Traditional Nut Rolls
Traditional nut rolls and a modern baking hack
BY MARY SEAMANS
In almost every county in Pennsylvania, you’ll find at least one parish with a dedicated group of parishioners who roll out dough, spread on a thick layer of sweet and crunchy nuts, and bake to perfection a holiday favorite that helps to raise much-needed money for their faith community.
I know this from experience. I have tasted just about all of the parish-made nut rolls in the Diocese of Greensburg, and I have never been disappointed!
People tend to think of nut rolls as an Eastern European dessert, but many nationalities make similar pastries using nuts. In the Philippines, families combine nuts with more of a cake-like dough. Germans create strudel drizzled with icing, while the Greeks have their honey-sweetened baklava.
My grandmother, Mary Stofan, brought our family recipe from Slovakia when she came to America in 1912. I remember eating her delicious nut rolls as a small child when we visited her home in Wick Haven, Pa. She passed away in 1981, but my mother, Frances Stawovy, continued the family tradition and is still making them. She taught me, and we have been making them together for six years. Now we are teaching my daughter, Becky, how to make this treasured holiday treat so the tradition continues for another generation.
From left, Mary and Becky Seamans and Frances Stawovy with the finished product.
GENERATIONS DEDICATED TO SWEET TRADITION
Generations of volunteers at St. James the Greater Parish, Apollo, have been making nut rolls two times each year for more than 60 years. In 1968, the pastor asked Veronica Houge and Veronica Metro if they could make and sell nut rolls to help pay off the church’s mortgage. They agreed and are still in charge of baking to this day, raising an average of $15,000 each year for the parish. But don’t expect to ever see their recipe. It is a secret and is said to be kept in a safe at the parish!
Volunteers make nut rolls at St. James the Greater Parish, Apollo.
At one time, they made more than 4,000 nut rolls over a three-day period. Now, the group of nearly 50 volunteers can still make 1,600 nut rolls over a two-day period.
Sadly, COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines have made it impossible for the parishioners to make nut rolls for Christmas this year, but they do plan to start up again in the spring
Since my family’s recipe is a yeast-filled dough and needs to rise twice, the preparation takes many hours. If you would like to make something similar in just a fraction of the time, I have included a “quick recipe” that starts with frozen bread dough. I asked Chief Communications Officer Jennifer Miele to try it. The busy working wife and mom of two said the taste was fantastic.
Jennifer Miele and daughters Francesca, left, and Vivienne make the quick version of traditional nut rolls.
Start your own Christmas tradition using either recipe, and dobru chut — enjoy!