Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Making Rugelach

When I was little, my grandma taught me how to make a cookie she called "Juicy Biscuits"...or maybe she said Jewish biscuits and my little ears translated.  She always made them with grape jelly and walnuts.  I never thought this was weird as a kid, though now, it does seem a little funny.  All I know is it was fun to make and they were delicious.
Making Rugelach

When I was older, I wanted to make the cookies on my own, but had lost the recipe.  It took me a lot of searching and research before I figured out they were actually called "Rugelach" and they were a traditional Jewish pastry.  After searching for a recipe that seemed familiar, I found this one on Epicurious: Rugelach (Gourmet | May 2004).  The recipe is actually pretty easy, but a little labor intensive.  If I am going to make it, I normally commit to making 2 or 3 batches at a time.

I definitely recommend keeping the dough refrigerated before and after rolling it out until it is ready to be filled and rolled.  The recipe says to chill for 8 - 24 hours, but I have done it in just a few hours with the same success.  I bake them whole and then slice them after they have cooled, which is different from the traditional method of doing the crescent shape or cutting them before baking.

Flavor varieties - you can go crazy with fillings.  I have heard of ones made with chocolate or apple filling.  I tend to mix and match using a variety of jams (raspberry, apricot, fig, and of course, grape), nuts (pecans or walnuts), and dried fruits (raisins or craisins).  I might have one with fig, craisins, and pecans and another with apricots, raisins, and walnuts.  If you like really sweet things, use the raspberry with the craisins and pecan.  I normally just mix and match until I run out of dough or the other ingredients.

These are often made as a holiday cookie, but I they are quite delicious and I would recommend them pretty much any time of year.  I will say this: I have tried to make them in July.  If you can't control the heat and humidity with some powerful air conditioning, you are in for a challenge.  You have mere moments to get the dough in and out of the fridge before it starts melting.  Were the cookies still delicious?  Absolutely.  Would I want to do that again?  Not so much.

Here is a photo montage of the batch I made at Christmas this past year.  I forgot to take pictures of the actual making of the dough, so it picks up from after the dough has been chilled.

Recipe courtesy of Epicurious.com

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup plus 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup apricot preserves or raspberry jam
  • 1 cup loosely packed golden raisins, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups walnuts (1/4 lb), finely chopped
  • Milk for brushing cookies

Whisk together flour and salt in a bowl. Beat together butter and cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer until combined well. Add flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Gather dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap, then flatten (in wrap) into a roughly 7- by 5-inch rectangle. Chill until firm, 8 to 24 hours.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Line bottom of a 1- to 1 1/2-inch-deep large shallow baking pan with parchment paper.

Making Rugelach

Cut dough into 4 pieces. Chill 3 pieces, wrapped in plastic wrap, and roll out remaining piece into a 12- by 8-inch rectangle on a well-floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Transfer dough to a sheet of parchment, then transfer to a tray and chill while rolling out remaining dough in same manner, transferring each to another sheet of parchment and stacking on tray.

Making Rugelach
Making Rugelach
Making Rugelach
Rolled out dough - thin, but 
not so thin it will tear when assembled.

Whisk 1/2 cup sugar with cinnamon.

Arrange 1 dough rectangle on work surface with a long side nearest you. Spread 1/4 cup preserves evenly over dough with offset spatula. Sprinkle 1/4 cup raisins and a rounded 1/4 cup walnuts over jam, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar.

Making Rugelach
The Fillings

Making Rugelach
Jam spread on the dough, cinnamon sugar, nuts, and dried fruit sprinkled on top.

Using parchment as an aid, roll up dough tightly into a log. Place, seam side down, in lined baking pan, then pinch ends closed and tuck underneath. Make 3 more logs in same manner and arrange 1 inch apart in pan. Brush logs with milk and sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon of remaining granulated sugar. With a sharp large knife, make 3/4-inch-deep cuts crosswise in dough (not all the way through) at 1-inch intervals. (If dough is too soft to cut, chill until firmer, 20 to 30 minutes.)

Making Rugelach
Bake until golden, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool to warm in pan on a rack, about 30 minutes, then transfer logs to a cutting board and slice cookies all the way through.

Making Rugelach

Making Rugelach

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