Recipe by Sarah Phillips © 2000 Sarah Phillips CraftyBaking.com
Nut rolls make a wonderful Christmas gift. They freeze well. I inherited this recipe from Tami Smith, who used to work with me at baking911.com, now called CraftyBaking.com, in the early days!
BREAD RECIPE HELP
1 cup whole or 2% milk
2 teaspoons sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 package (2-1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/4 cup bread flour
3 cups bread flour; spoon into measuring cup and level to rim
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten, optional (not absolutely necessary, the gluten from the bread flour is fine)
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and use at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound walnuts, chopped fine, but not powdery
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup milk
3 large egg whites
1. In a 4-cup glass measure or bowl, heat the milk in the microwave until lukewarm (blood temperature to 100 - 110 degrees F). Whisk in the sugar and egg yolks.
2. Sprinkle the yeast over the mixture and allow to stand several minutes to soften.
3. Stir in the yeast. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Although this can be done for as short of a time as 30 minutes, the full time develops flavor.
4. This is your sponge. Watch it for signs of being ready to use and write that time down. It will change with the weather, naturally. Your sponge is ready when it rises and then starts to fall. That is when you want to use it.
1. In the mixing bowl, stir together the bread flour, gluten (if you are using, once again it is not vital to the successful completion of the recipe, but it does lighten the dough somewhat), sugar, and salt. Stir for 30 seconds to combine. Stir in the butter and toss around a little. Do not cut the butter into the flour, just toss it.
Add the sponge to the dry ingredients and mix to form a soft dough, but with body. If using the mixer, use the dough hook. Use your judgment -- if it is very stiff, add a few drops of warm water; if it is very sticky, a pinch of flour at a time.
2. Mix on medium high until the dough is developed, elastic, and very smooth. When you pinch off a piece, it will stretch slowly without breaking. This will happen only when it is fully developed. If doing by hand, knead on a strong surface until developed, add small pinches of flour as needed. Be patient, it will take 7 to 15 minutes.
Round and pat the dough so it has a smooth surface, place in a large sprayed bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in a warm draft free place and let rise 1 to 1-1/2 hours. It should double in size.
3. Gently press the center of the dough to "punch" and fold the outside edges back in on themselves, round into a ball again, and rest while you make the filling.
For the filling:
1. Mix the nuts with the sugar in a medium bowl. You want the nuts in small pieces, but I like to leave a bit in slightly larger pieces for the crunch in the finished nut roll. Add the vanilla, milk, and egg whites. The filling should be soft, not runny, but easily spread. You may want to have a
few more nuts on hand -- sometimes you need more, but then again, sometimes you have some left over.
2. Divide the dough in 2 pieces for 2 very large logs but, for beginners, 3 or 4 equal pieces is easier. Roll the dough 10 inches high by 12 inches wide for the smaller logs or 12 inches high by 18 inches wide for the larger logs.
3. Spread filling evenly in the center, making sure to leave a rim around all four of the edges. Fold the top over the filling, then the two sides over the filling. Roll evenly, starting at the top like a jelly roll. You might have to stop and straighten the sides so they stay folded over. Be patient and neatly roll it. Your rolling will determine the look of the finished log. Be sure to moisten the final flap at the bottom and then roll and pinch the edge to seal.
4. Place the log, seam down, onto a parchment covered sheet pan. I have 1/2 sheet pans (12 by 18 inches), and I put two small logs per sheet pan at an angle for even baking, brushing with milk or egg wash (1 egg beaten with a little milk).
5. Repeat with the rest of the dough. You may want to divide up the filling by "eye" in the beginning so you don't run out. You don't want to spread it too thick, about 1/4-inch.
6. Cover the logs loosely with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.
7. Position the oven shelf to the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
8. Uncover the logs and use a sharp knife to slash on the diagonal, just through the top layer of dough, just exposing the filling.
This will allow steam to escape (although it does sometimes split at the bottom anyway) and you can see the filling and tell the logs from others with other fillings. Okay, it looks really nice too. I give the smaller logs 3 slashes and the large ones 5 slashes. Place in the oven. Bake until golden brown.
Now, if you don't bake it long enough, the filling and the dough inside will be mushy. The "foolproof" method I came up with is to stick it through the slash opening with a probe thermometer (the kind you use on your Turkey, etc.).
Even if it looks done, and is evenly golden, DON'T take it out until the probe reads 210 degrees F. This way, the dough will be done and you won't worry about it being mushy. It does become nicely golden, but the crust is very soft and tender. If it seems to be getting extremely dark, then lower the oven to 325° F.
Cool on the sheet pan.
When completely cool, you can wrap securely in plastic wrap.