Three Doughs, Endless Possibilities: Julia G.’s Rugelach

I don’t know why, but I usually feel the urge to make rugelach this time of year. Not pareve yeast rugelach, but dairy rugelach, with real butter and cream cheese.

It always seems like a fabulous idea . . . until I am halfway through rolling out, filling and shaping the dough. Then I remember why I only make rugelach once a year. These aren’t simple drop cookies. These are hand crafted miniature pastries. Rugelach are not hard to make, but they are rather labor intensive.

It helps if you are prepared for that aspect and think ahead to make things a little easier. Make the dough a day ahead. Divide the dough up into individually wrapped packets and flatten the dough a bit so you have a head start on rolling out. It is also a little easier to make rugelach logs instead of crescents.

When you serve the rugelach for dessert at a party, all the hard work pays off.  At the end of a heavy meal, what most people want is a little something rich and sweet with coffee, and rugelach hits the spot.

Rugelach making is as much about the shaping as it is about the filling and the dough. I have three different dough recipes, and I play around with different fillings, but I have found that I can get very different effects just by changing from the crescent shape to a log shape or even a larger strudel shape.  You can even make a completely different cookie by using just jam as a filling and shaping the dough like danishes.

Another thing to think about is size. One of my tricks is to make miniature rugelach, but any size is delicious.

I just posted Grandma Rose’s sour cream pastry dough, which is used to make miniature danishes or strudel. Now, I am giving you the cream cheese dough recipe from my brother-in-law’s grandmother. Julia G. A”H was a superior baker, and she was famous for her rugelach (among other specialties).

Julia G.’s Rugelach
Adapted from my brother-in-law’s “Nanni,” A”H. Nanni cooked a lot by feel, so I have made the recipe a little more precise in terms of ingredients and method. I have also added in my own tips and tricks and ideas about fillings that I have learned over the years. So, the dough and basic shaping method is Nanni’s and the rest is a mix of what I have absorbed from a lot of different place and from experience.

8 ounces butter (227 g. / 1 cup)
8 ounces cream cheese (227 g. / 1 cup)
1 egg
3.5 ounces cup sugar (100 g. / 1/2 cup)
11.25 – 13.5 ounces flour ( 319 – 383 g. / 2 1/2 – 3 cups)
1 tsp. baking powder

For filling cookies:

Cinnamon sugar (1/2 cup sugar, 3-4 tsp. cinnamon)
finely chopped walnuts
miniature chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate
apricot jam or apricot lekvar (lekvar is more oven-proof)
golden raisins

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and cream cheese until well combined. Mix in sugar. Add the egg and mix well.

In another bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder. Stir the flour mixture into the butter/cream cheese mixture just until combined. You might need more flour, but I found that 2 1/2 cup was enough flour to make a soft but not sticky dough.

Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Place each portion of dough onto its own large-ish piece of parchment paper or waxed paper. Shape each portion of dough into a rough square and flatten to a 1/2″. Wrap up the dough squares in their pieces of paper, place the wrapped dough packages on a sheet pan and stick it in the refrigerator. Chill it overnight (2 hours at least, but I go with overnight because I find it less exhausting to make that way).

When you are ready to roll (literally), get out your rolling pin and line your work surface with parchment paper. Set up bowl of raisins, cinnamon sugar, jam, chopped nuts and mini chocolate chips.

Roll out one section of dough at a time. Roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment paper (waxed paper is good, too). Flour the surface to prevent sticking, as needed. You can also use my paternal grandmother’s trick of using powdered sugar to dust the work surface and prevent sticking. I have also heard of rolling out the dough over a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar.

Roll each piece of dough into a rectangle that is about 6″x12″. Cut the rectangle into four smaller rectangles, each about 3″x6″. Spread the surface of the dough with a thin layer of apricot jam. Be fairly stingy because excess jam will just leak out and burn when you go to bake the rugelach. Sprinkle over some nuts, cinnamon sugar, raisins and chocolate chips. Don’t pile on a lot, be discreet; excess filling will make the dough hard to roll up.

You have two choices when it comes to rolling up the rectangles of dough. One way is to roll from the short end, which will give you a fat 3″ roll. The other way is to roll up from the long end, leaving you with a skinny 6″ roll.

Take your roll and place it on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or nonstick foil. The seam of the dough roll should be on the bottom, against the surface of the baking sheet. Score the roll every inch. If you have a fat 3″ roll, each roll will give you 3 rugelach that are normal sized. If you made the 6″ skinny roll, you will get 6 miniature rugalach. You can also just slice the roll into individual rugele (did you know that rugelach is plural?).

You can bake the rugelach as is, or you can brush the surface of the rugelach with egg white or a tiny little bit of jam (just enough to coat the surface and make it sticky) and sprinkle over cinnamon sugar or, even better, cinnamon sugar mixed with very finely chopped walnuts (almost a powder). If you go with the naked look, you can always dust the baked rugelach later with powdered sugar, which is a very nice look. Once you go with the cinnamon sugar and nuts topping, you can skip the powdered sugar garnish.

Before baking the rugelach, chill them for a half hour in the refrigerator.

Bake until light gold, 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Makes 4 dozen large rugelach or 8 dozen miniature rugelach.

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