I have always wanted to make rugelach but for some reason have found them a bit intimidating, as if the demands of this Old World pastry were too much to handle for my modern fairly hectic lifestyle. Turns out I was entirely wrong. These may look fancy and hard to achieve but are fairly easy to make and so absolutely delicious that you will want to drop everything, run into the kitchen and get started on them right away. And the irony of it all is that I owe the making of these to another frigid snowy house-bound day!!
Rugelach date back to at least the 18th century and probably even earlier. It's thought that the pastry was created to commemorate the victory of the Austrians over the Turks because classic rugelach are crescent shaped and that was the symbol of the Ottoman Empire, thus allowing the victors to literally consume their enemy! Thank goodness they won or we might never have enjoyed these little gems!!
Though some rugelach are filled only with cinnamon and nuts or dried fruit, these have the added delightful combination of both raspberry jam and bittersweet chocolate--they're truly divine!!
You start by making a butter/cream cheese based dough and allowing it to chill for at least a couple of hours.
When you're ready to bake, you arrange all your fillings in separate little bowls to make the assembly process easier--
It's sort of like making a large sweet pizza. First you roll out the dough and spread it with some of the raspberry jam--
Next you sprinkle on the toppings, cinnamon-sugar, toasted chopped pecans and little shards of bittersweet chocolate
Now, if you have a pizza cutter, this is the time to use it--see, you really are making a Jewish pizza! You cut the dough into fourths and then cut each fourth into four skinny triangles--
Now you start rolling the triangles up into little crescents. The dough handles really well and if you press down on the filling with a bit of wax paper before you begin rolling, the filling stays inside too.
Then all you do is transfer the rolled triangles to a baking sheet and freeze for about 15 minutes before baking. Right before they go into the oven, you brush them with the egg yolk wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
What emerges are little flaky buttery pastries full of melted chocolate, warm raspberry jam, crunchy pecans and caramelized cinnamon-sugar that would make any shtetl housewife proud!! Each bite will carry you back to the old country!!
Raspberry Chocolate Rugelach
Makes 48 cookies
Prep Time: About 1 1/2 hours (plus at least 2 hours to chill dough; Bake Time: 20-25 minutes
For the dough
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 8 ounces cream cheese brick, room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
For the Fillings
- 2/3 cup seedless raspberry jam (unless you prefer the seeds)
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 3-4 tablespoons pecans, toasted and finely chopped (you could use walnuts or almonds too)
- 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate (3 oz.), finely chopped or mini-chocolate chips
For the Glaze
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon water
- Turbinado sugar
1. To make the dough: Beat together the butter and cream cheese in the large bowl of an electric mixer until mixture is light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and salt and then pour into the butter/cream cheese mixture. Beat on low speed until flour is barely visible. Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, flatten it out into a large disk and wrap well in the plastic. Chill for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
2. While dough is chilling line 3 baking sheets with parchment and set aside. Heat the jam in a small saucepan just to loosen it a bit for easier spreading. Set aside. In 4 separate small bowls, prepare your fillings. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon in one bowl, the pecans in another, the chocolate in another and the egg yolk whisked together in the fourth.
3. Divide the dough into thirds and place one of them on a well-floured counter or board and return others to the refrigerator until ready to roll them out. Using a well-floured rolling pin, roll out dough to a large sort of thin circle about 12 inches in diameter.
4. Spread 2-3 tablespoons of the warmed jam over the entire surface of the dough. Then sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the cinnamon-sugar all over it it. Sprinkle on 2 tablespoons of the chocolate and 1 tablespoon of the nuts. To make sure the fillings stay attached to the dough, press down lightly over the whole thing with a piece of waxed paper (save for the remaining two pieces). Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, first cut dough in half and then into quarters. Now cut each quarter into 4 triangles. Roll each triangle from the outside to the middle, keeping the roll tight. Transfer the rolled pieces to a prepared cookie sheet, trying to keep the pointed ends of the cookies on the bottom, and space them at least 1 inch apart. Put the whole tray into the freezer for 15 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and repeat Steps 3 & 4 with the remaining two pieces of dough, making sure to place them in the freezer for chilling before baking.
6. Remove the first tray from the freezer, brush the rugelach with the egg wash and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes until they are golden brown and puffy. Make sure to transfer the rugelach from the baking sheet while they're still hot or they may be hard to transfer once the jam that seeps out from the cookies, hardens. Let cookies cool before serving.
7. Rugelach keep in an airtight container for several days at room temperature.
Note: Recipe adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. I didn't really change much except to increase the chopped nuts a bit. These are pretty perfect the way they are!