Sunday, December 1, 2013

Rugelach Cookies

For a long time now, I've been making Rugelach cookies every year for Hanukkah. I started making them with my dad, and they're always a huge hit. One year, I believe in 2008, we made them to bring to a Christmas cookie exchange party in the neighborhood. We actually won! We usually go traditional with them, using a raspberry jam to spread over the circle. I think one year I added some mini chocolate chips in with the brown sugar and pecan mixture, but I usually don't change it up much.

This year, I was going to make some changes. I have a jar of chocolate raspberry jam (it's simply incredible), and I thought that would work perfectly. I also have a bunch of pumpkin butter, and thought that could make a perfect Thanksgiving-Hanukkah hybrid cookie. I made an additional change, but only by accident. When I decided to mix up the dough, I hadn't checked on the levels of flour in the pantry. We always have at least three different kinds of flour on hand (unbleached all purpose, white whole wheat, bread), and with all of the bags, it's hard to tell when we're out of one. Apparently we were almost all out of all purpose flour, something I realized once I measured it out. I supplemented with the white whole wheat flour, and just hoped for the best! It still turned out great - the little cookies were perfectly flaky, and I couldn't detect any whole wheat (ie healthy) flavor at all. I might do this every time I have whole wheat flour on hand, since it makes me feel a bit better about eating lots of the delicious cookies.

Recipe: Hanukkah Rugelach Cookies
Slightly adapted from Barefoot Contessa
Yield: 48 cookies

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature (that's 2 4-oz bricks, and I always use the 1/3 less fat neufchatel)
8 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature (1 stick)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour (use all purpose if you don't have whole wheat)
6 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup of jam (raspberry or apricot are the traditional flavors, but use your favorite flavor! pumpkin butter and homemade jams work really well), pureed in a food processor or beaten with a whisk until thinner and spreadable
1 egg
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Cream the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and creamy. Add 1/4 cup sugar, salt and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flours and mix until just combined. Dough may be crumbly, but it will come together once wrapped up. Dump the dough out onto a well floured board and roll into a ball. Cut the ball into quarters, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour. (Note: you can refrigerate for longer than 1 hour, you might just have to let it sit out at room temperature for a few minutes so it is easier to roll. You can also freeze dough portions, just thaw them in the refrigerator for 24 hours before using.)

To make the filling, combine the 6 tbsp sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins and pecans.

On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9-inch circle (I think it works best to do these one at a time). Spread the dough with 2 tbsp jam, and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling. Press the filling lightly onto the dough. Cut the dough into 12 equal wedges, cutting the whole circle into quarters, and then each quarter into thirds. A long sharp knife or pizza cutter would work best for this part. Starting with the wide edge (what was part of the perimeter of the circle), roll up each wedge. Place the cookies, points tucked under, on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other three pieces of dough. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Beat the egg with 1 tbsp of milk or water. Brush each cookie with egg wash. Combine the 3 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon, and sprinkle the cookies with cinnamon sugar. Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned. If using two trays in the oven, switch positions halfway through baking. Let cool on the pan, and then put in an airtight container. Cookies will keep at least a week at room temperature, longer if you refrigerate or freeze them.

I believe some with chocolate raspberry jam are on the left, 
and some with pumpkin butter are on the right