Hungarian Nut Sticks

Unfortunate name.

Incredible cookie.

This is one of the oldest recipes passed down through my family. It’s one of the few holiday cookies I can remember my Nana teaching me how to make, step by step, along with gingerbread, and it just isn’t the holiday season for our family without these cookies. I’m not entirely sure where my Nana got the recipe, but she made them every year for as long as I can remember. While I’m certain this recipe has its roots through the Eastern European cookies called kolacky or roczki, these cookies aren’t built on a yeasted dough, and the shape and end texture end up being totally different.

The base of these bbs is a tender and buttery shortbread, then it’s topped with a crispy, spiced pecan meringue. The recipe doubles well, which is good news for you because you’re going to want a lot of these once you try them. My favorite way to eat them is with a cup of coffee.

Hungarian Nut Sticks:

Cookie Base:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 110 g) softened butter

  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • ½ tsp. kosher salt

  • 2½ cups (383 g) flour

Pecan Meringue Topping:

  • ½ lb. (230 g) pecans

  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar

  • 1½ tsp. cinnamon

  • ½ tsp. salt

  • 4 large egg whites

In a stand mixer (or very large bowl with a wooden spoon), cream together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs, vanilla extract, and salt and mix until all ingredients are homogenous. Gradually add all the flour and mix until just combined, being careful not to over-work the dough. If you fuss with it too much, you won’t have the tender cookie base you’re looking for. Cover your cookie dough in plastic wrap, press it into a disk, and let it chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).

Roast the pecans on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes, or until they become slightly darkened and fragrant. Let the nuts cool, then chop them until they’re very fine (I usually just throw them into a food processor and blitz them a few times). Set aside.

Let the chilled dough soften for about 10 minutes at room temperature, then place it on a floured surface and roll it out until it will fit the entirety of a 9×13 baking pan. Transfer your dough to the pan (a bench scraper really helps with moving it since the dough tears very easily), which should be lined with parchment or oiled and floured. Gently squish the dough with your fingers until it covers every inch of the pan and nestles into the edges. For this process, you will probably need to cut off some of the sides of the dough and then use the trimmings to fill in the empty gaps. Don’t worry too much about it looking pretty; it’s all gonna be covered anyway. Once this is completed, chill the dough again in the freezer until it is very cold, then par-bake the the dough in the oven for 15 minutes.

While the cookie base is baking, make the pecan topping by placing the chopped pecans, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and egg whites into a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Keep in mind that the cookie base needs to be out of the oven by the time the pecan topping is done so that it can be spread over the surface while every component is still warm. Cook the mixture on medium heat, stirring constantly until it starts to thicken up a bit and it becomes darker in color. Once the topping starts to pull away from the sides of the sauce pan and look to be more paste-like, remove it from the heat immediately. Take your par baked shortbread out of the oven when it’s ready and spread the pecan paste all over the top of the cookie base, ideally leaving almost no bit of cookie uncovered. Try and smooth it out so that the pecan layer is as even as possible, then put the pan back in the oven and bake for another 20 minutes. The pecan layer will puff up a bit and should get slightly more golden in color.

Remove the giant cookie from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes on a cooling rack. While everything is still a little warm, trim off the edges of the cookie with a bench scraper or a knife, then proceed to cut it into bars. We cut them into 1.5” x 3” (35 mm x 75 mm) bars, but you can make them however big or small you like. I would recommend using a ruler and making a slight indentation in the still soft meringue to create a clear path for cutting. Allow the cookies to cool a little more before extracting them from the baking pan, then let them finish cooling on a rack.

Store in an airtight container. I don’t know how long they last because they never last that long.


Makes about 30 cookies.

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