Rugelach to the Rescue!
Politics got you down? Dispirited by a landscape of straw, grey brown, dull green and dirty snow? Feeling slightly guilty because you didn’t happen to make your sweetie a chocolate cream pie for Valentine’s Day?
Time for a batch of rugelach, one of the world’s more wonderful cookies – being as they are right next door to pie while being a great deal easier to make ( and a great deal more durable since they never get soggy).
The most common recipe comes from cookie genius Maida Heatter, whose formula for the rich crisp flaky crust is so widely disseminated it’s part of our pastry DNA. But plenty of bakers go with Jewish food authority Joan Nathan, whose version is drier and sweeter. In the spirit of bipartisanship, this one splits the difference.
For from 32 large to 84 mini cookies ( no harm in making an assortment of sizes):
Dough: 2 c. all purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
¼ c. confectioners sugar
1 cup butter, firm but not hard
8 ounces cream cheese
1 tsp. lemon juice
Topping: 1 beaten egg
Sugar or pearl sugar ( available from specialty suppliers like King Arthur Flour)
Filling(s): any flavor of jam or fruit puree, chopped bittersweet chocolate, spiced sugar and chopped nuts… as long as it’s firm enough not to run it’s fine.
1. Put one cup of the flour, the salt and the confectioners sugar in a processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse a few times to blend. Cut the butter and cream cheese into chunks about an inch square and drop them onto the flour mixture.
2. Sprinkle on the lemon juice, then the remaining cup of flour. Pulse repeatedly until you have a soft , clumpy, more or less homogenous, slightly sticky dough. A few small bits of butter and/or cream cheese may remain visible, but there shouldn’t be many.
3. Dump the dough out on a sheet of plastic wrap and shape it into a roll about 2 ½ ” in diameter and 8” long. Fold the wrap around it tightly and refrigerate at least 8 hours, up to 3 days. ( Or form it into 4 disks and wrap individually.)
4. At baking time, heat the oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or foil. Cut off ¼ of the roll , place that disk between 2 pieces of waxed paper and return the rest to the fridge.
5. Roll the dough into a roughly 10 inch circle. For once having the edges a little thinner than the center is fine. Refrigerate or freeze just long enough to re-firm the dough.
6. Peel off one sheet of paper, then replace it lightly. Turn dough over and remove the second sheet of paper. If using only one filling, spread it over the circle before cutting into 8 or more triangles. Otherwise, cut the dough first and then apply fillings. Roll each triangle wide end to point and place on baking sheets, point side down, well apart. They don’t spread but keeping them separated helps them brown evenly.
7. Repeat rugelach formation with remaining dough. Brush tops with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until dark gold, 18 to 25 minutes depending on size and oven. The egg drips and bottoms always get much darker than the tops. Don’t worry about it; they don’t taste burned unless you really incinerate them.