A Labor of Love: Mom's Nut Rolls

This post is dedicated to my two sisters for whom I’ve made these nut rolls to celebrate one more Christmas together with our Mom. I don’t say enough how much I appreciate you.

I may have mentioned this before in my posts that my Mother suffers from dementia. My Dad, my sisters and I have watched her slowly fade from reality for the past five years.

When this happens, you begin to appreciate your roots, the traditions and the efforts that your parents made to make the holidays special. In our home, my Mom would stay true to the Slovak tradition. For many years, I took it all for granted and didn’t follow the tradition when I left home. In fact, I took a lot for granted until I started to see it slip slowly away.

Mom was an excellent cook and baker. Mom lived to cook and feed anyone who would enter her home – that was her gift of love.

Being Slovak, every holiday had an Eastern European flair.

Many years ago, my youngest sister and my cousin tackled this huge project in collaborating and producing a family cookbook.

As the title says, it is “More Than a Cookbook”…

It is a collection of my Mother’s family’s memories, tributes, history, recipes, traditions and photos of life as we knew it growing up.

As Mom’s memory fades, I find myself clinging tighter to the traditions so I can give a snippet of my heritage to my children and hope that they will keep it alive.  You can’t buy this book in a store and I doubt if I can get another copy at this point. This is my most treasured cookbook.

I began this blog to recreate the recipes, experience the effort it takes to make this recipes and share it with you.

Every Christmas, Mom would make nut rolls for the Christmas table but also for gifts for us and whoever would show up for the holidays. Mom would have at least fifteen nut rolls frozen in her freezer ready to give away.

I now appreciate her nut rolls for it is 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I still have my jammies on…and I started the nut rolls first thing in the morning.

So if you have nuts on your hands….

and a day to spare…

try this recipe!

It’s a wonderful recipe.

My grandfather (Jedo) belonged to Jednota Society. They received a monthly paper in part Slovak and part English. Mom couldn’t wait until it came in. They had great recipes…this is one of them.

The original recipe required hand kneading of the dough and chilling it overnight. I’ve ‘modernized’ it a bit and brought it down to a one day project!

Mom would want me to share this recipe with you…so here we go!

Begin by preparing the yeast mixture….

Scald the milk and let cool until it’s warm to touch.

Add 2 tbsp. sugar and yeast. Stir loosely with a fork and let sit for about 5 minutes.

After a few minutes, the yeast will create its own magic. Oh I love baking with yeast!

While the yeast is rising…beat 3 eggs in the mixer.

Add melted butter, sour cream, the rest of the sugar, vanilla, salt and  finally, the yeast mixture.

Slowly add 7 generous cups of flour, one cup at a time until dough is sticky and pulls away from the bowl.

At this point, I switch the paddle of my mixer out to the dough hook and knead the dough in the mixer for 10 minutes.

The dough will be soft and sticky…and my one piece of advice to you…

is

FLOUR, FLOUR, FLOUR!

Flour your hands, flour the work area, flour where the dough will sit and flour as you roll it out.

There, now I told you…if it sticks, you were warned.

Divide the dough up into 5 balls of dough.

Roll the dough out into an approximate 9 x 12 rectangle.

Squeeze some honey over the dough…

and spread with the nut filling (recipe below).

Tuck in the side and tightly roll up the length of the dough pinching the seams once rolled.

Place on a parchment lined (or lightly greased) baking pan, cover with saran wrap and let rise for about 2 hours.

I did make one poppy seed filled roll for Christmas Day. It’s not my favorite but I know my Dad loves them. You will find the recipe for the filling below.

After two hours of rising, bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes taking care that the bottoms don’t burn.

While warm, I rub a stick of butter over the rolls.

Let cool….

and enjoy…

or in my Mom’s spirit, give one away! (They freeze very well)

My gift to you. Happy Holidays!

Mom's Nut Rolls
A Kitchen Muse: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5 rolls
 
A traditional Slovak holiday dessert.
Ingredients
  • DOUGH:
  • 7 generous cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cake yeast (1½ oz.) or 3 packets (1/4 oz.) dry yeast
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups warm milk
  • NUT FILLING:
  • 2 lb. ground walnuts
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • POPPY SEED FILLING
  • ½ lb. poppy seeds
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup scalded milk
  • 1 tbsp. melted butter
Instructions
  1. Scald milk and let cool until warm to touch. Add 2 tbsp. of the sugar and yeast. Stir with fork and let sit until bubbly. Beat eggs in mixer and add the rest of the sugar, salt, vanilla, butter, sour cream and yeast mixture. Slowly add flour (one cup at a time) until dough starts to pull away from bowl. Flour hands and work area generously for the dough will be sticky. Knead for 10 minutes. Refrigerate dough for at least six hours or overnight.
  2. Divide into 5 balls of dough. Roll out each ball of dough into an approximate 9 x 12 rectangle. Spread nut or poppy seed filling to within 1 inch of the edge. Tucking in sides, roll tightly lengthwise pinching the seams once complete. Place rolls on parchment-lined (or lightly greased) baking sheets. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm area for about 2 hours.
  3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes watching to make sure the bottoms don't burn.
  4. FILLING INSTRUCTIONS: Combine ingredients and mix well. (On the poppy seed rolls, I like to sprinkle filling with golden raisins)

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46 comments on “A Labor of Love: Mom’s Nut Rolls

  1. well, for now I just had to look at the pictures. I just put my makeup on for work, came down to check emails and opened this up. First line….tears flowed. Back upstairs to repair makeup. I love you too sister. I’m the weepy one remember….so this will be hard to get through. xo They look delicious and the cookbook is more treasured now than ever…..just as you are. Thank you Linda.

  2. Isabelle @ Crumb on said:

    What a beautiful tribute to your mother… having lost my paternal grandmother by bits and pieces to dementia, I have a small inkling of what it’s like.
    It’s wonderful that you’re able to carry on with all those holiday family traditions on her behalf. These nut rolls look beautiful, and I’m sure they taste even better, especially since they’ve been baked with so much love. Happy holidays to you, your family and to your mother.

  3. Dotti Franks on said:

    Linda:

    Do you brush the nut roll with egg whites or egg yolks prior to baking?

    Thanks for the tip of folking in the sides too! That makes for a prettier roll.

    Did I ever tell you that my Dad immigtated from Czechoslovakia? Lekvar was a favorite of his for sure!

    • lindalyell on said:

      Dotti – You can do an egg wash for a shiny finish. I rub them with a stick of butter after taking them out of the oven. (in fact, I should add that to the recipe) Either way, they are fantastic! I didn’t know that about your background….a Slovak, huh? That’s why I love you so much!

  4. Jesica @ Pencil Kitchen on said:

    You make it look oh – so – easy… :’)

  5. Oh Heavens – my mouth is watering as I love nutroll. Thank you for sharing as recipes like this are so precious.
    Donna (Janice’s next door neighbor)

  6. Susan Bradley on said:

    Enjoyed your story and can so relate. Both of my grandmothers had alzheimers and it was a very difficult journey. Thanks for sharing. I am going to make your mom’s bread for Xmas morning, I can’t wait to share it w/my family. Happy Holidays!

    • lindalyell on said:

      Thank you Susan. Alzheimer’s and dementia are like thieves….they rob a family of a loved one and rob the person of their memory. Enjoy the nutroll with your family! Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones!

  7. What a beautiful post. I lost my dad to Alzheimer’s years ago so I can attest to the pain of losing a parent like this. You are doing a wonderful job of keeping her spirit alive. This recipe looks amazing and someday I may have the patience to try it but for now I will look at your pictures. :)

  8. Tried to read this blog to my friends at work — too hard !!! That weepy gene runs rampant.

  9. Lisa Graf on said:

    Hello Linda,
    What a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing your memories & your heart. I love holiday traditions. Wishing you & yours a Merry Christmas!
    Lisa

  10. Thanks you so much for the recipe!!! I found it through pinterest. This is the closest to my Grandma’s nut rolls that I have found. My mom says the only step missing to brush the dough with butter before adding the nuts. She says it was always her job as a kid.

  11. I just ran across your nut roll. How funny, I spent the day makin nut roll myself. My mother was Slovenian and made dozens to have and to share during the holidays. We called it potica, po-tee-za, in our family. Like your mother no one could come to our home without a bite to eat or something to take home.

    My mother passed away fro Alzheimer’s and other health issues in 2000. I miss her so much but always feel close to her when I make something like this. My recipe is a bit different but looks very similar to yours. I can’t wait to spread some butter on a slice and think of my mom. My daughter took her first interest in helping me today. I hope someday she makes them and thinks of me too.

    • A Kitchen Muse on said:

      Marie – Thank you for taking the time to share your Mother’s story. I believe our Mother’s recipes and traditions are their way of us carrying their love through the generations. My Mother is currently suffering from dementia and this is why I started this blog – to share her recipes, her traditions and hopefully, they can touch someone else. Although I’ve had major surgery two months ago, I will hobble to the kitchen this week and make my Mother’s nut roll. That’s what she would have done! God bless you and your family!

  12. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe. As you know, I have Slovak roots as well (and the weepy gene too!)My Mother was Queen of the kitchen at Christmas, and actually started baking in October… cookies, cresents, nut rolls and MY favorite poppy seed were stored in 2 freezers! I have tried before to re-create her recipe, but the dough is always too thin and flat. I will have to compare to yours and give it another try. May you and your family have a Blessed Holiday! Hope your knee is healing well.

  13. Vickie on said:

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful family story. I am German-Irish also have the weepy gene! My daughter several years ago became friends with Tanya who came from Slovakia to America with her husband. I have been blessed to have this wonderful young woman and her family in my life. I have adopted her as my second daughter. Her mother is coming over from Slovakia in Feb and I can’t wait to meet her! We may not be able to communicate well but we will always have a mothers love. So excited, as I got to meet her sister and cousin last year. Blessed be your family, memories, and love. I have some old family recipes dating back to 1926 from my Irish side. Like you cherish them.

  14. Allison on said:

    Thank-you for this recipe, can’t wait to try it. I was wondering if by chance you could send me the rest of the recipe pictured in the cookbook for the Grandstand salad.

    Thank, Allison

  15. candace on said:

    I have problem with my nut rolls splitting, can you give me any advice on that, thank you soooo much, it is a wonderful receipe

    • A Kitchen Muse on said:

      My nut rolls tend to split if I fill them too much and the dough is thin. Try spreading you filling out thinner. Enjoy!

  16. Paul Marquis on said:

    My grandmother and grandfathers parents were from checelslovachia and I remember her having this at Christmas time. There was nothing like her cooking. We still make the walnut roll but not with honey. We butter the dough after rolling it out then spread a mixture of walnuts and white sugar,then roll them. Sweet memories!

  17. Terry McIntire on said:

    Thank you so much for sharing. My life and memories are so very simulator, both good and bad. Thanks for bringing me back to the good old days.

  18. Terry McIntire on said:

    I forgot to give the rolls a rating!

  19. Elane Spencer on said:

    I lost my Slovak mom to the dreaded disease last year. I
    have so many wonderful memories of my Croatian dad cracking and picking out the nut meat and grinding while my mom rolled that dough ever so thin. She had not made it in many years but, it was a wonderful memory and a delicious one too!

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your story.

    • A Kitchen Muse on said:

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m sorry for your loss. Dementia and Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease – very hard on the family. My Dad used to do the same thing your Dad do by picking the nuts out of the shell. Once in a while a shell would sneak through!

      God Bless you and your family.

  20. What is the recipe to grandstand salad? It sounds so similar to what my grandmother used to make, but I cannot find the full recipe anywhere. Please share. Thank you for sharing the Nut roll, I am making it now. I do a homemade apricot filling for mine. Delish

    • A Kitchen Muse on said:

      I’m working on finding the grandstand salad. Stay tuned. My Mother used to make hers with apricot filling as well. I forgot about that! Thanks for the memory.

  21. Found this recipe for the not bread and I want to make it for my husband. He loves nut bread. His mom and aunt made this every Christmas. Both are gone now and no one knows where the recipe is. Just wondering though is that the correct amount of milk, 2 cups sounds like a lot compared to other recipes I looked at and there is a lot. I too like the title up top A Labor Of Love A tribute To Mom so sweet.

    When explaining how to mix all the ingredients, the butter gets lost somewhere. I’m thinking it goes in with the rest of the dough ingredients.

    My husbands mom also had dementia, what a horrible disease. She also loved to cook and give everyone her food. She would call and say come over I made… always. It was hard to see that part of her slip away. So many stories of the holiday meals she made and hundreds of Christmas cookies.

    Thanks for sharing your recipe. Wish you all the best.

    • A Kitchen Muse on said:

      The recipe is correct. I doubled checked it against Moms. In regard to the butter – “While the yeast is rising…beat 3 eggs in the mixer. Add melted butter, sour cream, the rest of the sugar, vanilla, salt and finally, the yeast mixture.”

      It’s really an easy recipe – just time consuming. Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones!

      • Thank you! I had printed only the top part with the dotted line. I came back and looked at the entire recipe and there it was.

        I made it yesterday. It wasn’t as much worked as I expected. Funny that you mention in the recipe that it will be sticky because as I was making it I was saying, “sticky, sticky, sticky”. I had fun making it. It is delicious. My husband loves it. Thanks again for your recipe and for your response. Happy Holidays to you and you family also.

        Sharon

  22. Mary Anne on said:

    Hi. Great story….
    The recipe ingredients call for melted butter as an ingredient in the filling and just butter in the dough. The directions don’t talk talk about melted butter in the dough…which…or both? And if it’s in the dough as well…how much?

    Thank you so much…making for Slovak friends and want it to be perfect

  23. Debbi on said:

    Can I 1/2 the recipe?
    Thx

  24. Kathy Demeter on said:

    I have tears in my eyes as I read this. My mom has memory issues and no longer cooks. My grandmother made nut roll and my mother and I continued the tradition until a few years ago. My dad’s 90th birthday is this month and I’m making him nut roll and poppy seed roll for his birthday. He is also a very active member of Jednota!

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