!
    And happy Birthday to your brother!
    Štrudla izgleda fenomnalno a mogu samo zamišljati kakvog je ukusa,yummy....
    Greetings Alksandra from Holland

  2. Wow, I bet your house smelled great! As always, looks really good!

  3. Štrudle su ti izvrsne, posebno volim makovnjaču.
    Proslava dva Božića (ili dvije proslave Božića)-blago djeci koja to imaju.
    Srećan Božić i svako dobro.

  4. Vaistinu se rodi!
    Strudlu si fenomenalno napravila. Menjala bi je za parce torte, predivno izgleda.

  5. That looks wonderful! I don't know how in the world you stay so thin with all the great foods you make. I am going to save this recipe to make next Christmas.

  6. Mira Arezina-MilosavljevicJanuary 09, 2010

    Obozavam strudlu ali nisam bas strucnjak. Ovde sam nasla neki gotov mak ali je suvise sladak. Drugi put sam kupila mak u zrnu pa ga mlela sto je malo teze ali ipak bolje.
    Opet, svaka cast na prezentaciji i na dodatnim podatcima svaki put. Moram da te pohvalim mojim drugaricama i da im prosledim ovaj sajt. Pozdrav familiji.

  7. Wow I could not believe I saw a poppy seed roll when I opened up TasteSpotting this morning. My husbands family always went to Grandma's on Sundays for "Buhkty" and coffee. It is a Czechoslovakian recipe. I am the only one left in the family that still makes it, when I do, I ship it all over the country LOL. Ours has the dough rolled out and spread with melted butter, then a mixture of ground poppy seeds and sugar is spread on and rolled up. It looks the same though. Not many poppy seed recipes out there like these. Yours looks great, my DH mouth is watering.

  8. Ja nikako da nadjem mlin za mak (ovdje nije obicaj mljeti mak), tako da moram apstinirati od makovnjace, tvoje su super ispale!!!

  9. Dragana, a friend of mine made me a roll just like this for Christmas. She used walnuts, but told me she sometimes uses poppy seeds. It was absolutely delicious.
    Your looks just as wonderful. Happy Christmas!

  10. This is very similar to what my Slovak grandmother called Kolache -- filled with nuts, poppyseed, or occasionally prune butter. I don't make the poppy seed version as often because I'm the only one who likes it, but when I do, I doctor up the canned poppy seed filling with a bit of milk and honey.

  11. Oh my goodness! This sounds so delicious!

  12. Really nice! You can add another name - in Slovakia they are called Makovnik (with poppy seed filling) and Orechovnik (with walnut filling).

  13. This is great! My brother-in-law has described a pastry he used to get when he was growing up, and I think this might be it. I'm going to try it!

  14. oh ...that looks and sounds delicious !! i love any kind of pastry with poppy seeds...
    i'm sure yours is fabulously good !!

  15. Wonderful! I love poppy seed studels very much but have not make them latley. But after all this mouthwatering pictures I think I will bake some soon.

  16. Thank you to visit my so happy to make contact with you....and your recipes its so great,
    i'll try to make this in easter. Do you know how to make dobos torta...i love this too!

    jedan poljubac
    Vera Milunovic

  17. Sve je divno, da li imate ove recepte i na srpskom...

    puno pozdrava

  18. Anonymous - molim vas posaljite mi e-mail adresu na Hvala!

  19. I am so glad to have found your blog and to see that our traditional recipe is spread throughout the world :) In my previous post on my blog I featured poppy seed and walnut strudel, one of my favorite cakes. I am from Croatia and looking forward to following your beautiful blog!

  20. Hi Dragana, I made a variation of these today, using your technique but a different dough. I also had a can of solo apricot filling so I made one with poppyseed and one with apricot. They both were good, but I'd say the apricot wasn't intese enough so of course I liked the poppyseed better. (I first came to know it as "makovnik" in the Czech Republic). Do you have any advice to keep the rolls from splitting open on the sides? They still tasted great but not as pretty right out of the oven as I would have hoped. Thanks for sharing, this was very helpful! Hvala lepo!

  21. Hi Sara,
    I too have found the apricot filling bland, but I really like the poppy-seed filling. I'm going to experiment with dried apricots (hydrated and stewed with sugar, then blended into a thick filling).
    As for the rolls splitting - I would roll the dough out thicker and add less filling.
    Prijatno i hvala takodje!

  22. Hello Dragana, I have tried this receipe, Walnut strudel but I found it turned out too dry. Your recipe says 5 1/2 cups of flour to 8oz Butter. Are you sure
    this is enough butter. do u need more milk and butter if so how much for this amount of flour. Please could you let me know. Thankyou. Lisa.

  23. Zdravo Dragana,
    Hvala na receptu. Mi smo privremeno u Houston-u dosli iz Kanade.
    Da li ovde ima nasih restorana?
    Pozdrav, Mirko


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