These traditional Hungarian Walnut Rolls are technically a Christmas cookie but I like to think of them as a Make-Any-Day-Better cookie. These Hungarian specialties are another one of my Husband’s favorite cookies from childhood. They utilize the same cream cheese dough as the Hungarian Apricot Kolaches but they taste remarkably different.
When I first tasted them this Christmas, I knew these Walnut Rolls (or, as they are also called, Nut Horns) should not be restricted to Christmas to compete with the Gingerbread Boys, Snowballs, or Molasses Spice Cookies. No, no. They are waaay too special for that.
This week when I found out that a friend, and lover of Hungarian treats, needed a good old-fashioned sugar pick me up, I jumped at the opportunity to bake him something close to his heart. These Hungarian Walnut Rolls have a delicately flakey yet rich crust, and an incredibly sweet, irresistible walnut filling! The outside of the roll in generously coated in sugar, which creates a sumptuous caramelized crust on the bottom and a crunchy, sugary sweet coating on top.
These cookies are so delicious; my Husband braved the Atlanta snowstorm (on foot) to buy the cream cheese for the crust!
They are like little bites of Heaven!
It took several tries around Christmastime to recreate these Walnut Rolls the way that my Husband remembers his Grandmother’s tasting, but I am happy to report that I have finally nailed it. Do not be deterred by the length of the instructions. They are really quite simple but I wanted to make sure you could recreate these magical cookies the first time!
Aren’t they adorable?!
Like her Apricot Kolaches, my Husband’s Grandmother rolled her walnut rolls out in sugar and then sprinkled extra on top, because Grandma Szabo knew that more sugar is always better!
Grandmother Szabo’s Walnut Rolls were apparently MUCH larger than these. She used a generous tablespoon of filling into the thinnest pastry imaginable. They taste equally amazing large or small.
These traditional Hungarian cookies have a sweet, nutty filling inside a flakey, rich pastry! While they are traditionally made at Christmastime, they are outstanding any time of year!
For the Pastry:
2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar for rolling
For the Walnut Filling:
½ pound freshly ground walnuts (finely)
1 cup sugar
½ cup of boiled milk
1/8 cup melted butter
To make the Walnut Filling:
Mix filling in a medium bowl using only ¼ cup of the boiled milk. The mixture should be thick.
If the filling is not spreadable, use the rest of the milk. I used all of it. It will thicken as it sits.
Note: You can make the filling ahead of time and freeze it until you are ready to use it. Just thaw at room temperature when you are ready to use.
For the Pastry Dough:
Sift flour and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
Beat the cream cheese and butter together with a stand mixer or a hand mixer until completely incorporated and creamy (3-5 minutes).
Reduce the speed of the mixer and slowly add in the flour. I used 5 additions and completely mixed in the flour each time. The dough will be soft but not sticky.
Divide the dough into 4 equal parts and flatten each to ¾” thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until hard, at least 2 hours.
Assembling the Walnut Rolls:
Pre-heat the oven to 375°. Move the oven rack one setting higher than the center.
Take one of the disks of dough from the refrigerator and lightly flour both sides. Spread granulated sugar on your pastry board or work surface. Place the dough on top and roll out pastry to 1/16” thick or as thin as possible. Most recipes say 1/8” but my Husband remembered them being thinner. Thinner is better. If you roll them too thick, the bottom will burn before the inside has a chance to fully cook and puff up. They still taste good but they taste so much better when properly rolled. Promise. Just trust me here.
With a pastry wheel or sharp knife, trim the dough into a square and then cut the square into 16 smaller squares. My dough never rolled out into a perfect circle so I would just cut as many 1 1/2 “ squares a possible, saving the scraps for later.
Place a dollop of filling in one corner of each square. I used ½ teaspoon.
Starting in the corner with the filling, roll the dough around the filling from corner to corner, gently pressing down as you roll. Grab the roll on both sides and pinch as you bend the roll to create a crescent shape. Gently move it to a parchment covered baking sheet, placing the Rolls no closer than 1” apart.
Repeat with all remaining squares.
Sprinkle the middles of the Rolls with just a touch of granulated sugar.
Bake 12-14 minutes or until the bottom edges are a golden and you can smell them. They should puff up slightly in the middle. With experience you can see when the dough is cooked. Let cool slightly on the pan on a wire rack and then move them gently to a wire rack to cool completely.
Repeat with all remaining dough. Refrigerate and re-roll your scraps. Amazing.
For a more traditional cookie, you can omit the granulated sugar and dust the final, cooled cookie with powdered sugar. I will warn you that it won’t be as divine.
Note: Recipe from June Meyer’s Authentic Hungarian Heirloom Recipes Cookbook. The Walnut Filling recipe can also be found on her website. You can look forward to more Hungarian heirloom delicacies. I’m borderline obsessed!
The most difficult part about these cookies is storing them so that they don’t get soft. They will still taste yummy but the crispy flakey crust with the caramelized bottom is really sensational. I found that layering them between sheets of wax paper and then wrapping the stack loosely in foil will keep them as crisp as possible.
You don’t want to cut a corner and not re-roll your scraps. They make the best cookies because they have been rolled out twice in sugar!