A nut roll is a pastry consisting of a sweet yeast dough that is rolled out very thin, spread with a nut paste, then rolled up into a log, baked, and sliced crosswise. It resembles a jelly roll (Swiss roll). Fillings commonly have as their main ingredient ground walnuts or poppy seeds.
Nut rolls can be found in the United States and in Central European cuisines. In the United States, "nut roll" is a more or less generic name for pastries of this type, no matter where they originate. Nut rolls are known also by many specific regional names, including: potica, gubana, guban'ca, or povitica in Slovenian; orechovník in Slovak; makowiec in Polish; Povitica, Orehnjača in Croatian (walnut variant); and kalács and beigli in Hungarian.
A sweet yeast dough is rolled flat, about 0.2 inch (5 millimeter) thick and a filling is smeared onto it. The filled dough is rolled up, forming a log or loaf-shape, then baked. When sliced, the cross-section shows a swirl of filling.
Types or forms of nut roll are: rolled log, loaf made via a bread pan, and a "crazy loaf" style with a unique texture. Similar ground walnut filling is used in Buchteln, a bun shaped pastry, also with yeast dough.
Nut rolls in the U.S. are often made with some combination of walnut, poppy seed, and coffee. There are other variations. These U.S. nut rolls are originating in the Slovenian poviticas and the Polish makowiec.
Traditional Rolls in Central Europe, like makowietz and bejgli, are a special type of rolled log shaped Central European pastries generally made with two types of filling, walnut and poppyseed filling. In addition to ground nut fillings, cinnamon, raisins or currants, bread crumbs, lemon zest, rum and heavy cream or sour cream are used.
The traditional nut bread served at Easter and Christmas in Slovenia and still very popular in some parts of the United States is called potica. It is a yeast dough rolled and stretched paper thin and spread with a mixture of ground walnuts, butter, eggs, cream, and honey or sugar. It is then rolled jellyroll fashion and baked. Traditionally it was spiraled in a round pan, but now one is more likely to find it baked as a loaf.
Another type of pastry also called poticas are baked in special round cake tins with a tube in the middle. These poticas are usually ring shaped cakes. These pastries are not rolls, but a regional variant of Gugelhupf. There are at least fifty different kinds of these round poticas, differing in fillings. Traditional fillings consisted of walnuts, hazelnuts, honey, mint, curd, cream, cracklings, bacon or dried fruits. Today, the round poticas are often made with cocoa, chocolate or carob fillings.
The povitica, a traditional Croatian and Slovenian pastry, is made from buttery pastry dough rolled into very thin layers and covered with a layer of brown sugar, spices, and walnuts. The log-shaped loaf is then baked. Other roll shaped European pastries are filled with thick jam (called lekvar, usually apricot or cherry) called lekvarostekercs or Swiss Roll.
Nut rolls are popular across the United States, with the more traditional varieties and preparations being made in areas with large Central European settlements, such as the Iron Range of Minnesota and Butte, Montana (where it is known by the Slovenian name potica and Croatian / regional Slovenian name povitica)..