11 01 2011

It’s easy to forget, with all the snow and holiday hoopla, just how much of winter is still yet to come after the new year.  The French use Epiphany as an excuse to keep eating sweets throughout the month of January, in the form of the galette des rois.  And I think they’re right.  Gloomy January days are no time to give up the pleasures of rich, buttery doughs baked to an appealing golden brown or sweet, nutty fillings.  Besides, Philly cream cheese has finally arrived in France!  I think we should celebrate with some rugelah.

Cover your bench in powdered sugar

You might spell it another way (I most often see “rugelach”), but orthography aside, this is really a wonderful little pastry.  Crumbly cream cheese dough, sticky fruit and nuts, and ridiculously easy to make.  Rugelah come from the Eastern European Jewish baking tradition, and I first learned to bake them in a Jewish-owned, European-style bakery in Dallas, of all places.  The ones we made there were filled with walnuts, which I can’t eat, so I had to sate myself with the incredible smell of roasted flour and caramelized jam when I pulled them out of the (enormous) oven every night.

Rolled out thin and long

One Thanksgiving the chef took pity on me and let me use the filling for the pecan rings in the rugelah so I could finally taste them.  My nose had not let me down – they were fantastic.  Since then, I’ve had to make my own walnut-free version at home from time to time.

Smeared with apple butter and sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar nuts

I’d been despairing that I would never be able to make them in France, lacking the cream cheese that is key to the flavor and texture of the dough, when a wise friend with a cheesecake-loving husband told me that she got good results with Kiri.  Kiri is, as far as I can tell, a snacking cheese for children – at least based on the packages I found.  Well, I really wanted some rugelah, so I went ahead and unwrapped the individual squares and made my dough.  I’m pleased to tell you that it worked, but now that we have real Philly cream cheese in Paris, I don’t have to fuss around with those little foil packets anymore.

Roll up, cut...

...and slash decoratively.

When I used to make these for the bakery, I rolled the dough out on a sheeter until it was the length of my entire workbench – a little over two meters.  I would get 30 or 40 pastries out of that one long roll.  At home I make smaller batches, for the equally important reasons of counter space limitations and desire to continue fitting into my jeans.

Rugelah, Ready to bake

In addition to being completely scrumptious, rugelah are also really fun to make.  When else to you get to cover your entire kitchen counter with powdered sugar?  (Strangely enough, it keeps the dough from sticking as well as providing sweetness to the sugarless dough.)  And then smear jam around, and recklessly sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, and nuts all over?  Yes, it’s a mess – I had to wipe my counter down three times before the stickiness abated – but I promise you’ll be having fun.  And that winter gloom will be gone before you know it.

Rugelah - hot from the oven

Apple-Pecan Rugelah

This is an old favorite from my first baking job. I’ve changed it a little, using pecans instead of walnuts (to which I am allergic) and homemade apple butter in the filling, although you could use just about any jam-and-nut combination that strikes your fancy. The main thing is to cook them until they’re deeply browned all the way through. The flavor and texture are incomparable.

For the dough:

3.4 oz / 96 g unsalted butter
3.4 oz / 96 g cream cheese
Pinch of fine sea salt
3.1 oz / 88 g all-purpose flour

1. Combine the butter, cream cheese, and salt until smooth. If you have a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, more power to you. I do it by hand with a wooden spoon. In either case, it helps to let the butter soften a bit before attempting this.

2. Add the flour and stir until evenly incorporated. Pat the dough into a rectangular shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill until firm, at least 1 hour. (The dough can be made several days in advance.)

For the filling:

½ cup / 2.3 oz / 65 g pecans, or other desired nuts
3 Tbsp. / 1.5 oz. / 42 g sugar
A big pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of fine sea salt
¼ to 1/3 cup / 60 to 80 ml apple butter, or other jam of choice

1. Grind the nuts, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor until relatively uniform. (Some bigger chunks of nut are encouraged.) Alternatively, chop the nuts as finely as you have the patience for and combine them with the sugar, salt, and cinnamon.

To assemble and bake the rugelah:

All of the above components, plus powdered sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F / 190 C.
  2. Sift powdered sugar in a thick layer over your workspace in a long line, about 2½ feet / 75 cm by 6 inches / 16 cm. Unwrap the dough and place it on top of the sugar. Roll it out into a long rectangle, about the dimensions of the sugar.
  3. Spread the dough with a thin layer of apple butter and sprinkle the nuts evenly over the jam.
  4. Roll up the dough lengthwise into a long log. Cut pieces about 1½ inches / 4 cm long. Slash each piece decoratively.
  5. Place the rugelah on a parchment lined baking sheet, spaced about 1½ inches / 4 cm apart.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350 F / 175 C and continue baking until deep golden brown all the way through, another 15 minutes or so. The jam will have leaked out a bit and started to caramelize on the sides of the pastries, and they will smell absolutely amazing.
  7. Let cool, and sprinkle with more powdered sugar before serving.

Makes about a dozen, plus a couple of ugly ends for snacking or quality control purposes.

Awww, yeah!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.




19 responses

11 01 2011

What a beautiful looking recipe. I was just wondering how to make rugelach, and now I have the whole thing in my head really clearly. Awesome!

11 01 2011

Bonjour and Bon Annee-Thank you for this-I love rugelach. There is so much left over goodies in our house it is scary.

11 01 2011

I think I just gained a pound looking at these perfect pastries. They look amazing, and I bet they taste even better.

12 01 2011

I love rugelah and have a package of Philly cream cheese in my fridge now. I am so going to make these!

12 01 2011

More people need to use the term “orthography aside” in their blog posts 😉 These look scrumptious, Camille! As does the sunny summer’s day outside my window right now… 😛

12 01 2011
Crazy Sweet Life

Oh my goodness. I’m seriously salivating right now. These look so delicious!

12 01 2011

These look delicious! Really reminds me of the holidays.

12 01 2011

Sam – What’s awesome is your compliment. That’s just what I want to hear. 🙂

Esme – I know, here too!

Ryan – I think I gained another pound just writing about it. 🙂

nererue – Yay!

Hannah – If you’re trying to taunt me, you can stop right now, young lady. 😉

Crazy Sweet Life – Thanks!

Jessica – Yeah, I actually made them in December. But it was too good not to post!

14 01 2011
hungry dog

Oh my goodness-these are beautiful! I’ve never thought of apple butter in rugelah…that sounds amazing. Gorgeous photographs too.

14 01 2011
Tammy McLeod

I did not know that was called rugelah but frankly, I’m looking for every excuse not to keep eating sweets.

15 01 2011

I used to use Kiri as a cream cheese replacement until I found the Monoprix version of St-Moret, which is a very expensive cream cheese. The Monoprix version is much cheaper and has worked really well in my cheesecake recipe, so I assume it would work here!

Either way, rugelach are incredible. My mom used to make them with a chocolate filling for my picky brother… they’re great that way too!

16 01 2011

The French are seriously talented in the “excuses to eat and drink” dept. I’m totally on board. This rugelah looks delicious!

16 01 2011

Cream cheese is absolutely magical and makes almost everything taste better. Even bacon. I’m glad it’s available to you now! It’s one thing if you didn’t know you were missing it, but to come from the land of Philly and be denied? I’m not sure that all the baguettes or pain au chocolats could make up for that!

17 01 2011

hungry dog – Thank you! I just happened to have some homemade apple butter in the fridge, so that’s what I used. I did wonder why I hadn’t thought of it before, though.

Tammy – To each her own…

emiglia – Chocolate filling sounds delightful! (Although much harder to justify eating for breakfast.)

Hopie – Yes, they are! It’s one of the things I really love about living here.

Jenni – That bacon comment just reminded me of my favorite dish at the wonderful diner we frequented in Dallas: bacon cream cheese chicken! Oh, how I miss Lucky’s.

17 01 2011
foodie and the chef

Oh yum, clever you. One of the chefs I worked with in London used to make this for the staff as a special treat… great post !

18 01 2011

foodie and the chef – Sounds like one generous chef! 🙂

21 01 2011

Yum. You must be a master baker. These are perfect. Thanks!

21 01 2011

Jessica – No, thank YOU. 🙂

18 02 2011
They Grow Up So Fast… « Croque-Camille

[…] January 2011: What did I do last month? From the looks of it, I ate cheese, Chinese noodles, and things I baked at home.  How have I already forgotten about my rediscovery of rugelah? […]

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