Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Continuing with holiday treats is another family favorite: Rugelach. It's pronounced rug-a-la or roo-ga-la, but at the end you make it sound like you're clearing your throat. If you're Jewish you know what I'm talking about. If you're not, ask a Jew, they'll know because these tasty cookies are Jewish. My BFF from high school was Jewish and I had the good fortune to be invited to several of their holiday celebrations which in turn exposed me to many new foods and traditions.  Then, by circumstance, my college roommate and BFF was Jewish and I was once again exposed to new traditions and culinary delights. This recipe comes from my college BFF's high school BFF and I've been making it for years. There are a lot of BFFs in this story but I think BFFs and food go really well together, don't you?

Now ironically these delicious cookies have become a part of our family Christmas cookie repertoire.  I'm not sure how it came about but one Christmas someone requested I make them, then they were requested again the next year and the tradition was born. As far as I'm concerned it doesn't matter what culture or religion they "belong" to, they are delicious and should be enjoyed by all. And really isn't that what we mean when we say "America is a cultural melting pot." Sharing traditions, adapting cuisine and creating new traditions makes this country great.

So make these delicious cookies for Christmas or Hanukah or for no reason at all other than they are delicious!

Here are the very simple dough ingredients: butter, cream cheese, salt and flour.  The butter and cream cheese should be at room temperature.

In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese.

Get it well blended together. You shouldn't be able to see any distinguishable bits of butter or cream cheese. Add the salt and flour and mix just until a smooth dough forms. At the point you've got a great cream cheese pastry that you could use for a variety of recipes sweet or savory.

Divide the dough into 3 equal portions, wrap individually, and refrigerate overnight.

For the filling you'll need: sugar, cinnamon, melted butter and finely chopped nuts. The original recipe calls for walnuts but I had pecans and I like 'em better. Use what you like. Just make sure they are pretty finely chopped.

Stir the cinnamon and sugar together and set aside.

Working with one dough ball at a time. Roll out, on a well floured surface, into a 12-inch circle.

Brush with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter.

Then sprinkle with 1/3 of the cinnamon sugar and 1/3 of the nuts. Work quickly so the butter doesn't harden on the cold dough.

Lay a sheet of waxed paper (yes, again, my old friend waxed paper) over the dough and filling and roll over gently to press the filling into the dough. Don't press so hard that you roll the dough out bigger.

Divide into 12 pie shaped wedges. A pizza cutter works great for this. Roll up like crescent rolls, starting at the wide end and ending with the point. 

Line them up, 1 inch apart, on a silpat lined cookie sheet. You can curve the ends in slightly if you like. Beat together 1 egg yoke and 1 teaspoon water and brush lightly on the tops. This will give the cookies a nice shiny finish. Then into a 350°F oven for 30 minutes until they are a deep golden brown. Repeat the process with the remaining 2 dough portions.

Mmmmmm. Tender, flakey, nutty and spicy. Rugelach. Make it one of your traditions.


Cream Cheese Pastry
1/2 lb. butter (2 sticks)
1/2 lb. cream cheese ( 1-8oz. package)
1/2 t. salt
2 C. all purpose flour

1/2 C. + 2 T. sugar
3 t. cinnamon
3 T. butter, melted
1-1/4 C. walnuts, pecans or almonds, finely chopped

1 egg yoke
1 t. water

In the bowl of a stand mixer cream butter and cream cheese until blended and smooth. Beat in salt. On low speed, gradually add flour.  When dough is smooth, with lightly floured hands, divide dough into 3 equal portions. Form each into a ball and flatten slightly. Wrap individually and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Place one ball of dough on a well floured surface. With floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 12-inch circle. Brush with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Working quickly, before butter hardens, sprinkle dough with 1/3 of the cinnamon-sugar mixture and 1/3 of the nuts. Roll over the filling lightly with the rolling pin to press the filling slightly into the dough. Cut into 12 pie shaped wedges. Roll up like crescent rolls, starting with the wide end and ending with the point. Place point down, 1 inch apart on a greased or silpat lined cookie sheet. Beat together the egg yoke and water. Brush cookies lightly with glaze and bake for 30 minutes until deep golden brown.
Makes 36 cookies.

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