Big Mistake … Huge
December 6, 2007
I hadn’t planned on writing about the Rugelach today, but after a shout-out on BlogHer’s Food & Drink page, I figured I might have some visitors in search of more recipes for Hanukkah celebrations. And, hey, I aim to please.
As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve never baked rugelach before. When I recently announced my intentions to bake them, my husband claimed he’d never eaten them before (a fact I found difficult to believe–which is a hunch my mother-in-law confirmed last night). Not only did he claim never to have eaten them, but he also wrinkled his nose when he saw the ingredients. Well, in the words of Pretty Woman: Big Mistake. Big! Huge! I was determined to find the very best rugelach recipe. Ever. And to win him over. Yes, I know, I know. It’s his holiday, but I am just that stubborn.
Given the season, recipes for rugelach have popped up all over the place recently. I was really tempted by a recipe recently posted on SmittenKitchen.com (a recipe she saw the day she was on set at the Martha Stewart Show—the very day and way I found her blog, in fact). But since I’d already drooled over her post, I decided to try something different. The four-fork reviews on Epicurious led me to believe that the recipe from a 2004 Gourmet issue could be trusted.
The method departs from the one used to make traditional crescent-roll-type rugelach. It is somewhat reminiscent of making biscotti: shape dough into a log, cut it and bake it (minus the eponymous second baking involved in biscotti making and plus a delicious sugar-cinnamon-fruit-and-nut filling). And the filling is really limited only by your imagination. I bought apricot and raspberry preserves and dried cherries and raisins, which I used to make four different permutations (one for each log). My clear motive here was to increase my odds that my husband would love at least one of the four varieties. Truth be told, I also increased my odds by serving the cookies with a scoop of black walnut ice cream. Worked like a charm. By day two of Hanukkah, he was singing the praises of rugelach.
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
Special equipment: parchment paper; a small offset spatula
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.