Monday, December 19, 2011

Comfort and Joy

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.
Edited recipe:


  • 2 envelopes active dry yeast
  • 1/2 c. lukewarm milk
  • 6 c. flour
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 1/2 pint sour cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 T. oil
  • 1 1/2 lb. pecans, ground in a meat or nut grinder.
  • 3/4 c. milk, scalded
  • 3/4 c. butter, melted
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla


  • 1
    Dissolve yeast in warm milk. Mix in sugar, salt, butter, sour cream, egg yolks and oil. Put flour in a large bowl, make a well in the center. Pour in liquid mixture and gradually begin stirring to incorporate all flour. When dough forms into a ball, then lightly knead for a few minutes. Let rise in a greased bowl, covered, in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours. Divide dough into 6 pieces. Roll each piece out to a large circle, approximately 1/4 inch thick. Spread filling on dough and roll up like a jelly roll, sealing both ends by tucking in the dough. Place in greased pans with high sides, seam side down, cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes. Beat 1-2 additional egg yolks and paint rolls with egg wash. Bake at 300’F for 45-60 minutes, until they look firm and appear done.
  • 2
    For Filling: Scald milk, add ground nuts, sugar, butter and vanilla. Allow to cool before using.
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?

Thanks for stopping by,



Lynne (Lily's Quilts) said...

For me it's the traditional Xmas cake. I think I"m going to make it with the twins tomorrow morning. Then turn it upside down for a few days and soak it with brandy so it's really heavy, boozy and fruit. Then add marzipan and icing and each slice counts about 2000 calories! YUM

Unknown said...

Lovely story Di :-)

For me, its mince pies. I always make them on christmas eve, and watch christmas movies, whilst wearing christmas PJ's :-)

Jennifer Mathis of Ellison Lane said...

So sorry for the loss of your mom's friend. Life is so unexpected sometimes.

I love that you have a family cookbook. I would love to make one of those with special family recipes and I love that it has pictures in in. Did you do it online by chance?

Comfort and joy food? My mom's sweet potato casserole with brown sugar and pecans on top- I love it.

Katy Cameron said...

Hmm, that sounds yummy, I'd never have thought to have used the grinder attachment to whizz nuts into wee bits though - doh! Sounds like a fab competition you got to enjoy too!

Sorry to hear about your friend's mum though (((((HUGS)))))

As for me, it's the Christmas cake. I used to make it with mum when I was wee in the October half term holidays from school. Because my dad always wanted a wee one for his birthday cake in January, we'd make an extra large batch of batter that when you added the fruit to it almost filled the bowl, so the only way to mix it was by hand - I used to love mixing and squishing it all together as it came up to my elbows (and then of course I got to lick all the batter off afterwards :oD ) We'd get the candied fruit in France when we were on holiday there, so much more interesting than the boring wee bits of candied peel and glace cherries we could get in the supermarket at home. We would then turn it upside down and feed it brandy for a couple of months, so it's lovely and moist :o) It's funny though, when I was younger the icing was my favourite bit, now it's the actual cake. I was never that fond of the marzipan lol

Geri said...

Darn, I should have grabbed a piece of that when I was there today - it looks so yummy. I may even try my hand at nutrolls!!! I have NEVER made them in my life. I'm scared of dough (afraid it won't turn out)

Susan Snooks said...

Only half!!! That shows restraint!!! Lovely story too! Shortbread is something of a tradition in our household!

Mrs Flying Blind... said...

Oooh yummy! Once again you are just too far away!
Marzipan is the key to my Christmas heart! Christmas cake, Stollen anything - I could just eat a block on its own!

LuLu said...

Wow, all of your Christmas goodies are making me drool! I hope you guys have a most fantastic Christmas!

Cindy said...

Those look amazing Diane! Sounds like a lot of baking going on in the Stanley household.
No baking for me this year! Off to Seattle where I ordered pies and I'll buy a tray of cookies.
Merry Christmas!

Sara said...

OH MY GOODNESS yes this is part of our family too. My Grandma used to make it when she was still living and now my Godmother makes it. We call it Potica (paw-tee-sa. It is so yummy!!! Every time I have some I think back to my grandma and Grandpa's house and miss them dearly,but then remember all the great memories.

I received some in the mail today from my Aunt (godmother) and cannot wait to eat it all up:)

Thank you for this post!!

Canadian Abroad said...

Sorry about your friend's mum. It makes it doubly tough when everyone around is being joyous. Comfort in food is a great thing.

My Christmas baking starts with the traditional cake in October so it has lots of time to soak up the booze and mellow. Then there are the mincemeat tarts, sugar cookies with stained glass centres, assorted other cookies with the best being dozens of gingerbread that all need decorating. All these things make the week before Christmas such a wonderful time for us.

Leanne said...

Those sound wonderful and such an interesting family story, thank you for sharing. And sorry to hear of your friend's loss.

Annabella said...

Oh Di, I`m so sorry to hear about your mum`s friend and hope your mum isn`t taking it too hard. Sending you both hugs!

Your nut rolls looks delicious and love your family recipe - did you make it on a Mac? What food brings comfort? Uh, most of it probably but I love Christmas cake. Yum.

Geri said...

These have to be the best nutroll ever!!!

carolg said...

We do poppyseed and apricot as well. Called kolace in our family. I grew up making them with my grandma. The kitchen aid sure makes it easier! I don't know anyone here in Massachusetts who have even heard of them. In Ohio there are home bakers who take orders for them at Christmas time.