You see that beautiful rugelach right there…it comes from a rolled out ball of dough and yes, you can make it. I am sure of it.
Let’s get started with two simple truths: 1)Full fat cream cheese is magical (until yesterday, I think I have only had the low-fat variety for about the last ten years)! 2) Rolling out dough is as simple as it used to be when you were in preschool and it was called Playdoh. I think I may have to start a self-help message board on my site for rolling-out-dough phobes. Many of you guys have written in to confess about your fear of rolling out dough and, honestly, I am a bit perplexed.
I have phobias, sure. Fear of falling is a big one. Fear of heights. Fear of idiots on the freeway. The list goes on. But truthfully, please believe me when I beg and plead with you, rolling out dough is not a big deal. I am a terrible klutz, can’t craft a darn thing, don’t sew a stitch, and yet somehow I can roll out dough so I am fairly certain you can too and if any dessert in the world is worth you conquering your fear, this little cookie is IT.
If you have never had a warm fresh rugelach straight of the oven before, then you have not lived and I had not either until yesterday night and now I can never go back. Did you know it literally flakes and melts into your mouth when you bite into it?! The chocolate is ooey gooey and the pecans nicely toasty. Oh. My. I had no idea.
For some reason, it never occurred to me that I could make my own when I would oooh and aaah at the local Jewish bakery counter. These cookies falsely appeared to be quite complex. But don’t let the pretty little crescent shape and layers of dough fool you. It may have the appearance of a fussy little cookie, but between you and me, it’s a snap to make and there should be no fussiness anywhere in the vicinity if you are making rugelach.
It starts like any other cookie; just cream together your butter, cream cheese and sugar. That’s easy enough. Add your egg yolks and vanilla. Not too bad, right? Now pay close attention: Sift nothing, nada. Do NOT even use a separate bowl for your TWO (yes only two) dry ingrdients. Simply throw your flour and salt right into the same bowl with the butter mixture and cream again on medium speed just until combined.
Ok…people…here is the TOUGH part (sarcasm is so lost in the written word); Make a ball out of the dough with your hands and break it in half. Squish your two halves of dough into small disks. See? Wrap with plastic wrap, and place the wrapped disks in a large ziploc and store in the fridge for two hours or until the next day like I did.
In the meantime, chop up some good quality bittersweet or dark chocolate if you are me or if you are you and want to stay on the easy track with these, just use mini chocolate chips. I actually did both since I made a double batch and ran out of the good stuff.
Here is my rolling out dough for dummies paragraph: Unwrap your first half of dough. Dust a pastry board with flour…like maybe 1/4 a cup. Roll your rolling pin in flour amply as well. These are important steps. Flour = friend. Got it? Now roll out your dough by rolling forward over the dough and then sideways over the dough and repeat until you have about a 10 inch circle, about 1/8 ” thick. It should look like a pizza crust but a bit thinner.
If you sense your dough sticking to the board, simply throw a bit more flour underneath it and keep on going. I, personally, like it to have a smooth edge so I tucked under the ratty, unseemly jagged edges, formed a pretty one and just rolled over it like a bulldozer.
Next, take your raspberry jam and melt it in the microwave for about 20 seconds. Spoon on 1/2 of the jam and spread it to just shy of the very edges all over the dough. Mix together your sugar and cinnamon in a separate little bowl,or if you are like me and have cinnamon sugar ready for action at all times, just use that. Just sprinkle your cinnamon sugar mixture, pecans and chocolate chips over the dough willy nilly (no need to measure here). Grab a sheet of wax paper and gently press the toppings into the dough so they stick.
Use a pizza cutter to cut your dough in half and then in half again the opposite way, making four quarters. Now slice each quarter into thirds to form 12 pizza type slices (or into fourths if you like a petite cookie like I do).
Once the rugelach dough is all sliced up, start with one slice and roll from the widest part (outside edge) inward nice and tight—just like a sleeping bag. If you have ever made those Pop n’ Fresh Crescents then you are a pro. Once your little rugelach sleeping bag is all rolled up, bend it just a bit in to form a crescent shape. Voila! Easy peasy.
Place the crescents on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat rubber mat. Silpat rubber mats are God’s gift to bakers…I am positive of this. Pop the cookie sheet in the fridge for a half hour while you take a little nap or something.
When you pull them out of the fridge, have ready one beaten egg stirred with one teaspoon of water. Also, have a little bowl of unmeasured coarse (turbinado) sugar if you have it or regular granulated sugar if you do not. I did not and mine honestly were divine. Have I mentioned that already?
Here’s where I have a little insider information for you. Have a sheet of wax paper set aside to work on to minimize dripage onto your counters. Place all your rolled unbaked cookies onto the wax paper and quickly brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar working over the wax paper. Then put the unbaked cookies back down onto the cookie sheet. This will eliminate eggwash dripping onto your cookie sheet and filling up your kitchen with a nice burnt egg smell later. Avoid that please.
Bake in the oven at 350 F. for 20-25 minutes or until a nice golden brown. If you want the real deal, please eat one piping hot and fresh out of the oven with a nice cup of coffee. Tea is the traditional beverage with these little delights but coffee was perfect with it. Don’t let the hot jam and chocolate burn your tongue. I refuse to be responsible for that. We are all adults, aren’t we?
Please make these cookie perfections. Please. Oh—regarding the cream cheese—live a little and use full fat cream cheese. Life’s nothing if not a gamble.
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
8 ounces FULL FAT cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 c. sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 t. vanilla
A pinch of coarse salt
2 1/3 c. all-purpose flour, plus a little extra for rolling out the dough
2/3 c. seedless raspberry jam (or apricot jam, any jam that you like works)
2/3 c. chopped dark chocolate or mini chocolate chips (or currants are nice if you are using an orange or apricot jam)
1/2 c. chopped pecans (or walnuts are fine)
2 T. granulated sugar
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1 egg beaten
1 t. water
2 T. turbinado or other course sugar (or just plain granulated if that’s what you have)
For the dough: Cream together slightly softened butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or hand beater). Add sugar and beat again. Then add the egg yolks, one at a time and beat in between each addition. Add the vanilla and combine.
For dry ingredients, simply dump in the flour and salt into the butter mixture and mix together until combined, but do not over mix. Gather the dough in a ball and on a floured pastry board, divide the dough into two equal balls. Flatten disks, wrap them well in plastic wrap, and place them in a Ziploc bag. You really want to keep any air out. Refrigerate your dough for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
Pull out your dough from the fridge, and leave it wrapped while you get your toppings together. Stir together your sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Either chop some good quality dark chocolate into small piece like a mini chip or use mini chocolate chips. Chop your pecans in a food processor if you have one or any other way you choose. Line two cookie sheets with Silpat mats or parchment paper.
Flour your pastry board well using your hand to spread out the flour over the board evenly. Roll your rolling pin in the flour. Roll out one disk of the dough by rolling forward then back and then sideways, repeating until the dough is about 1/8 inch thick (very thin but workable) and about 10 inches round. If you find it sticking a bit when rolling, just add more flour to the pin or to the board where ever it sticks.
Spread 1/2 of your jelly over the dough evenly, spreading it just short of the edge. Sprinkle on 1/2 of your cinnamon and sugar mixture and then 1/2 of the pecans and chocolate chips or other toppings you chose. If you have a pizza slicer, it is the perfect tool for slicing the dough into half and then half and then little slices. See detailed explanation and photos above.
Roll each slice from the out side, large edge, to the inside; tightly, like a sleeping bag. Give it a little bend forward to form the crescent shape and place on a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat mat or parchment paper. There is no need to cover it for just 30 minutes.
Once all of the cookies from the first disk are on the sheet, refrigerate the cookie sheet for 30 minutes and work with your second disk of dough. Repeat the steps above for rolling out the dough. Repeat with second disk and turn your oven on to 350 degrees F. to preheat. In all baking and cooking, it’s really essential to put your food into a hot oven.
Take your sheets out of the fridge. Beat one egg and stir in one t. of water for your egg wash. Have ready two T. of sugar. Get a sheet of wax paper (size of a cookie sheet), and place all of the cookies from one sheet onto the wax paper. Brush each cookie with the egg wash and sprinkle a pinch of the sugar over the top. Place the cookies back onto the cookie sheet and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until they turn just a bit golden. Please eat one straight out of the oven, watching out for burning hot jam and scalding melted chocolate. Now go bake the rest. Enjoy!