When I was a little girl, my Grandma Solar and I made story time a regular occasion. She and my grandpa lived 3 hours away, so we didn’t see them all the time. But every time we did, we had story time. I mean, I was only a little girl, but to me, she was the best storyteller in the whole world! I used to love scary stories (I’m not sure why, I hate them now…I think hers always had a happy ending, and I liked the suspense). She always made sure that every time we visited she would have at least one new story to tell me. Some she wrote on her own, others she found elsewhere. It didn’t matter to me. I just loved getting all snuggled up with Grandma, listening to whatever tale she had up her sleeve; clinging to her in the scary parts, laughing in the funny ones. I still remember some of the stories today. Not whole stories, but bits and pieces. That’s how good they were. I’m telling you, the woman had a gift.
Aside from being the world’s greatest storyteller, my grandma was also an incredible cook. She made all kinds of delicious foods. Holidays always left us feeling full and satisfied. But among all of the delicious things she made, her nut roll was my absolute favorite. No contest. I seriously think I would have eaten the whole roll every time if my parents would have let me. No kidding. I always looked so forward to eating it. Relishing every delicious morsel. I was in heaven.
Unfortunately, my grandma passed away when I was young. Six or seven, if I remember correctly. And while my grandma was great in the kitchen, she didn’t follow many recipes, she didn’t write much down. She worked all from memory and experience. It’s a trait in our family. My mom and I have several “recipes” that are never exactly the same, but always similar. We don’t write them down. We just kind of come up with them and then wing it. I’m starting to see the value in writing it down. Even if I don’t follow it exactly, at least it’s somewhere for others to be able to use.
All that being said, when my grandma passed, we all thought she took her nut roll recipe with her. Every few years I would ask my mom if she had any idea if there was a recipe somewhere and if there was where would it be? The answer was always the same. Nobody really knew. And every so often my mom would try her hand at making some sans the recipe. It was always good, but never the same. For years I hoped and prayed we would stumble across it.
Then one Christmas, in 2012, my dear Aunt Debbie and her daughters passed out tins to everyone. They told us to wait-we needed to open them at the same time. When it came time to open them, we all looked down and there inside was my grandma’s nut roll! Finally! After so many years of craving the taste, wishing my grandma were here to teach me how to make it, there it was. Right in front of me. AND not only did my aunt and cousins make some nut roll for everyone-they also made a copy of the recipe for each family. After all these years, my aunt thought to ask my grandma’s sister if she had a copy of the recipe. Sure enough, she did. And the best part of all-it was written in my grandma’s own handwriting! Honestly. It may just be the best gift anyone has ever given to me. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. None of us could believe it.
Remember how I said I would have eaten the whole roll, I loved it so much? My girls are the same way. They LOVE it! And that makes me so happy. It reminds me of how much I loved being around my grandma, how much I enjoyed spending time with her, listening to her stories, eating the delicious food she made. It brings me back to my childhood and the wonderful memories I have of her. This recipe is a little piece of grandma. As much as I wish my grandma were here to meet my sweet girls, and as much as I wish they could know her, this recipe is a way for me to pass on my grandma’s legacy. It’s a way that my girls can get to know her. My grandma’s nut roll has become a tradition. We look forward to it every year. And now I intend to share it with all of you.
The recipe is a bit sketchy, and I’ve had to fill in some blanks, but I think that’s part of the fun! I think that’s probably how she cooked. By filling in the blanks. Working from that creative part of her.
Now I have to warn you, this recipe requires a lot of work and time, but it is SO worth it. It also makes quite a bit. 4 rolls. You can halve the recipe if you want, but I don’t know why anyone would want to do that…We always make a full batch and then slice it up and put some in tins to give as gifts. So if you receive a tin full of nut roll, it means we really love you. A lot. Well are you ready? Here goes:
For the Bread:
Start out by scalding 1 cup milk. If you don’t know how to scald milk, it’s easy. Put it in a saucepan and turn the heat to medium high. Once bubbles form around the edges and a film forms on top, you’re done! Milk, scalded.
You can’t see it too well, but there’s a thin film on top of this milk.
While your milk is scalding, heat 1 cup of water until it’s really, really (110-115 degrees) warm. After you’ve scalded your milk, add 1/2 cup shortening, 1 cup sugar, and 1 Tbsp. salt to the saucepan and stir until everything is dissolved.
Let it cool until it’s lukewarm. I always let it sit out while I mix up my water and yeast and then I put it in the fridge for a couple of minutes while I crack and beat my eggs. That being said, your next step is to pour your warm water into a large bowl. Add 4 packages of yeast and stir until the yeast is dissolved.
Now, crack 4 eggs into a bowl and beat. Set aside. Once your milk mixture is lukewarm, add it to the bowl with the yeast and mix well. Next, add your eggs and stir until well blended. Finally, add 6 cups sifted flour, 3 cups at a time, and stir until smooth. If you don’t have a sifter, you can “fluff” your flour with a fork so that it becomes aerated. It will have basically the same affect as sifting it. Once the mixture is smooth, add enough flour to make it so that it doesn’t stick. The recipe says 3 1/2-4 cups, but I only used 2 this time. But I really feel like it’s different every time, so just use what you need to use. Now it’s time to turn your dough out onto a floured surface and knead until it’s smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). My girls love this part. Personally, this is the part where I think a Kitchenaid mixer might come in handy. Especially that beautiful mint green one…
Place your dough into a greased bowl, brush the top with shortening, cover, and set in a warm place to rise until double in size-about 1 hour.
While your dough is rising, let’s make the nut filling!
Separate 4 eggs and keep the yolks. Beat them slightly. You will also need to melt 1 stick of butter and chop 4 cups of walnuts until medium fine (you can add pecans if you’d like). I pulsed my blender with about a cup of nuts at a time so they didn’t turn into a paste.
Combine your nuts with the egg yolks and melted butter, as well as 1 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 tsp. almond extract. Stir until well blended. You will use one cup nut filling per roll.
Once your dough is done rising, punch it down and separate it into 4 equal parts. Take one and place on a lightly floured surface for rolling. I always sprinkle a little flour on top too.
Roll that baby out into a 10″x 16″ rectangle.
It takes some elbow grease, and I highly recommend a mat like this one. I got mine on amazon, but they sell them all over. I made our nut rolls last year without it (because I didn’t have it yet) and it was so much easier this year. I love that it has a ruler on all sides, that way I don’t have to go find a ruler and keep on measuring it as I go. It seriously took way less time to do it this way.
Anyway, once it’s rolled out to size evenly spread 1 cup of the nut filling over the surface.
Then roll it up and place on a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet. We roll ours so that the roll is 10″ long. I bake mine 2 at a time. If you want, you can brush some of those egg whites you didn’t use on the top.
Bake at 350-375 (that’s what the recipe says) for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool. And enjoy!
Grandma’s Nut Rolls
For the sweet bread
- 1 cup scalded milk
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 Tbs. salt
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1 cup warm water
- 4 pkgs. yeast
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 6 cups sifted flour + 2-4 cups extra
Scald milk, then stir in shortening, sugar, and salt until shortening is melted. Cool until lukewarm.
Pour 1 cup warm water into large bowl. Add 4 pkgs. yeast and stir until dissolved. Add milk mixture to yeast mixture and stir. Add beaten eggs and mix. Then add 6 cups sifted flour and stir until smooth. Add an additional 2-4 cups flour until it no longer sticks to you.
Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, at least 10 minutes. Place in greased bowl, brush top with shortening, cover with a towel and set in a warm place to let rise until double in size, about 1 hour.
For the Nut Filling
- 4 egg yolks, slightly beaten
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 4 cups walnuts, chopped medium fine
- 1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
Combine all ingredients until well blended and set aside
- Once your dough is done rising, punch it down and separate into 4 equal parts. Place one part onto lightly floured surface and roll out into a 10″ x 16″ rectangle. Add 1 cup nut filling and roll the bread up. Place on greased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Brush tops with egg whites, if you like and bake at 350-375 for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
I hope you love these as much as we do!