Nigella Lawson’s walnut crescent cookies are delicate, traditional European Christmas cookies made with only a few ingredients–butter, sugar, flour, and walnuts. A sprinkling of icing sugar makes them perfectly sweet.
Come Christmas throughout central Europe, you’ll happen upon cookies shaped in the fashion of a crescent moon in practically every country. We’re still getting our facts aligned as to the significance of the shape, but while we do that, help yourself to this lovely, tender, delicate little classic.–Renee Schettler
Walnut Crescent Cookies FAQs
Before you even begin making the dough, make sure you’re using room temperature butter. Walnut crescent dough will be a little crumbly but it should hold together when you pinch it between your fingers. If it’s not sticking together, mix it a little longer using a stand mixer or a hand-held electric mixer. If that doesn’t help, you can add milk (or almond milk) by the tablespoon until the dough comes together as it should.
If the dough warms up too much, you’re going to have some trouble. Place it in the freezer until it cools down enough that you can handle it more easily. The easiest way to shape the crescents is with flour on your hands and just gently roll and shape. Don’t get too hung up on the shaping, they’re supposed to look rustic. You can also just roll into balls and flatten into rounds.
That’ll happen because the confectioner’s sugar is so fine. If that happens, you can just give them another little sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar before serving.
- 1 1/2 cups shelled walnuts
- 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar plus more for sprinkling
- 9 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour plus more for shaping
- Generous pinch salt
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).
- Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium-low heat just until they give off a nutty aroma, which ought to take no more than a few minutes. Dump the walnuts on a plate and let cool to room temperature.
- Blitz the walnuts in a food processor until pulverized. Return the walnuts to the plate. Pour the sugar into the food processor and blitz just to break up any lumps. Now add the soft butter to the sugar and process again to combine. Then add the flour and salt and process yet again. Open the lid of the processor, scrape down the sides, then return the walnuts to the processor and pulse just until everything is combined.
- Turn the dough onto your work surface. It will be sticky yet firm enough to mold with your hands. If it’s too mushy, wrap it in plastic wrap or place it in a resealable plastic bag and toss it in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
- To shape the walnut crescent dough into half moons, flour your hands and take scant tablespoons of the dough. Roll them into sausages about 2 1/2 inches long, and then slightly flatten the sausage as you curl it gently to form a crescent. Place the crescents on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake the crescent cookies for 15 to 20 minutes. When done, the cookies will still be quite soft but the tops will be firm and beginning to turn pale brown. Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for a few minutes before you transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Be careful as the cookies will be very fragile.
- Push some confectioners's sugar through a fine sieve into a shallow bowl to remove any lumps. Dredge the cooled cookies in the confectioners' sugar and turn to coat them thickly. We think you can take it from here.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
These walnut crescents are really good. The walnut flavor really comes through, which is nice. These are quite delicate and crumbly so be careful when you roll them in the sugar (I may have broken a couple but don’t worry they still tasted great.) Overall these are super easy to make and delicious.
They took less than 10 minutes to put together (love that!) and then 20 minutes to bake (I started checking at 15 as noted and am glad I did.) I actually toasted the walnuts when I brought out the butter to bring it to room temperature which then made it a breeze to actually make the cookies.
I really liked the flavor of these walnut crescent cookies. Aside from some slight spreading on the second batch, the cookies looked as good as they tasted. Crescent cookie recipes usually turn out dry but with good flavor. But this one turned out really well.
I was able to mold the dough right after mixing even though it was quite soft. I went ahead and put the shaped cookies in the fridge for 20 minutes before baking. (You can use this technique with other cookies, too. This helps minimize spreading.) When taking them out to dredge in the powdered sugar, they were very delicate and became less so as they cooled. The only problem was that the last few did not seem to have the confectioner’s sugar stick as well.
I tried one cookie on the day these were made and it was great. I stored them overnight in a container and the next day I packaged some for my husband to bring in to work and some for visitors and I tried one myself. The reviews were all thumbs up.
Originally published December 20, 2019