wild turtle crossing

slow: writer at play

Vivian Henoch

Vivian Henoch
Northville, Michigan, USA
June 17
Writer and editor:myJewishDetroit.org
I write around. Follow me on Twitter @vivianhenoch or @myJDetroit


Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 8, 2011 9:29PM

Ach! Rugelach.

Rate: 18 Flag


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. 

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.   


"Rugelach, babka and challah, oy vey." 

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) 

Googling recipes for rugelach, I find little variation in the pastry. Here’s Joan Nathan basic recipe:

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
  1. 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.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 cookie sheets with baking parchment (or a Silpat baking mat).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Sprinkle the apricot and chocolate rugelach with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

Now why didn’t I think of making rugelach like these?  
Pinwheel rugelach from Smitten Kitchen.   Good idea.

My "potchkied" rugelach. Oh, my. 
And thanks for stopping by. 


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I had a bumper crop of raspberries this year. I will copy your recipe!
They look just splendid!!!
Vivian I have so many raspberries I will have to make this delicious looking recipe!!
I don't have the patience to bake either. Your party sounds fun!
First congrats on your new grandson, and your party sounds just wonderful. As for Rugelech yours look totally delicious. And I think getting yr house all spruced up sort of goes with baking, boring or no.

I am not a joke-telling type but as a child my favorite joke was about Rugelech, but someone else will have to post it. It involved a kid who had a fear of those sweets and the mother... well you either know it better than I can tell it or no. Rated.
Very enticing and inviting. Thanks for sharing the recipe. Am game to try it...
Thanks to all for your comments. I've got blackberry brambles (which I planted) wandering in the field in the back of my yard. . . got a plan for them with ice cream and rugelach.
Anyone know the rugelach joke? Do share. Or send a link.
Oh, happy summer!
Sounds like you are having a great summer, baking or no baking. Enjoy your company. I sure miss Lake Michigan.
I wish I could eat this.
Ok the next time I feel like baking this is the first thing on my lisp.
Your litte gathering sounds grand!
Well, if I'd known there was going to be a vitamix......
Beautiful pictures. If they taste only half as good as they look, I will dream of them.
Thank for dropping in. Wish I could invite you for coffee and a nosh.
Linda-- rugelach -- there's so much butter and cream cheese in the dough, I'm sure the pastry would hold together with spelt or rice flour. Will look up gluten-free potschky.
Pauline- hoping to make my little gathering grand. Enough. (truth be told, it's all about my kids -- busy lives, why wait for the holidays??)
Annie -- got Vitamix?
Ranger: If photoshop mades 'em look good enough to eat, let me assure you, a half pound of butter and another half-pound of cream cheese, slathered with jam does the trick with the taste-buds.
Oh.My.God. I am sooo trying this! Thank you!
Your rugelach look tasty indeed--I've always had a weakness for those things. Your friends and family will be lucky to have them and your other goodies too!
You're so fun to read, Vivian! Your rugelach look delicious and I'm sure they taste so too. I made them once as well, because I believe in trying everything at least once (in culinary terms, that is) :o)

Best on your upcoming family union.
I have always, always wanted to make this -- and I think Fusun posted a recipe once -- but as of yet, I haven't done it. It's just daunting! I roll out pie crust and make scones and all sorts of other baked goods but rugelach (maybe because I'm not quite sure of how to pronounce it?) is much more intimidating than anything else.
Vivian, this is wonderful. I will try this when turning on the oven does not seem like a self destructive behaviour. It has been so hot in the last few weeks!
Rug-a-lah -- easy to pronounce -- is just as easy to make, if you don't mind fussing with flour to make pastry. In general, I think the higher the fat content in the dough, the more forgiving it is. The dough for rugelach is very workable and forgiving (unlike pie crust and some yeast doughs.)
Just for laughs - (or utter discouragement) if you want to see an obsessive compulsive way to make the stuff check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLIFL3aDty0 -- Sean Pera from the Culinary Institute of America -- many tools and folds and clean cuts are involved (it also appears that he's at least doubled or tripled the recipe.)
Vivian, I actually had a good time making these. Must have been a rare baking moment, because I would much rather cook. But they were so good, it was worth the trouble. I think you're right about Smitten Kitchen's idea though. Rated for persistence.
Glad you enjoyed. . .
Oh they look so wonderful, and I haven't had them in years. I'm having a butter and cream cheese pastry fantasy. Rarely do I notice the cover but the photo and word Rugelach drew me like a banker to money.

Vivian, you're positively diabolical! I just got into my summer jeans and now I may have to make these and eat the whole batch. Have a blast during the reunion!
Rugelach! That alone would have been worth the airfare! Heard it was a festivus to remember. Sorry we missed it!