Clearly, the gifts under the tree with the eye-catching wrapping paper and bows were the focus of Christmas morning.
A close second just might have been covered in tin foil and waiting to be unwrapped in the kitchen.
And unlike the presents, there was no name tag, so that meant there was no designated amount or reason to take an orderly fashion approach.
In other words, when it came to the traditional, homemade nut roll courtesy of Grandma Skoda it was a free-for-all.
That’s because everyone knew it wasn’t going to last long.
It didn’t matter if grandma made one, three or eight nuts rolls for her annual five-day stay at our house, we tore them up.
And we did not like to share with each other, let alone with the extended family.
See, Christmas Day was always spent at our house so that meant all afternoon and early evening we had visitors from both sides of the family, neighbors and friends.
The food, with pierogies, kielbasa and sauerkraut and breaded pork chops as the main dishes, was out all day and refreshed as different waves of people came through.
It was my job, with my dad giving me a nudge, to make sure there were at least one, if not two, loaves of nut roll hidden so we had some in the days in between then and New Year’s Eve.
I never failed to find a way get it done.
Grandma Skoda was taken from us way too young in 1986 and I went a long time without anything close to being comparable until a fellow Polish lady here Arizona made a near exact duplicate.
And she wraps it in tin foil.
There are no Polish bakeries in the area that can match it that I’ve found so I’ve come to making my own.
Grandma Skoda was known for leaving something — a pinch of this or dash of that — in all of our recipes, but this one is worthy of Christmas tin foil.
Traditional, Homemade Nut Roll
For the dough:
2 ounces cake yeast
1/4 cup warm water
16 ounces sour cream
16 ounces (2 cups) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling:
3 pounds ground walnuts
3 cups granulated sugar
6 ounces (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Soften the yeast by placing it in the warm water and letting it sit for about five minutes.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs on medium speed until combined, about a minute. Add the sour cream, melted butter, sugar, vanilla, salt and the softened yeast. Mix on medium speed until smooth and well-combined, about two to three minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour a little at a time until it is all incorporated, and continue to mix until the dough does not stick and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
3. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the filling, stirring well to ensure that it is completely mixed and all of the ingredients are incorporated.
4. Divide the dough into eight pieces.
5. On a very well-floured surface and one at a time, roll each piece out into a rectangle roughly 9 by 14 inches. Spread the filling to within about an inch of the edges. With the long side in front of you, roll up tightly and pinch the seams shut.
Place on baking sheets that are lined with parchment paper or that have been greased (two rolls per sheet). Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Repeat with all eight pieces of dough. Let rise for three hours.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake one pan at a time for 20 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned. Cool completely before slicing. Wrap leftovers in plastic wrap. To freeze: wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and then in foil.
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