Growing up, I loved when my grandmother came to stay with us for Easter. The trees were turning green, and the bright yellow forsythia in our front yard was in full bloom. Spring had finally arrived and with it came my Gram’s old world cooking.
She’d make her way to the kitchen, and soon the flour, nuts, raisins, poppy seeds, cabbage, and potatoes were out and a Slavic food fest would ensue. Those early spring days were spent standing next to Gram watching her conjure up meals and desserts with a few simple ingredients measured by intuition not cups and spoons.
When Gram got out the walnuts, it meant nut rolls were next. She followed her sister-in-law Jewel Hovan’s recipe when it came to these sweet bread rolls, which she knew by heart, and that’s the recipe my Aunt Betsy passed onto me. Aunt Betsy doesn’t add the graham crackers, but I like the sweet cookie taste they lend to the sugar and nut mixture. Either way, the sharpness of the walnuts is transformed into a melt-in-your-mouth confection that will have you swiping your finger along the sides of the food processor after you’ve chopped up these ingredients just to savor every sugary bite of nutty filling.
My Great Aunt Jewel Hovan’s Nut Rolls
2 cups flour
1/8 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup warm milk
2 egg yolks (reserve whites for wash on finished roll)
1 tsp yeast disolved in 1/8 cup warm water
Making the Dough:
Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt.
Cut the butter into one inch chunks and add it to the sifted ingredients.
Mash the butter chunks into the flour mixture with a fork until your dry ingredients develop some texture.
Add the milk and egg yolks mixing with your hands until a dough begins to form. Then, add the yeast water.
Mix the dough with your hands until a ball forms. Wrap the dough in parchment paper.
Aunt Jewel recommended putting the dough in the refrigerator overnight, but you can chill it for as little as 3 hours and it will roll out just fine.
When You’re Ready to Assemble the Nut Roll:
Nut Roll Filling:
2 1/2 cups walnuts
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup graham crackers broken up into large pieces
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tbsp butter
Put the nut filling ingredients in a food processor and pulse on high until a paste is formed.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and lightly flour your work surface. Roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness — you don’t want it to be too thin.
Spread nut mixture all over the dough leaving about 1/4 inch on all sides.
Carefully roll the dough and tuck in the ends. Allow the assembled nut roll to rise for an hour before baking.
Preheat oven to 350° and grease a cookie sheet with shortening.
Brush the top of the nut roll with the reserved egg whites.
Bake for 40 minutes. Allow to cool for at least an hour before slicing. Nothing else needed– just enjoy and happy spring.
Makes 1 Nut Roll
Note: Doubling this recipe works very well — just divide the dough in half before rolling it out, and bake the rolls separately.Print This Post