Today I wanted to cheer up a January day, and thought I’d have a go at improving a recipe I first came across when I was writing my book, Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo, at a time when I was hungry for any Kosovan recipe where I could use my honey. I included this roulade as one of the recipes in my book, though it wasn’t one of my favourites – it called for rum and walnuts, which aren’t ingredients I particularly enjoy (in fact when I made it the first time, for Women’s Day as I describe in my book, I had to go out and buy the rum specially, and the rest of the bottle sat in our drinks cupboard, gathering dust like the Estonian mint liquor and the raki-with-a-wooden-cross-inside-the-bottle until the day we cleared out our house.)
This time I thought I’d improvise Muscat pudding wine in place of rum, and mix some poppy seeds with the walnuts. It was a chance to use my new electric whisk too, and turned out to be good activity to perk me up – grating orange rind is an aromatherapy pick-me-up experience in itself, and there’s nothing like feeling you’ve improved on a design. I put some Charlie Parker on and shimmied a bit as I stirred the melted butter and folded the rich mixture and altogether felt a little less January.
The poppy seed gave a fabulous texture. If I was making it again, with the more subtle flavours of the poppy seeds I’d add rather more honey, pudding wine and orange juice – and skip the vanilla (but it’s considered unthinkable to make a Kosovan dessert without vanilla sugar, so maybe this won’t do).
450g plain flour
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
35g melted butter
35ml pudding wine
the juice and rind of an orange
a pinch of salt
165g poppy seeds mixed with ground walnuts
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
Mix yeast with 15ml lukewarm milk and a pinch of sugar and flour. Leave in a warm place until the mixture starts to ferment.
Meanwhile, sift the flour and make a well in the centre.
Add the egg yolk, sugar, butter, wine, 80 ml of milk, the orange juice and rind, and the salt.
Mix, adding the fermented yeast.
Place the resulting dough in a warm place for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, warm the poppy seeds/ walnuts in 70 ml milk.
Whisk the white of the egg until it is firm.
When the walnut mixture is cool, fold in the egg white and the yolk, the vanilla, and honey.
When the dough has had 25 minutes to prove, roll it to a thickness of 1 cm on baking paper. (It’s clearly classier if you can roll it out in a neat rectangle, but since I can never manage this, I rolled it out into a circle, followed the directions below, and then chopped off the uneven ends once the strudel had been rolled up)
Spread the walnut mixture over the dough, leaving a 2cm margin at each edge.
Roll the dough like a Swiss roll and turn out on a greased baking sheet. (If you rolled it out the untidy way like me, now cut off the ragged ends, and you can lay them, with any loose poppy seed mixture sprinkled on top, like little Danish pastries, flat on the baking tray. They will cook more quickly, so check them in the oven as they will probably be ready after about 10 minutes)
Leave for 10 minutes and then put in a 200 degree oven. Turn the oven down after 10 minutes and bake for a total of 25 minutes.
For more honey recipes, honey tasting notes, and stories behind extraordinary honeys, see my recently published Little Book of Honey.