Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Art of Jewish Dessert: Rugelach

Food is one thing at which Jews excel. More specifically, we excel at the art of dessert (and soup, but I've already dealt with that). My favorite place to indulge in this cultural pastime is a little bakery on Fairfax that goes by the name of Diamond's. The employees--including the ninety-year-old woman who hobbles back and forth--have been there for decades and are pretty much the epitome of old Jewish ladies. Whenever I go in, they always give me a cookie or two to taste even though I'm no longer the eight year old tagging along with my parents. These women bake amazing challah, rye bread, onion cheese bread, and onion rolls. More importantly, they make the best mandel bread (mandelbrot), and rugelach I have ever tasted.

So, what's the deal with rugelach? For the uninitiated, it's a cream cheese dough rolled around a filling. The most common flavors include poppy seed, apricot, chocolate, cinnamon and raspberry. You can use pretty much anything (I wanted to do a rhubarb ginger jam, which was vetoed, and Ms. Whiteplates enjoys pineapple jam). They should be soft and flaky and so delicious that you have to beg someone to take them away from you before you devour an entire batch. Depending on where you go, they will also be sprinkled with either cinnamon sugar or coarse sugar, and look like the roll above or mini croissants. However, the key to good rugelach is the perfect dough and a delicious filling, not how you to choose to roll them. I mention this because, as you will see below, those croissant-looking cookies are reserved for those of you who want to wait an extra twenty minutes and enjoy tediousness and frustration. The rolls? For those of us who prefer to forego the desire to throw dough against the wall.

So, get creative and get baking! 

1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

The options are endless. Consider:
1/2 cup of any jam or preserve you enjoy
1/2 cup each of chopped walnuts and pecans, mixed
1/4 cup brown sugar mixed with 1/4 cup granulated sugar and some cinnamon

2 Tbsp. milk mixed with 1 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. cinnamon mixed with 3 Tbsp. granulated sugar or
6 Tbsp. coarse sugar

1. In the bowl of your mixer, beat cream cheese and butter on high until it resembles the texture of frosting. Then beat in sugar and vanilla.

 I had to remind myself that this was not cream cheese frosting, so no, I shouldn't lick the spatula.

2. Mix salt into flour. Slowly add into mixer bowl, stopping now and again to scrape down sides. 

3. On a floured surface, take dough and roll into a ball. Divide into four. Wrap each quarter in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-3 hours (or overnight). The cooler the dough is,  the easier it is to move around. 

Hello, I taste better than my doppelganger, sugar cookie dough.

4. When your dough is cool, preheat your oven to 350F. Then line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat--this is nonnegotiable, as any cookies with jam will spread and stick. Also, leave each piece of dough in the fridge until you're ready to use it. Get your fillings and the toppings ready.

Chopped walnuts & Ghiradelli chips.                     Cinnamon, brown sugar & granulated sugar.

 Topping & best raspberry jam. It's really tart and perfect for cookies.

5. After utilizing one of the methods below, bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and slightly crispy on top. They will crisp up when cooled.

See the leakage? I just thought it looked cool, but I would break off the caramelized pieces before serving.

The reasons I don't particularly care for this method lay primarily with my lack of patience and ability. First, I inherited my mother's inability to roll dough out into a circle. Second, rolling up 48 triangles just isn't fun when topped with jam and other things. But, if you're so inclined, here you go.

1. Leaving the other portions in the fridge until ready, take one quarter and roll out into a circle on a floured surface. Don't make it too thin, or it will be hard to pick up and move.
I uh, fixed my circle with the pizza cutter.

2. Top circle with your fillings. We put down raspberry jam, sprinkled with chopped walnuts, and then the brown/white sugar cinnamon mix.

3. Cut circle into 12 pieces with a pizza cutter. Then, triangle by dreadful triangle, start at the outside and roll towards the middle of the circle. So, roll wide side to point. Place point-down on baking sheet. Brush with milk wash and sprinkle with preferred topping.

Do you see how unruly these are?


This method is much easier and a lot less frustrating. Just be gentle with the dough and keep it cool to avoid any ripping. I also found that I got a lot less "leakage" with these.

1. On a floured surface, roll dough out into a rectangle, about 12" x 9". If you are using nuts, be very careful not to make too thin, as they will rip through the dough as you roll.

2. Add your filling. We did some with the chocolate-walnut mix sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and then we did a raspberry jam version with cinnamon sugar, walnuts and chocolate.

Cinnamon, sugar, walnuts, chocolate. Nom.

3. Roll along the long end, so you end up with a 12" coil that mimics cinnamon rolls. I linked to a video in this post that shows a good way to make sure your roll is tight and even. If your dough has become too slack to roll, move it onto parchment paper and place in the fridge for 10 minutes to harden up. 

 A bit of everything... rolled into deliciousness and topped with more deliciousness.

4. With a sharp knife, cut your roll into 12-14 pieces. Again, if you're having trouble cutting through, some time in the fridge will make this step easier.

 Reminds me of a caterpillar...except not.

5. Place on your baking sheet so the pieces are standing on their sides. Brush with milk wash and sprinkle with preferred topping.

When all is said and done, you should have rugelach that look this good.


Ms. WhitePlates said...

The rolls are really sweet and I wish I'd known about them before I spent hours scrubbing my cookie sheets! I'm not usually a fan of nuts in baked goods (this always induces snickers) but rugelach have changed my mind before about what I like and I think you've done it again.

Thank you for the mention, too!

Elin said...

Hi, thanks for showing us the step by step pics on how to make a jewish dessert -rugelach. They look so delectable ! I would love to try this one day :)

Peggy said...

this looks great! can't wait to try it!

Lauren said...

Hey! These look perfect! Yum...

I'm going to forward this to my mom, who is obsessed. I want one!! Or four.

-- Lauren, Lauren's Little Kitchen

lemonsandanchovies said...

Your rugelach looks great and the rolling method would be my choice too. Thanks!

The Cilantropist said...

I love traditional recipes! The step-by-step photos are so helpful, and will encourage me to make these sooner. ;)

Baking Barrister said...

Thanks everyone! You should certainly give these a try--they're pretty easy and you can fill them with whatever your stomach desires. My brother ate the last of them for breakfast this morning--and dipped them in his cereal milk while there was still cereal!

Andra said...

These look so amazing! I am very apprehensive about baking - anything flour based pretty much makes me hyperventilate IF it has to rise. I call it baking anxiety disorder. These look fairly manageable :)

I just read your little summary and couldn't help but smile. I am a recent law school grad too (well, 2008) admitted to Colorado and working for the state since graduation (thankfully!). I am not a baker- you seem to be a natural. And I am lagging behind in another department- my MacBookPro does not have a name.

Le said...

*drool* These look great! It reminds me of asian snacks that are made of glutinous rice flour and rolled with red bean filling in the middle....ok so this isn't anything like it, but it sort of looks like it!

Patsy said...

Oh, my goodness... have to try these...with raspberry!

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