real life test kitchen: grandma b.’s rosemary nut rolls


This recipe has a bit of a backstory: The first holiday season that my husband (then boyfriend) spent together, my mother-in-law-to-be made us a HUGE batch of his favorite cookies. These cookies, or “nut rolls”, made from a recipe she got from her mother-in-law, were delicate, buttery, and yeasty, and filled with a not-too-sweet ground walnut filling. After one bite, I was hooked. Next time I saw the M.I.L, I made a point of asking for the recipe, thinking she would be excited to share it with her son’s new love. She said sure, but that it would be a while before she had time to type it up. So I waited. Almost a full year. And I asked again, with a similar response. So I kinda gave up on them, and hoped that someday, I would earn the right to the recipe. As luck would have it, I was reading through one of my favorite cookbooks, the Fannie Farmer Baking Book, and stumbled upon a recipe which sounded EXACTLY like what these “nut rolls of mystery” tasted like. So I made the recipe — in the book entitled “Sugar Horns”, and lo and behold, they were the same. Victory! Over the years, I’ve made these so many times that I’ve kind of evolved them into my own thing, subbing out the walnuts for pecans, and adding finely chopped fresh rosemary to enhance the almost-savory quality of these lovelies. They are incredibly good right out of the oven, warm, with a hot cup of coffee and keep beautifully if sealed well. They look beautiful too, and one batch makes so many that they are a great choice for holiday gift giving and potlucks. Hopefully the recipe will become a closely guarded family heirloom for you, too! –Megan B. Click for Grandma B.’s Rosemary Nut Rolls!

Grandma B.’s Rosemary Nut Rolls
adapted from the Fannie Farmer Baking Book, by Marion Cunningham
makes 80 cookies

1/2 cup milk
1 package dry yeast
3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pats
3 egg yolks
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups (approx.) sugar
1 cup ground pecans (2/3-3/4 c before grinding) — I grind mine in a mortar and pestle. It gives a better texture.
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Heat the milk up until it is slightly warm (approx 100°F), stir in the yeast, and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, stir the flour and salt together with a fork. Work the butter in bit by bit, either with a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingers (which is the way I do it), until the mix looks like pebbles or pea gravel. Work the liquids in with a fork, and press dough into a ball. Cut the dough in half, and then each half into 5, and roll into balls. Mix the rosemary with the ground nuts. Sprinkle a cutting board with approx. 2 tbs sugar, and roll out one of the rounds into a 7 inch circle. Sprinkle the top with about a tablespoon of sugar, and spread 1 1/2 tablespoons of the nut mixture around the outer circumference of the dough. Cut into 8 equal wedges. Roll the wedges up towards the center, starting with the filling side, and place point side down, about an inch apart, on a lined baking sheet. Repeat above steps for remaining dough. Bake 10-12 minutes or until cookies puff slightly and start to brown. Transfer to racks to cool, and serve when warm — or store in an airtight container, and reheat at 300°F for 5 minutes before serving.

From our partners

are these cookies are more like bread rolls? I’m wondering because of the yeast

Megan b.

Not at all- they’re more like a yeasted shortbread cookie in texture. The yeast lends a mild flavor that makes it taste really unique and dare I say delicious.

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Karen McCloskey

You say in the directions to “work the liquids in”, but you don’t say what liquids! There’s the milk, and I’m assuming that the vanilla goes into the nut “mixture”, but you don’t say what the actual mixture IS…this is extremely frustrating. This is the second time I’ve tried to get a nut roll recipe online only to end up irritated b/c the person leaving the recipe doesn’t specify what ingredients go where and what exactly the “mixture” is supposed to be. I’m a baker–I make breads and pastries all the time, but finding the right nut roll recipe has not been easy since my mother passed away 3 Christmases ago. It would just be nice if someone would actually see a recipe through–just because you know what you’re doing doesn’t mean everybody else knows what it is you mean…