My Mom is a fanatic for all things fresh, so I guess it should come as no surprise that I spent a ton of time with her in the kitchen as I was growing up. While other moms were happy to let the new convenience foods (Kraft mac ‘n cheese being the most ubiquitous at the time) relieve them of kitchen duty, my Mom saw her duty as the ultimate pleasure. Riding on her apron strings wasn’t just a fun time; it’s how I learned to appreciate food and cultivate my baking-craft. We made countless recipes together, but this flaky cookie-pastry, my Mom’s favorite sweet, is the one that registers the strongest memories. I offer it now, in advance of this coming Mother’s Day, to moms everywhere, hoping that they’ll take the time to bake and share it with their sons and daughters. After all, the passing on and preserving of food traditions is one of the greatest legacies we can leave our kids. (Note: This recipe first appeared in my book Cookie Swap where it was called Sugar Between the Sheets!)

My Mom’s Favorite Cookie
My Mom’s Favorite Cookie | Photo by Steve Adams

4 dozen (2 1/2-in/6.4-cm) crescents

Prep Talk
  • For easiest handling, be sure to chill the dough at least 2 to 3 hours before rolling.
  • These cookies can also be prepped through Step 6 and frozen up to 1 month. When ready to eat, thaw on a cookie sheet for 25 to 30 minutes; then proceed as indicated in Step 7. (I love these cookies best warm from the oven.)

Sour Cream Dough:

  • 2 cups (9.0 oz/256 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks/8.0 oz/227 g) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into tablespoon-size pieces
  • 3/4 cup (6.0 oz/170 g) sour cream
  • 1 large egg (2.0 oz/57 g), separated
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cinnamon-Walnut Filling:

  • 3/4 cup (5.2 oz/147 g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (3.0 oz/85 g) walnut halves, toasted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 | Mix the sour cream dough. Stir the dry ingredients together in a large bowl; then cut in the butter with a fork or pastry blender until it resembles small peas. Whisk the sour cream, egg yolk (save the white), and vanilla extract together in another bowl, and gradually stir into the dry ingredients, blending just until combined. (Avoid overmixing; a few small butter lumps are just fine.)

2 | Divide the dough into three equal portions; then flatten each portion into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and chill 2 to 3 hours, or until the dough is quite firm.

3 | Make the cinnamon-walnut filling. Place the sugar, walnuts, and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until the nuts are finely ground, but not pasty.

4 | Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F (191°C). Line two or more cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

5 | Roll the dough. Work with one disk of dough at a time. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 12-in (30.5-cm) circle, about 1/16 inch (1.6 mm) thick. Trim the dough to a uniform 12-in (30.5-cm) circle using a cake pan or bowl as your cutting guide. Sprinkle the top of the dough with one-third of the filling, covering the surface as evenly as possible. Gently press the filling into the dough.

6 | Cut and shape the crescents. With a sharp knife or pastry wheel (I like to use one with fluted edges), cut the circle into 16 wedges. Starting at the widest end, roll up each wedge into a crescent. (Don’t worry if some filling falls out; just brush it out of the way so it doesn’t get on the outside of any cookies.) Place the crescents on the prepared cookie sheets with their loose ends facing down. Repeat Steps 5 and 6 with the remaining disks of dough.

7 | Whisk the reserved egg white until frothy, and brush it evenly on top of each cookie. (If you plan to freeze the crescents, do not apply the egg white until after the cookies are thawed.) Bake 15 to 17 minutes, or until lightly browned on the top and bottom.