Makovnjača (Croatian Poppy Seed Rolls)

For me, makovnjača is the ultimate celebratory and festive food–partly because my baka prepares it for every major holiday, but also because it is my absolute favorite dessert and in and of itself a cause for celebration! I most associate it with Christmas though, which is why this recipe seemed like the perfect Christmas Eve (badnjak in Croatian) posting.


  • 25 g of dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs ( yolks for the dough, whites for brushing after assembly)
  • 150-200 ml (about 3/4 cup) of milk
  • 100 g (1 stick) of butter
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) of sugar
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp of salt


  • 125 g of ground poppy seed
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • pinch of cinnamon

Warm the milk slightly in a small bowl. Add the yeast, as well as a bit of salt and flour. Allow to rise and get foamy.

Next sift the flour into a deep bowl (if you don’t have a sifter, simply fluff the dough with a fork to aerate it). Make a well in the center and place the yeast in the well. Add the remaining milk, sugar, egg yolks, lemon zest, butter and a pinch of salt. Knead until the dough is smooth, then place into a greased bowl, cover, and allow to rise for an hour (it should double in size).

Meanwhile combine the poppy seed and milk in a small pot on the stove, along with the sugar, lemon zest, and a dash of cinnamon. Mix well and cook for a few minutes. Let cool.

Next roll the dough out to about 1/2 of an inch. Brush with melted butter and spread with the cooled poppy seed filling. Roll up like a jelly roll, tucking in the sides to keep the filling in. Brush with the egg whites and pierce in a few spots (so that the air escapes and doesn’t cause the roll to break on the sides). Bake in a 350° F oven for about an hour, or until golden brown.


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