I love making pastry. I don’t claim to have mastered it but over the years I have been able to iron out a lot of bumps and creases. The whole of last week I have been showing off my skills to Big Sis who is in Mumbai spending quality time in my kitchen kneading, whipping, baking by my side and giving some invaluable inputs.
Well, here’s Rugelach a pastry in a new avataar! A rich, cream cheese pastry which encases sweet and nutty fillings, is a traditional Jewish festive treat. These baby crescents are made for Jewish new year and the rolled up shape signifies the cyclical year. The dough is made from equal quantities of flour, butter and cream cheese. Cute little, mini croissant type thingies….good to look at and fabulous to devour and I will reserve my comments on the process and leave you to decide.
I came across them a few years back when I was in the infancy of Baking and took to them immediately. My first attempt was clumsy, with sticky dough, that just wouldn’t behave well in the sweltering heat, filling that toppled out and a thousand other woes.
I am a sucker for pastry making and I don’t give up easily. A failure keeps haunting me till I take another whack at it, then another and then one more…. In Mumbai’s 34-38 degree kitchens, it is not the best thing to be making. It makes a tough job tougher as the butter keeps melting, the dough feels sweaty and you are constantly running to the fridge. So Rugelach isn’t a cake walk and the pastry-adventure has the added excitement of cream cheese which makes your journey that much more satisfying (hopefully by now you have got the picture). Those of you who know me some, know that I am the proverbial Matador. I invite the bull into the kitchen. So on a hot and humid morning I embarked on my Rugelach journey. Having learnt some lessons from my last misadventure, I kept the AC in the living room on a cool 18 Degrees, flung open the connecting kitchen door and began the “Taming of the Shrew”. I had made home-made Cream Cheese a day earlier. The fillings are pretty straight forward and you can make them sweet, savoury or just brush the dough with butter and bake them as is.
Traditional Rugelach is filled with chocolate chips, walnuts and brown sugar. I made varied fillings- apple raisin, rum and raisin, cream cheese and the chocolate chip walnut.
This is a very delicately wrapped pastry so my advice to you would be to puree the filling and apply it on the rolled out pastry in a thin layer. Leaving the filling whole may result in a mess when baking. Alternatively run you rolling pin over the filling once you have assembled it on the rolled out dough.
It’s a finicky dough and especially so in this unkind, unforgiving heat. Though the end product is pure heaven, cookie-like and crumbly on the outside and slightly soft and flaky inside. Don’t use wet a filling, it will lead to soggy bites. I froze half the batch once I had filled and assembled them and baked them a few days later and they tasted just as good.
I hope you try them and won’t let the finicky dough dampen your pastry spirit! Whats a good cookie unless the dough crumbles……oopps did I get it wrong!!!
2 sticks/ 240 grms unsalted butter
240 grms cream cheese
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar (optional)
Egg Wash Ingredients
1 tsp water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts/ pecans/ almonds
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2-3 tblspns brown sugar
2 tblspns Honey
Put the ingredients in a blender/ food processor and whizz it to a coarse paste.
I left mine whole and sprinkled generous amounts on the pastry round.
3 large apples chopped
1 heaped tblspn Butter
3 tblspn Raisins
4 tblspns brown sugar
½ tspn cinnamon powder
Juice of ½ lemon
Sautee the apples, raisins in the butter, until the apples turn soft. They should give way when pressed down with the back of a spoon. Add the cinnamon, lemon juice and sugar and cook for a further minute until the mix is jam like. Give it a whizz in a blender or squash it up with a fork.
If you prefer a chunky filling, just cook the apples until soft and don’t break them up too much.
½ cup prunes
½ cup dates
½ cup Raisins
1 tblspn Butter
½ tspn All-spice powder
½ cup rum
Chop and Soak the dry fruits in Rum and all-spice for an hour. Heat butter and add the soaked fruits, and cook on medium heat till all the juices have dried out. Squash to a jam like mixture with the back of a spoon or put it in a blender to make a jam like paste.
200 grms cream cheese / cottage cheese crumbled
100 grms Cheddar
1 tsp coarsely ground pepper
1 tblspn Fresh thyme and rosemary
Salt to taste ( a pinch at the most)
In a medium sized bowl mix all the ingredients to a smooth paste. Taste and adjust salt.
Making the dough:
- Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together. Add the egg yolk and whisk a little more. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and sugar. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, mixing with a wooden spoon, until dough comes together. Pour dough onto a lightly floured rolling surface and form it into a rough ball shape with your hands. Do not over handle the dough or knead it. Just pat it into a ball.
- Divide the ball into four equal pieces and form those pieces into rough balls.
- Cover each ball with plastic and place in the refrigerator. Refrigerate dough balls for at least 1 1/2 hours, for up to 48 hours. Freeze if you want for later use.
Assembling the cookies:
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees C/ 375 degrees F. Lightly flour your rolling surface and rolling pin. Take one portion of the dough out the refrigerator (keep the rest of the dough cold until ready to use). Roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. The dough will be very firm and cold, but will become more pliable as it starts to warm. Just keep rolling with firm, even pressure.
- Use a round 9″ cake pan or bottom as a guide to make a nice, smooth imprint of a circle in the dough.
- Cut the dough into a large circle, following the shape of the cake pan. Take 1/4 of the filling (about 4 tbsp) and place it in the center of the circle. Spread it very thin and evenly across the surface of the dough. Leave about an inch around the edges of the circle.
- Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife cut the circle into 8 equal triangles by first cutting the circle in half, then quarters, then halve the quarters to make eighths. Dust the cutter or knife wth flour to prevent the filling from sticking on to it.
- Roll each triangle, starting from the wide edge and rolling towards the narrow point.
- Press the end to secure it.
- Place the rolled cookies an inch apart onto a parchment lined cookie sheet or a well oiled baking tray, end point down. The cookies can be frozen at this stage and bagged for later use.
- When you are ready to bake, brush the top of each cookie with egg wash, sprinkle cinnamon and sugar or sesame seeds (for savoury cookies).
- Bake for 25-28 minutes in a pre heated oven, until golden brown. If you like them darker, bake a minute or two longer.