The first time I came across Rugelach was at the Epicure Market, a local gourmet market, that has been a staple in Miami Beach for over 65 years. These crescent pastries are a traditional Jewish food which is eaten any time of the year, but are really popular and traditional during the Hanukkah holiday. Epicure (as the local refer to it), which catered to the large Jewish population in Miami Beach, made sure to have a whole case dedicated to these pastries. It was the mecca of Rugelach. I can not remember how many types there were but the combination of filling were numerous - raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, chocolate, marzipan, poppy seed, dry fruits even preserves. I don’t think there was any type of combination that Epicure had not tried.
My favorites were the ones filled with chocolate and marzipan. When I lived in Miami Beach, I would make sure to get there early on Saturday to fill a bakery box with this sweet treat and then spend the whole weekend munching away at the treat.
So when I took a peek at the ABC choice for December and saw that it was the Rugelach I was excited. I finally will know how these tiny morsels were made – hooray!
I read the recipe a couple of times and decided I needed to do a bit of investigating work here. While Flo Braker’s instructions were clear, I’m a visual person and need to “see” how things come together. And, while I do love her book, Baking for all Occasions, I hate that there is no pictures to show you the way or the final product - we are baking blind here folks. So, off to Google land I went and found all the instructions that I would ever need in how to prepare these cookies. Because, they are totally cookies in my book.
They are not very difficult to make, but there is a bit of labor involved - soo keep that in mind, this is no quick dessert.
Rugelach can be made with sour cream or cream cheese dough, but there are also pareve variants with no dairy ingredients, so that it can be eaten with or after a meat meal and still be kosher. Cream cheese dough’s are the most recent American innovations, while yeast leavened and sour cream dough’s are much older.
Flo went the cream cheese dough route, which came together pretty fast in my food processor. I divided up my dough into eight and into the refrigerator it went to take a chill. The rest of the steps were prepping the filling ingredients and creating an assembly line on your kitchen countertop. Cinnamon and sugar were combined and put aside. The Medjool dates were pitted and cut and put aside. The pecans were chopped and guess what? Put aside.
At the end you should have lots of containers in front of you to create your first Rugelach. Your chill dough is then rolled into a 8-inch circle (or at least in my case a somewhat circle) then coated with maple syrup, which I highly recommend (my tip to you) you warm up for a bit in the microwave to make the spreading a lot easier. After, you sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar, and top with the chopped pecans. The instructions tells you to use your rolling pin to press all of this into the dough, I did it on my first and it was a mess – because, I realized that my pecan pieces were not as finely chopped as they needed to be.
A dilemma in the kitchen! Santo dios!
Should I take out the food processor and give them another round of chopping?
I was too lazy to do so, so they stayed roughly chopped and I moved ahead.
Then came the moment of truth – I had to do a bit of math! KILL.ME.NOW.
I needed to divide my circle into 12 wedges. And, *cough-cough*, yeah – I totally failed on this, for the life of me, I just could not equally divided the stupid 8-inch round into 12 equal size triangles. I’m totally blaming this on the fact that I was high on cold medicine and was not sane in mind.
That is my story and I’m sticking to it.
So basically, sometimes I got eight triangle wedges, sometimes the needed twelve, heck I went so far as to getting six (how that happen I never know!).
Regardless, after you get your 12, 8, 7, 6 “whatever” wedges, you then put a medjool date in the outside edge and then roll towards the center, creating this nice little crescent roll.
The first one is your practice run. But, as always, by the third 8-inch round, you should have the system down pat and before you know it your baking sheets are all filled up. The beauty of these is that they don’t span much in the oven, so you can fill A LOT of pieces into a half sheet pan. At the end I ended up with about 40+ pieces in total.
Into the oven they go and mine cooked for about 18 minutes or so.
The next step is to make dipping glaze out of maple syrup, powdered sugar and water. So when these babies come out of the oven, you dip them into the glaze and then rolled them into more chopped pecans. And then let them be.
At this point I was saying to myself that these bite piece morsels were going to be super-ickyly sweet and probably was not going to like them – I have a thing for overly sweet desserts.
How wrong I was.
They were not overly sweet (even with that double cover of maple syrup), but buttery, flaky and crunchy, just like I remember.
Tom loved them. He keep finding excuses to take the dogs outside, so he could cross the kitchen and pick up one or two along the way. He also started giving me suggestions for different fillings – with craisins, or apricots. How about with ginger? The possibilities are endless if you really set your mind to it.
I brought about half of them to work, and they were gone in less than an hour. A hit all around. And why should they not be, just look at them!
Or you can take a peek at the other ABC bakers and read/see their take on this sweet treat.