Monday, December 15th, 2014

Rugelach

 

Rugelach beauty 5

 

It always feels like Chanukah sneaks up on me and I’m totally unprepared.  Maybe it’s that moving start-date thing or not enough time has passed since I’ve put away my Thanksgiving dishes. (Actually, that’s a lie. My gravy boat is on the dining room table as I write this.) Or maybe it’s just that this time of year is crazy in every direction. Anyway, like almost everything else in my life at the moment, this rugelach recipe is coming in under the wire.

This year, instead of making the traditional apricot jam, raisin and walnut rugelach, I’ve decided to mix it up a bit. Because of all the recipe testing I do, my fridge and pantry offer up some interesting odds and ends—a plethora of half-empty jars of jams, small bags of nuts, dried fruits and other random ingredients. Today I pulled them all out and started making cookies.

rugelachEven if you don’t have to cook the variety of things I do, I’ll bet you have a lot of potential rugelach fillings in your larder. This is kind of the Jewish pastry equivalent of making soup out of whatever’s hanging around in the vegetable bin and on the dry goods shelves. Rugelach is the perfect baked-good vehicle for trying out new, creative combinations as well as for using the ingredients you have around that are too good to throw away, but maybe not plentiful enough to use elsewhere.  It’s a delicious and thrifty exercise.

I came up with a bunch of creative combos.  Some were better than others, but they were all pretty good. Lemon curd and poppy seed was yummy, but the curd tended to ooze out.  Try quince preserves (not to be confused with quince paste) or orange marmalade with pistachios.  I fooled around with sesame brittle, apricot preserves and cardamom sugar (using homemade brittle chopped in the food processor)…but my version wasn’t quite sweet enough.  Then, fig jam and walnuts: a Fig Newton meets rugelach kind of thing. Really good.  And next time I might substitute macadamia nuts for almonds when mixing them with pineapple jam and lime sugar. I had half a jar of mincemeat and thought, “wow, perfect!”  Everything already in there—various fruit, spices, maybe a bit of liquor.  I gave it a couple of pulses in the processor and it was pretty darn delicious and super convenient.

rugelach cooling rack1You get the idea.  Let me know if you come up with something good.

Below you’ll find a perfected recipe for chocolate, cherry and pecan rugelach and three other variations, but if you want to experiment with your own ingredients these guidelines might help:

Tips on the Filling

- Use about 1 cup of filling per disk of dough.

- Play with nuts, dried fruits, nut spreads, Nutella (oh, yah), fruit preserve or fruit spreads.

- If your preserves have chunks of fruit in them, you might want to pulse it the food processor (2 or 3 pulses is sufficient) to break it down. If the bits of fruit are on the smaller side (like marmalade), leave it as is.

- Swap out the cinnamon for other things like cardamom or citrus zest.  Think outside the roll!

- Taste your jam or preserve. You may want to add a couple tablespoons of sugar to bump up the sweetness.

General Tips

- Let cream cheese and butter sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before you’re going to use them; they should be still cold and only a tad soft. 

- The best tool for cutting dough is a pizza wheel; second best is a sharp chef’s knife.

- Refrigerate the cookies after you’ve assembled them.  They’ll hold their shape a lot better if you bake them when they’re cold.  If at any time the dough becomes too soft to work with, chill it until it is firm enough to handle.

 

 

Chocolate, Cherry & Pecan Rugelach

Yield: Makes 32 Cookies

The rugelach dough recipe has been loosely adapted from Dorie Greenspan. It's basically her proportions, plus a couple of tablespoons of sugar. This recipe can be doubled, no problem.

Ingredients

    Dough
  • 4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Chocolate, Cherry and Pecan Filling
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup cherry jam or preserve
  • ½ cup pecans (walnuts and hazelnuts also work well), finely chopped
  • ½ cup dried cherries, finely chopped
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • Glaze
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Instructions

  1. Start with making the dough: Let the cream cheese and butter rest on the counter for 10 minutes; you want them to be slightly softened but still cool.
  2. Pulse flour, sugar and salt in a food processor, scatter the chunks of cream cheese and butter over the flour mixture, and pulse until the dough forms large curds (don't go so long that it forms a ball on the blade). Turn the dough out, gather it into a ball and divide in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap the disks in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day. (Wrapped airtight, the dough can be frozen for up to 2 months.)
  3. For the chocolate, cherry and nut filling, combine sugar and cinnamon in small bowl. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll one dough into an 11- to 12-inch circle. Spread half of the jam over the dough, and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of flavored sugar. Scatter half of the nuts, cherries and chocolate. Cover the filling with a piece of parchment paper and gently press the filling into the dough, then remove the paper and save it for the next batch.
  5. Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 wedges. Starting at the base of each triangle, roll the dough up so that each cookie becomes a little crescent. Arrange the roll-ups on one baking sheet, making sure the points are tucked under the cookies, and refrigerate.
  6. Repeat these steps with the second packet of dough, and refrigerate the cookies for at least 30 minutes before baking. (The cookies can be covered and refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to 2 months. Don't defrost before baking, just add a couple of minutes to the baking time.)
  7. Meanwhile, adjust oven racks to the upper-middle and lower middle positions. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk the egg and milk in a small bowl. Brush the egg wash over the cookies and sprinkle with remaining sugar mixture.
  8. Bake the cookies until pale golden and slightly puffy, about 20 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through baking. Transfer the hot cookies to a wire rack and cool.

Notes

For fig and nut variation: In the sugar mix, substitute the zest of 1 lemon for the cinnamon. Use 1 cup fig jam and 1 cup chopped walnuts for filling 2 doughs.

For pistachio and quince (or orange marmalade) variation: Use 1 cup quince preserve or orange marmalade and 1 cup chopped pistachio for filling 2 doughs.

For mincemeat variation: Use 1 cup, lightly pulsed, for filling 2 doughs.

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Lynne Anderson
December 15th, 2014 at 9:35 pm

These sound great, Eva! Cardamom–yum.

Eva
December 18th, 2014 at 8:52 am

Thanks Lynne

Lisa
December 28th, 2014 at 9:34 am

I love the chocolate-cherry-pecan combo. Funny, Hanukkah snuck up on me too this year. I had planned to make Rugelach and never got to it. Maybe I’ll make it for New Year’s Eve with your recipe. Thanks Eva. Wishing you a very Happy New Year!

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