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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rugelach - a Special Cookie for the Holidays

My grandmother Rose made fantastic rugelach. Rugelach are rich, buttery cookies rolled around chopped nuts mixed with cinnamon sugar, though I have seen them filled with chocolate. Rugelach are not easy to make because the dough is very soft. Don't even attempt to make them in hot, sticky weather. You will end up with a mess. If your kitchen is very warm, even in the winter, I suggest turning down the heat when you roll these out. Because winter is the best time to make these cookies, they are perfect for bestowing on your friends for Christmas or Hannukah. They will be impressed.


This recipe is from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies(1977). When I asked my mom for her mother's rugelach recipe, she said use Heatter's. Grandmother Rose and Ms. Heatter both use a dough with cream cheese and butter. There are other variations for the dough, but I think this one is the best. Not the easiest, but the best.


Rugelach
(makes 36 cookies)


Pastry:
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 pound cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sifted all purpose flour





Filling:
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup dried currants
5 ounces (1 1/4 cups) walnuts, finely chopped


Glaze:
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon water



1. In a large bowl, cream together butter and cream cheese until completely blended and smooth. Beat in salt. Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour. The dough will come together towards the end to form a ball on the beaters.
2. Remove from the bowl, flour your hands and knead lightly. Roll into a short, fat roll and cut the roll into 3 even pieces. Form each piece into a ball, flatten into a thick disc, and wrap each disc tightly in plastic wrap. 3. Refrigerate overnight. The dough has to be thoroughly chilled or it will be too soft to roll out.
4. The next day, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Set two racks to divide the oven into thirds. Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  
5. Stir together the filling sugar and cinnamon.
6. Place one ball of dough on a well-floured container or board. I use a marble board because it stays cool, but the countertop works as well. Flour a rolling pin and pound the dough to soften it slightly. Roll out the dough into a 12" circle. To keep the dough from sticking, spin it a quarter turn as you roll it out. Sprinkle on more flour if the dough starts to stick.
7. Brush the dough with 1 tablespoon melted butter and quickly, before the butter hardens, sprinkle with one-third of the cinnamon sugar. Sprinkle with one-third of the currants and one-third of the nuts. Lightly press the currants and nuts into the dough with the rolling pin.
8. With a pizza wheel or a long, sharp knife, cut the dough into 12 pie-shaped wedges (like cutting up a pizza into 12 slices). Starting at the fat end, roll up the dough to the pointy end. Place the cookie, point down, on prepared cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining wedges, spacing them 1" apart.
9. Clean up all the stray nuts and currants, and flour the board again. Roll out second ball of dough and assemble cookies. Repeat for third ball of dough.
10. In a small bowl, combine egg yolk and water. Brush glaze on top of cookies.
11. Bake cookies for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Check the bottoms to make sure they don't burn. As soon as cookies come out of the oven, transfer them from the cookie sheet to a rack to cool.


Note: These cookies are best within 2 days of baking, but they freeze extremely well. No adjustments are necessary for altitude.


Link to Recipe for Rugelach

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