Keeping old traditions and making new ones.
This nut rolls recipe goes back several generations. Mom got it from Aunt Lois, who got it from her mother-in-law, whose family brought it to the US from Lithuania forever ago. It's a Keeper that has proven its worth for decades.
In my childhood, these foil-wrapped gems were lined up on every square inch of counter space during the holidays. Mom baked them to give to loved ones, but we also had plenty to snack on morning, noon, and night. One of my most vivid memories is how each one was unwrapped and re-wrapped so many times that the foil was a crinkly mess by the time we got down to that last end piece.
Doug and I have created our own tradition of giving these nut rolls to friends, neighbors, and family, while keeping the least beautiful ones for our own snacking. We don't get fancy. I still wrap them in foil like Mom did. Sometimes we add a stick-on bow or curly ribbon. (Oh, maybe we DO get fancy.) We set aside time to deliver them in person with wishes for the happiest of holidays. It's our way of showing how much we care about those we might not see as much as we'd like throughout the year.
When the nut roll deliveries are done, we brew a pot of coffee, and commence with the snacking - wrapping and rewrapping until the foil is a crinkly mess, down to the last piece.
- 4 pounds walnuts
- 1 pound unsalted butter softened/melted
- 1 pound brown sugar (1 pound = 2 ¼ cups)
- 2 cups sugar
- 12 ounces evaporated milk
- Warm the evaporated milk to 110 degrees F. Stir in a half teaspoon of sugar and the yeast. If using dry yeast, let it sit for 5-10 minutes to activate. It's ready when it has a foamy layer on top.
- Mix all of the dough ingredients with an electric mixer until the dough comes away from your mixing bowl clean. Place in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
- Grind or finely chop the walnuts. I like to use the food processor, working in small batches.
- Melt the butter. Combine all the filling ingredients in a large bowl or container. I use a rectangular container so I can mark off 12 equal portions.
assemble and bake
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Take the dough from the refrigerator and divide into 12 equal portions. Sprinkle sugar on your counter or table and roll a ball of dough in sugar until it is 12-14" by 8-10". Spread a portion of filling on it, leaving about an inch on all sides. Slowly roll from one of the long sides.
- Tuck the ends under and place the roll seam-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. I place three rolls on a jelly roll pan to keep the nut rolls from spreading too much. Sprinkle each roll with a little more sugar.
- Bake each pan for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until golden brown.
- Let nut rolls cool about 15 minutes before very carefully transferring them from the baking sheet to foil sheets.
- When completely cooled, wrap tightly in foil. I hear they freeze well, but they never made it that far in our house.
- When serving, cut each nut roll into 12 slices. It seems kinda unfair, but one slice is a serving.
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