And so here I find myself baking rugelach - of all things. Baking and freezing, baking and wrapping and freezing -- pastry and baked goods of all stripe for a family reunion I’ve been planning all summer.
Halfway through the recipe, it occurs to me: I have no patience for baking.
I’m daubing raspberry jam, dropping nuts and raisins, sprinkling cinnamon, onto pastry triangles, thinking, rugelach! Who makes rugelach? Buy it at the bakery. Who cares that it costs $8.99 a pound? Bakery-baked rugelach is the way to go.
From scratch, baking rugelach is . . . painstaking at best (and boring to me). Rolling out the dough (not to be mistaken for rolling in dough) I find my thoughts drifting. . .to easy Pillsbury crescent rolls and kid-friendly pigs-in-blankets. There’s a Yiddish word for what I’m doing: it’s potchky. (Rhymes with notch-key) meaning to fuss, mess around, inefficiently.
I notice that my rugelach technique is inept. Like snowflakes, no two rugelachs look alike as I fill-and-roll. Do I place the wraps point-side-up or down on the cookie sheet? Down, as I check the recipe, it says down, but does it matter?
Rugelach, in case you’re still reading and wondering, is a rolled cookie, a little Jewish pastry of mixed European and Middle Eastern (that is to say unknown) origin. The word rugelach is Yiddish for “little twists.” According to experts on two centuries of baking rugelach, in Europe the dough was made with yeast. The American Jewish twist on the recipe (most likely with thanks to the Kraft Philadelphia people) introduces an entire package of cream cheese to the pastry dough. (My inexpert guess is that this variation dates back to the 50's when cream cheese was introduced to everything, including the humble celery stalk.)
Finished with a dusting of confectioners sugar, rugelach has a melt-in-the-mouth quality. Given its velvety rich pastry and sugar-laden filling, (to heck with the calorie-count) I admit that the homemade version is superior to the store-bought, and tempting enough to try. At least once.
Learning to make rugelach at my grandmother’s knee is not in my lexicon of childhood memories. So why now? It occurs to me: my grandmother-gene (not to be confused with my Aunt Jean) must have kicked in since the birth of my grandson in March.
"Rugelach, babka and challah, oy vey."
Googling recipes for rugelach, I find little variation in the pastry. Here’s Joan Nathan basic recipe: I’ve dubbed my "little gathering" a Seinfeld-like Summer FestivUS, with twenty to thirty coming to stay and play (and eat) all weekend. For this event alone, I have spent a small fortune, sending e-vites on a site called pingg, packing souvenir “gift bags” and maintaining blooms in the garden in what has been the hottest summer on record in Michigan. With the excuse of a party in the offing, we’ve purchased new outdoor lighting, carpeting for the basement steps, an old-fashioned lemonade dispenser and a Vitamix - a blender with the horsepower of a lawnmower to make everything from margaritas to ice cream. Forget the quaint handcrank. The Vitamix is . . . the power tool to beat all in the kitchen. (Not recommended for rugelach)
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
(Most recipes add a 1/2 cup sugar to the dough. A sprinkling on top will do)
Filling: use any variation of nuts, jam or chocolate, as you wish:
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
Egg wash for brushing cookies
- To make the dough, place the cream cheese and the butter in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle. Cream at a low speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Add the flour and salt and mix until a very soft dough is formed, about 2 more minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 cookie sheets with baking parchment (or a Silpat baking mat).
- Mix the ingredients for the filling and divide the dough into 4 balls. On a lightly floured surface roll the balls out into 4 circles about â…›-inch thick and 9 inches in diameter. Spread the filling over the dough. If using a cinnamon-sugar filling, brush the melted butter on first, then sprinkle the combined cinnamon and sugar.
- Using a dull knife, cut each circle into 16 pie-shaped pieces about 2 inches wide at the circumference. Roll up from the wide side to the center. Place the rugelach on the lined cookie sheets. Bake in the oven on the middle and lower racks, switching after 12 minutes, also switching back to front. Continue baking about 13 more minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the rugelach to racks to cool.
- Sprinkle the apricot and chocolate rugelach with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.
Now why didn’t I think of making rugelach like these?
My "potchkied" rugelach. Oh, my.
And thanks for stopping by.