For as long as I can remember, making Nut Rolls has been a part of our Christmas tradition.
Some of my earliest memories of preparing the food for Christmas are my dad sitting on the couch,
watching television, with a huge bowl of walnuts in front of him.
Mom would buy whole, unshelled nuts and dad would sit for hours and crack them for her. Then mom would use her hand-crank grinder and finely grind the nuts.
Things have gotten a little easier since then. I have switched to pecans, because I like them better, I buy them by the bag at Costco, already shelled. And I use the grinding attachment on my Kitchen Aid mixer.
The original recipe comes from my paternal grandmother. She was an amazing cook and baker. Grandma was originally from Czechoslovakia, where she was a cook for a wealthy family. I don't know if this is a recipe she made up or brought over with her from her homeland.
Being originally from Pennsylvania, where there were a lot of Slovak people, everyone seemed to have their version of this recipe. I have included my version in my Stanley Family cookbook, so my boys will always have a copy for themselves. That's my mom on the page, since her recipe is the one I use...with a few changes.
I didn't really know there was a competition in my dad's family until we traveled back to Pennsylvania for Christmas when I was 10 years old.
My parents packed my brother, sister and me into the family car.
They stuffed the trunk with our gifts from Santa and a gift for all of my cousins. I have 31 cousins! Are you getting the picture, here? We were crammed into that car for 2 days of driving straight through from California to Pennsylvania.
Can you say "LEG CRAMPS"?
Of course, we visited all my parents' siblings. Aunt Mary's nut rolls were so delicious! And then I tasted Aunt Emma's and her's were good too. Uncle George claimed he made the best ones. Hmmm...could there be a little competitiveness among the siblings and in-laws?
Either way I sure enjoyed trying all the different versions and some yummy cookies as well. My aunts and uncles were all amazing cooks and bakers.
We got some sad news yesterday. Our friend's mom passed away suddenly from an apparent stroke or heart attack.
I wasn't feeling that good anyway, so I needed some comfort and joy.
So a lot of sugar, butter and nuts wrapped in a delicious dough should make me feel better.
It didn't take away the pain in my head or the sadness in my heart
but it was therapeutic to do something so comforting as making dough
rolling it out
and spreading it with a sweet nut mixture.
This is a soft dough that rolls out so easily.
Just 30 minutes more for the second rise
a brush with beaten egg yolks
and an hour in the oven
a thin layer of dough between a thick smear of nut filling
Mr. Romanace and I ate half of a roll last night.
What holiday sweet brings comfort and joy to your heart?