Imagine curling up with a tender, buttery Nut Roll filled with a sweet walnut filling loaded with vanilla and cinnamon that melts in your mouth.
THIS POST HAS BEEN UPGRADED FROM 11/29/16 TO IMPROVE READER EXPERIENCE.
Holiday Nut Rolls have a tender buttery pastry crust and a sweet walnut filling that’s loaded with warm cinnamon and vanilla that melts in your mouth. Homemade nut rolls are perfect with a good book and a cup of coffee.
I had to get permission to post this nut roll recipe from my mother-in-law. This buttery nut roll has been a tradition in our family for as long as I can remember.
She’s in her 90’s and learned how to make these Nut Rolls from John’s grandmother over 60 years ago. She’s been showing friends and family how to make them ever since.
We only make this Holiday Nut Roll before Christmas so they stay a special Holiday treat.
What are Nut Rolls?
The definition of a Nut roll can really vary. Some are made by making a jellyroll that’s sliced before or after baking.
Other Nut Roll Recipes, like this one, are made individually.
Even though John’s Grandmother was Italian, I can’t vouch that this recipe is an authentic Italian Nut Roll recipe. There are different versions that come from Central and Eastern Europe, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary as well as others.
They can have different fillings such as a nut paste, apricot, poppyseed, and coffee.
One thing that they all have in common is that they’re usually made for celebrations such as weddings, Christmas and Easter! Party on Nut Rolls!
There’s usually 3 or 4 of us that get together so they go together pretty quickly. Especially after you’ve done it a few times.
How to make Nut Rolls
- Make the walnut filling by combining finely ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of vanilla. That’s not a typo. This nut roll filling is loaded with vanilla.
- Make a sponge for the pastry. A sponge is just warm milk, yeast, sugar, and flour. When the yeast gets active it gets a “spongy” appearance (thick and bubbly).
- Combine the dough ingredients with the sponge ingredients and mix with your hands until you have a pebbled consistency. Don’t try and blend all of the butter in. The pieces of butter are what gives the pastry dough it’s flakiness.
- Roll pastry into balls. My Mother-in-law is a stickler here. You have to have at least 70 balls otherwise they’re too big or too small. I got 72. Whew, I passed! We roll all of these at once and put them on a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate them until needed.
- Roll out each pastry ball into a thin 4″ to 5″ circle.
- Smear on some filling.
- Roll and shape into a crescent.
- Brush them with an egg white wash, (one egg white with 1 tsp water whipped together).
- Bake at 375° 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
These Nut Rolls aren’t difficult to make but because of the amount that they make they can be time-consuming. That makes them all the more fun to make when you have 2 or 3 sets of hands to
visit work together.
While one person rolls out the pastry, another person can add the filling and get them on the baking sheets and into the oven.
How to make Nut Roll Filling:
- Grind walnuts into a sand-like consistency. You can buy chopped walnuts but they are still too large and sharp for these Nut Rolls and can cause the pastry to tear. I grind them in a food processor.
- Add the ground walnuts, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon to a medium-sized saucepan. Cook until thick.
- The filling tends to get thick as it cools making it difficult to smear onto the pastry. You can add a little water to it and heat it back up on the stove.
- I use an angled cake icing spatula to smear on the filling.
- Don’t add too much filling. It will cause your nut rolls to split or break.
- You can substitute another nut for the walnuts. I would keep the texture of the nut the same. Pecans or cashews would be good choices.
These Holiday Nut Rolls make great additions to a cookie tray and we give some of them away as gifts. I must confess though you have to be pretty high on the gift list to score a dozen. They’re great for Christmas morning too!
How to store Nut Rolls
Nut rolls can be stored at room temperature in an air-tight container. They also freeze well for several months. I will put them in an air-tight freezer bag and then in an air-tight container so the don’t get crushed or broken.
John gets very possessive because we make these rolls only at Christmas time. He hides any extras in the freezer so he can make them last as long as possible. They warm perfectly in the microwave in just a minute.
We also keep any leftover filling. I freeze it in small containers. John loves putting this Walnut filling recipe on his toast in the morning, and it’s amazing on pancakes and French toast too!
Other great Holiday tray recipes:
Don’t have time to make them now? Pin it for later!
A few things you may need to make the perfect Nut Roll recipe:
The following are affiliate links. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. For more information, please see our disclosure.
- Angled Icing Spatulas – I use these angled icing spatulas when frosting cookies, cakes, or adding filling to recipes.
- Rimmed Baking Sheets – These sheet pans are durable and I have four of them so I can get everything baked in a jiffy!
- Mini Food Processor – I pull this smaller food processor out of the cupboard a lot more than my full-sized. I love it for making salsa or chopping veggies.
Nut Roll Rule – If you happen to over-fill them and they break they will not be as beautiful on your cookie tray. Therefore, you have to eat them, but allow them to cool slightly first. That filling is hot and will burn your mouth!
Holiday Nut Roll Recipe
- 1 lb walnuts ground fine
- 3 cups white sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 tbsp vanilla
- 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup milk lukewarm
- 1/4 oz yeast 1 packet or 2-1/4 teaspoons
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 lb butter 4 sticks
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp vanilla
- 7 egg yolks well beaten
- Combine sponge ingredients and set aside until bubbly (10-15 minutes).
- In a medium-sized saucepan combine filling ingredients. Cook until thick. Remove from the stove. If filling gets too thick while you make your rolls, stir in additional hot water or milk.
- Combine dough ingredients as you would pie dough. Add the sponge to flour mixture and mix with your hands until crumbs form. Roll walnut-sized balls of dough and put them on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Dust working surface with flour. Roll each ball into approximately a 4-inch circle. Spoon a tablespoon of filling onto the dough and spread it out. Don’t overfill or your roll will break open or ooze out in the oven.
- Roll into a crescent shape. Brush with egg white
- Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375°F for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire cooling rack.
- Store at room temperature in an airtight container. Can also be frozen.
- If the filling gets to thick, add water to it and reheat it on the stove top until warmed and spreadable.
- Roll all of the pastry balls at once. Work with a few at a time and keep the remaining ones in the refrigerator. The cold butter in the pastry is what makes them flaky.
- Don’t overfill. They will crack open.
- Store Nut Rolls at room temperature in an airtight container or freeze them by placing the rolls in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
- Rolls are delicious slightly warmed in the microwave before eating. However be careful that they’re not too hot because the filling can burn your mouth.
What is your favorite cookie for the holidays? Please share in the comments below. You are my inspiration!
Looking for more cookies for your holiday baking? Check out these recipes!
- Old Fashioned Frosted Sour Cream Sugar Cookies
- Easy Dark Chocolate Cookies for a Crowd
- Brownie Cookies with Mocha Frosting
- Grandmas Gum Drop Cookies Recipe
- White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
- Dark Chocolate Molasses Cookies