While talking to an acquaintance, rugelach came up in conversation. “Oh, we used to serve it at the Restaurant, we have a good recipe” I say, to which my acquaintance suggests I try the one from Ralphs “It’s delicious!”. I keep to myself the snobbish thought that, as a pastry chef, I am not in the habit of buying pastry anything from Ralphs or any other chain supermarket. A few days later, remembering our conversation, my friend was kind enough to send me a box or raspberry rugelach from, indeed, Ralphs. I could tell just by looking at it that, not only was it not good, but it was not the real thing either, all suppositions confirmed by my taste buds. But I guess that if you are not Jewish or not into Jewish food how would you know better?
Rugelach is one of those extremely wonderful and rare contributions of Ashkenazi cuisine to the food world and by now you know my feelings towards Northern European Jewish cooking. Funnily enough, the best I ever had was to be found in a tiny little bakery in the Jewish ghetto in Venice, where I stopped to buy Rosh’hashanah treats when I was there last September. But, then again, Italians can improve pretty much anything edible. Here in LA, the Berverlywood Bakery on Pico and Doheny makes great rugelach and other Jewish treats but, if you go on the High Holidays, be prepared for a wait.
Rugelach dough is actually easy to make and, because it contains cream cheese, it is extremely pliable and versatile, useful for pie toppings or pie crusts. The addition of cream cheese is most likely a North American invention, as in the old days, in the shtetl, it was sour cream that was added to the dough.Either way, these cookies are delicious. They can be filled with a nut and honey paste (roast nuts, chop them finely and mix them with honey), with a mixture of cream cheese and chocolate chips (soften the cream cheese, add powder sugar and fold in dark chocolate chips) or just plain fruit jam or fruit compote. Anything you have handy. The dough can be kept frozen up to three months and sliced for the occasion, be it Shabbat for those of you Jewish yentas out there or any other day you feel like a munch.
1# Butter, cut into small cubes and frozen
3 C All Purpose Flour
2 C Pastry Flour
1/3 C Sugar
2 ts Baking Powder
1/4 ts Salt
1 # Cream Cheese, cut ” chunks
2 ts Vanilla Extract
1 C Filling of your choice
1. Sift flours, sugar, baking powder and salt and place in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
2. Add butter, still very cold, all at once, mixing on low-speed until the butter is the size of peas. Add cream cheese chunks and mix on low-speed just until incorporated. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix on low until the dough comes together. Dough will be slightly sticky. Wrap it in plastic and chill for an hour or until ready to use.
3. Roll dough on a slightly floured board just under 1/4″ thick and cut into large rectangles.
4. Spread the filling on the dough and then roll it over the long side a few times until you have a roll a couple of inches thick. Refrigerate.
5. When ready to bake, slice the dough into 1 1/2″ cookies. Turn the oven on at 350F – egg wash the rugelach and sprinkle some sanding sugar on top. Bake until golden brown (approx 15 to 20 minutes).