Grandma’s Slightly Sweet, Perfect Nut-Roll Recipe

This is one of the recipes Grandma Anna was known for all over Gary, Indiana. Which I know doesn’t sound like much, but that was her community and it mattered to her. Because of that she kept it close to the apron.

If pressed, grandma might have given up some loose notes for the dough recipe, but never the filling recipe. This was a regular practice among women back then. I found a host of cryptic nut-roll and poppyseed-roll recipes from neighbors and extended family among her things after she passed. Typed on lined paper, warmed with patina from age, I look at her notes and recipes as maps taking me to a hidden treasure, if I’m patient enough to follow their clues.

Grandma sent even me, her granddaughter, on the wrong path with her recipes. To learn a recipe I had to pay attention, committing nuanced techniques to memory for myself and posterity. We shared a love of cooking and story telling so we spent a lot of time together. Because of that, I know how to fill in the blanks. Maybe that was her goal all along; keep it interesting, keep it tasty, keep us close.

So without further fuss, here is the recipe adjusted with secret filling ingredients included. Spoiler alert: it involves pineapple. I’m in big trouble, she is sooo going to haunt me now.

Makes 4 Rolls

Set Oven to Proofing Setting

Bread Roll Recipe Ingredients

1 Cup of Vegetable Shortening

1 Cup of Whole Milk (split in half)

1 Packet Active Dry Yeast

4 Cups Sifted All Purpose Flour

1 Teaspoon of Salt

1 Tablespoon of Granulated Sugar

4 Egg Yolks

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 Well Beaten Egg for a shiny glaze or a 1/4 Cup of Black Coffee for a matte glaze

Pineapple Nut Filling Recipe Ingredients

1 Pound Ground Walnuts

4 Tablespoons of Granulated Sugar

1/4 Stick Melted Butter

1 Cup Crushed Pineapple Drained

Lemon Zest from 1 Lemon (approximately 1 Tablespoon of Lemon Zest)


Cooking over low heat, melt 1 cup of shortening with a 1/2 cup of whole milk. Once melted remove from heat and transfer the mixture into a bowl, allowing to cool. Please note the shortening/milk mixture should not be added to the yeast mixture until it reaches the recommended temperature on the packaging on the Active Dry Yeast Packet.

Prepare the 1 packet of Active Dry Yeast in a half cup of whole milk brought up to the temperature range recommended on Active Dry Yeast packaging. Let stand for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the sifted all purpose flour, salt & sugar, and set aside.

In a small bowl combine the 4 eggs yolks and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and set aside.

In the large bowl containing the flour add the yeast mixture, shortening mixture and egg mixture combining until well blended. On a lightly floured cutting board knead the dough for 20 minutes. The surface of the dough will start to look like the moon, with small round craters appearing when formed into a ball.

Place the dough into a bowl, covering with a cloth and proof 1/2 – 1 hour until the dough ball doubles in size.

While the dough is proofing prepare the filling. In a food processor with the blade attachment pulse grind the 1 pound of walnuts and 4 tablespoons of sugar together until fine but not a paste. Please note, to do this successfully all of the ingredients and tools should be at room temperature and the tools should be dry.

In a large bowl combine the ground walnut/sugar mixture with the melted 1/4 stick of butter and 1 cup drained crushed pineapple.

Grease a cookie sheet or sheet pan with shortening.

Rolling the Nut-Roll

Cut the proofed dough into 4 equal parts. Form each dough ball into a rectangle before beginning to roll it out. Roll out into a rectangle approximately 8″x12″. Divide filling into 4 equal parts and spread a thin layer over the dough leaving a 1″ border on all four sides. Roll the dough and place seam side down on the greased sheet pan. Allow all 4 rolls to proof for a 1/2 hour back in the oven set at the proofing setting.

Once the 4 rolls have proofed remove from oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush the 4 rolls with well beaten egg for shine or black coffee for a matte finish. Once the oven is ready, bake for 45-60 minutes. The rolls will sound hollow when tapped, using the back of a spoon and have an evenly browned top and bottom. Allow to cool on a wire rack before serving.

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