I hate Christmas cookies. Most of them are much more appropriate to hang as an ornament on a Christmas tree than to put in your mouth. I am definitely not the heroic Mom who gives cookies to every teacher and neighbor, but once in a while I do need to bake something for my children's school or dance recital bake sale. Somehow, pots of pork rillette -- my favorite holiday food gift -- is not something pre-schools appreciate. "If only I could bake a cookie as good as a pie," I thought, and then it hit me -- how about rugelach.
I started with a recipe from Gourmet Magazine (oh, how I miss it) that I found on epicurious. Although this was my first time baking rugelach, I decided to be daring and mess with the recipe a bit. Since it was in the pâte brisée category (one of my fortes), I thought I can get away with it. I added a little sugar to the dough for tenderness. Instead of creaming butter with cream cheese and incorporating the flour to form an even dough, I pulsed the flour with the fats in the food processor into a crumbly mixture that I squeezed briefly by hand to form a dough. The little specs of butter and cream cheese baked into fantastic flaky layers.
Oh, what a cookie! The only problem was that my family ate most of them before I could be a good Mom and give it to the teachers and the neighbors.
Inspired by a recipe by Melissa Roberts-Matar published in May 2004 issue of Gourmet.
Weighing is the only way to guarantee that you'll use the right amount of flour. If you are using cups, make sure to fluff the flour a lot, scoop with a dry measuring cup very gently without packing, and level off. This makes or breaks the dough. You can easily double this recipe, but if your food processor is only 7 cups (mine is), do the dough in 2 batches. This recipe produces 2 logs. If you double it, you can bake all 4 logs on the same baking sheet.
Makes 20 cookies
For the Dough:
5 oz all-purpose flour (1 cup)
1/4 teaspoon table salt (or 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal Kosher salt)
1 tsp sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, sliced 1/4 inch thick, kept cold
4 oz cream cheese, sliced 1/2 inch thick, kept cold
For the Filling:
2 Tbsp sugar (less if you prefer it less sweet) + 2 tsp for sprinkling finished logs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup apricot preserves or preserves of your choice
zest of 1 orange (or lemon) removed with a vegetable peeler, and minced extremely finely
1/2 cup loosely packed golden raisins, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
Milk for brushing cookies
Special equipment: scale for measuring flour; parchment paper; a small offset spatula
Dough Instructions (at least 1 day before baking):
- Put flour, salt, and sugar into a food processor and process for 10 seconds to incorporate evenly.
- Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse in 1 second intervals until the mixture looks like couscous (about 15 one second long pulses). Turn the mixture out into a small bowl and squeeze very firmly with your hands until it comes together into one big clump. Shape the clump into a 1.5 inch thick rectangle that is roughly 5 by 3 inches. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight. The dough can be kept in the fridge for 5 days or frozen indefinitely.
Filling and Baking Instructions:
- 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 2 pieces that are half the thickness of the original piece (still 5 by 3 inches, but now about 2/3 inch thick). Chill the piece you are not working with, 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 2 Tbsp 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 leaving 1.5 inch border on the long side furthest from you and 1/2 inch border on right and left. Sprinkle with half the zest. Sprinkle 1/4 cup raisins and 1/4 cup walnuts over jam, then sprinkle with 1 Tbsp cinnamon sugar.
- Roll up dough tightly into a log. Place, seam side down in lined baking pan, then pinch ends closed and tuck underneath. Make another log in same manner and add to the pan. If doubling the recipe to make 4 logs, space them 1 inch apart. Brush logs with milk and sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon of remaining sugar. Chill for 30 minutes.
- With a sharp large knife, make 3/4-inch-deep cuts crosswise in dough (not all the way through) at 1-inch intervals.
- Bake until golden, 45 to 50 minutes rotating pan 180 degrees half way through. 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. If some of the filling leaked out during baking, don't panic. It usually ends up around the logs, not underneath. Carefully, scrape it off when transferring logs to cutting board.
Can be cooled completely and stored in an airtight container, but they are outrageously good warm. If you want warm rugelach with minimal hassle, you can freeze unbaked logs and bake them later. Move them to the fridge a day before you want to bake.