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.
Even 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.
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.
- 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.