Italian Walnut Pillow Cookies

December 15, 2011

Italian Walnut Pillow Cookies

These cookies are fantastic! If you’ve never heard of Italian walnut pillow cookies, then it’s about time. Don’t worry, this was my first time too. But I swear, these cookies are going to catch on. They are verrrry similar to the kipfel cookies that I made a few months ago.  The filling is practically the same at least. These have a touch of melted butter in the filling though. These pillow cookies are rolled and sliced rather than shaped into individual crescents which makes them much easier to assemble then the kipfel cookies. BUT then again, the dough for the kipfel’s is much easier to make and handle. So it’s really in the air as far as which cookie is necessarily better. These walnut pillow cookies are for sure much sweeter, so maybe you can make that a deciding factor? Honestly, I don’t think they even need the glaze. I think it’s more for eye appeal than anything else. Either way they are BOTH great cookies. But! We aren’t talking about the kipfel cookies right now, so let’s get back to the point.

Italian Walnut Pillow Cookies. Where have you been my whole life?

I really have to give a big shout out to the Brown Eyed Baker for sharing this recipe. This cookie was a specialty of her Grandmother who used to make them each year at Thanksgiving. I decided to whip some up for Christmas. I took them to a church party and they won “best tasting” cookie. What more can I say? They’re really delicious!

Head’s up though- they do require a little labor of love.

Italian Walnut Pillow Cookies


The dough needs some chill time so that is the first thing to tackle.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream together the shortening and sugar. Make sure it get’s nice and fluffy.

Add the egg and vanilla and mix until well blended.

Alternately mix together the dry ingredients with the milk.

BEGIN and END with the flour mixture.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and wrap in plastic wrap.

I took four pieces of plastic wrap and laid them out to make things easier.

I also used a kitchen scale to make sure the pieces were even.

This dough is incredibly soft. It needs to be chilled!

I would even go so far as to put it in the freezer.

Definitely feel free to make it the night before and let it refrigerate overnight too.

If you’re pressed for time though, go with the freezer for at least an hour, if not longer.

While the dough is chilling, make up the filling.

You need 1 1/2 lbs. walnuts. The best way to prep them is to roughly chop them and then in batches, pulse them into tiny pieces with a food processor. I actually processed them a little further than seen in the photo. It’s better to go smaller than to leave large chunks. This allows the filling to melt into crunchy, sweet layers.

The rest of the filling is simple.

Just lightly beat the egg whites, then add the sugar, then the walnuts and butter.


Once the dough has been thoroughly chilled you can start to assemble the walnut cookies.

As I mentioned earlier, this dough is soft. So you need to be gentle and you will need an abundance of flour.

Roll the dough out to about a 6″ x 18″ rectangle.

Take the filling and evenly spread it across the rectangle.

Be sure to leave a 1″ border around the edges so that the dough will stick when you roll.

The dough is so soft that it’s hard to spread the filling without ruining the dough, so I plopped small drops of filling around the rectangle and then spread then together. Much better idea than dumping in one area.

Roll up from one edge lengthwise.

Place the roll seam side down and cut off the edges that have no filling.

Begin to slice cookies along the roll, about 1″ wide.

I put them on a sheet pan, covered with foil, and refrigerated them an extra hour or so.

I always do that with cookies. It ensures that they are less likely to flatten in the oven.

When ready, bake them, cool them and then frost them!

Oh yes, and then enjoy!

Italian Walnut Pillow Cookies

These cookies spread out to at least double their original size. It surprised me when I pulled them out of the oven and I saw how big they ended up.

I though they were going to bake up kind of like rugelach or the kipfel cookies and retain their exact shape.

Nope. Puffed right up.

Hence the name “pillow” cookies I suppose.

Italian Walnut Pillow Cookies

Do you see all the incredible layers of crunchy, sweet walnut filling?

People will wonder how you made that happen.

Seriously though, these cookies are fantastic.

They’re exactly what you need this Holiday season.

Italian Walnut Pillow Cookies
  • Dough:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Filling:
  • 1½ lbs. walnuts, chopped (I use my food process0r)
  • 4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 4 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • Icing:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons milk (approximately)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cream together the sugar and shortening. Add the egg and vanilla and combine well. Add in the remaining ingredients, alternating between the flour mixture and milk, starting and ending with the flour mixture and making sure all of the ingredients are well incorporated. The dough will be soft. Divide the dough into four even pieces, wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. To make the filling, either process the nuts through a food processor until finely chopped (just a smidge larger than all-out ground), or chop by hand. The smaller the pieces, the better. Combine the chopped nuts with the sugar and then add in the melted butter. Mix well, making sure there are no large clumps. Add the egg whites and again, mix well.
  4. On a well-floured surface, roll out a piece of dough into a rectangle measuring about 6 inches by 18 inches. Spread ¼ of the nut filling onto the dough, leaving a small border around the perimeter of the dough. Roll up as you would a jelly roll, with the short ends to the left and right of you, and seal the ends. Cut the roll into 1-inch pieces and place on the cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are just slightly starting to turn brown. Cool completely. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough and remaining filling.
  5. Once the cookies are cooled, prepare the icing by mixing together the powdered sugar, vanilla, and enough milk to achieve the desired consistency. You’ll want the icing to be thick enough to not be runny, but still easily spreadable. Ice the tops of the cookies and let set completely before storing in an airtight container.

adapted from Brown Eyed Baker


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

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