The five years I spent living in NY shaped my life in so many ways. It was the city that introduced me to my husband, it educated me, and taught be how to support myself. I feel indebted to all living in NY taught me as well as all the city introduced me to including (and especially) a love for rugelach. Since moving to California, I've noticed when I mention my love for the stuff, I get a weird look followed by a "isn't that a green you put in a salad". No, that is arugula. Get it together, people. But I hear it over and over again. Apparently it's not a thing out here, because literally not a soul knows what I'm talking about. And what a shame that is.
So if you're unfamiliar with the classic Jewish delicacy, let me introduce you. Rugelach are perfect bite-size pastry morsels. The flakey, moist dough is made of about 80% cream cheese and butter. And the fillings? Oh the fillings. Traditionally there are chocolate flavors, and jam flavors with nuts and raisins and things of that sort. Choosing between the two is always a painful process which results in me buying an entire bag of the stuff and devouring it before I make it to the subway.
There are recipes you pin and think "oh that looks good" then there are recipes you see and think "oh my god, I have to drop everything I'm doing and make this right now. Where have you been all my life?!" This is the latter. At least for me. So when I saw Deb's recipe for rugelach while thumbing through the Smitten Kitchen cookbook last year I did exactly that.
So for Thanksgiving this year, instead of making a bunch of elaborate pies and cakes, I decided to jazz up this perfect pastry with some festive fillings - and what I created was a rugelach sampler of sorts. Chocolate Raspberry is classic, rich, bold and my favorite of the three. Cinnamon Apple with Toasted Pecans (Nate's favorite) feels warm and cozy and tastes like Thanksgiving, and Honeyed Fig with Goat Cheese is sophisticated and savory. Oh and to top it all off, this stuff is super hands-on and fun to make, if you're into that kind of thing. They transport me to my favorite Italian pastry shoppe in the east village with the added charm of being perfectly homemade.
Homemade Rugulach: 3 Ways
Makes 48 (16 of each flavor)
adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
For the dough:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz (1 brick) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups all purpose flour
Chocolate Raspberry Flavor:
1/3 cup raspberry jam
1/2 cup (3 oz) bittersweet or dark chocolate, finely chopped
Apple Cinnamon with Toasted Pecan Flavor:
1/4 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
1 granny smith apple
1.5 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Honeyed Fig with Goat Cheese Flavor:
1/2 cup packed (4 oz) dried black mission figs
3 oz goat cheese, room temperature
1-2 tbsp honey
For the egg wash:
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp water
turbinado sugar for sprinkling
Make the dough. In a stand mixture, beat the butter and cream cheese together on high until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl whisk together salt and flour. With the mixture on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture a little at a time until completely combined. Be careful to not over-mix. Transfer the dough to a large piece of plastic wrap and cover, forming it into a solid disc. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or up to 3 days).
Prepare your fillings. Small prep bowls or ramekins come in very useful here. Heat the jam in a small saucepan until it loosens and becomes easily spreadable. Set aside. Finely chop chocolate. Chop and toast pecans. Core, peel and dice the apple into tiny 1/8 inch cubes, place in a bowl with lemon juice and toss to combine. In a separate bowl, combine cinnamon and sugar. Remove fig stems. Place figs in a food processor and pulse until finely minced. Stir goat cheese to loosen it and make it easier to spread.
Divide your dough into 3 equal parts. Place 1/3 of the dough on a lightly floured, cold, work surface (keep the remaining refrigerated). Roll out the dough into a 12-inch circle. It doesn't matter at all if it's a perfect circle. Apply fillings (see details for each flavor below). Place a large piece of wax paper over your fillings and gently press them into the dough - this makes the rolling process slightly less messy. Using a pastry wheel or a knife, cut your dough into 16 pieces (like a pizza - see photos). Starting from the outside, tightly roll each slice. Transfer the rugelach to a baking sheet lined with parchment, then place in the freezer (or fridge if you're like me and live with a freezer so tiny not even the smallest baking sheet will fit) for 10-15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and water. Remove rugelach from freeze, paint the tops with egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops just begin to brown. Continue with remaining two thirds of the dough.
- For the chocolate raspberry flavor: Spread an even layer of jam over the entire surface. Top with chocolate.
- For the apple cinnamon: Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over entire surface. Drain the liquid from the apples as best and possible, then top the dough with apples and pecans.
- For the honeyed fig with goat cheese: Spread a thin layer of goat cheese over the entire surface. Sprinkle with minced fig, then drizzle with honey.
You really can't go wrong with the fillings. Feel free to substitute or add things if the spirit moves you. Or add everything! The original recipe was a sort of "everything" flavor with jam, chocolate, pecans, and cinnamon sugar.
Stores at room temperature for three to four days, in the fridge for about a week, and in the freezer for up to two months.