Our latest Chow Bella showdown: a traditional holiday cookie exchange. From now through Christmas, we present Chow Bella's 12 Days of Christmas Cookies. We begin, technically speaking, with a Hanukkah treat: Carol Blonder's Rugelach
It started with my first-ever holiday cookie exchange invitation. I was living in Nashville. As the only Jewish invitee, the intimidation was not in the baking but in the thought of my friends' recipe files full of familiar gingerbread and eggnog, handed down like stories from the War between the States, through generations of Southerners. What could I bring to this table filled with the spirit of southern Christmas tradition? My impulse was to represent my own December holiday, but there were no cookies in my family repertoire specific to Hanukkah.
Star of David and dreidel decorated sugar cookies were a hit with my children's friends but trite for the occasion. Fresh sufganiot, the popular Israeli fried yeast dough dessert, wouldn't hold up from the date of the exchange to Christmas day. Thoughts of rich dough and a sweet filling danced through my head and rugelach, with its rich eastern European and American Jewish deli history, was my answer.
Preparing the cream cheese dough twists, with traditional walnut-cinnamon-sugar-filling, now mark the holidays for me as much as preparing latkes during the eight days of Hanukah. Mostly, I bake the rugelach with a traditional filling. This year I tried some flavors of the southwest adding mango, pine nuts and a small pinch of cayenne to what has become my cookie of choice for a holiday exchange.
Get Carol's recipe after the jump.
Recipe, based on one from Laura Brody, adapted from Rose's Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Beranbaum
8 oz cream cheese, softened
8 oz unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted, unbleached AP flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, mix softened cream cheese and butter until completely blended.
2. Beat sugar and vanilla extract into mixture.
3. Gradually add the flour and salt and mix on low speed until all the flour is incorporated.
4. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.
Tip: Dough is sticky, cover the dough or your hands with plastic wrap for easy handling.
5. Wrap each portion in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed, light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried mango, chopped, rehydrated in water or rum, drain throughly
(pat with paper towel to remove excess liquid if needed)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup apricot or orange preserves
2 oz, bittersweet chocolate-optional
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1/4 cup cream or whole milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1.Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Cover 2 cookie sheets with silpat mat or parchment paper.
3. Remove dough from refrigerator and rest for 15 minutes on counter.
4. In a medium bowl, combine filling ingredients with a fork.
5. Sprinkle clean counter lightly with flour. Lightly flour rolling pin and roll each piece of dough into a circle, about 1/8 inch in thickness.
6. Spread 2 tablespoons of preserves evenly over each dough circle.
7. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of filling over the preserves. Gently press filling evenly onto preserves. Optional-Grate bittersweet chocolate over filling.
Tip: Cover your hand with plastic wrap to avoid sticking
8. With a sharp knife, cut the circle into halves, then quarters and each quarter into thirds for 12 pieces.
Tip: Wipe the knife blade clean with a towel between cuts.
9. With a small off- set spatula or butter knife, gently lift the edge of each triangle and roll toward the center to form a crescent.
10. Place crescents, with the tip or point on the bottom, on cookie sheet. Space 1.5 inches apart.
11. Cover cookie sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate until rugelach is firm, 15-30 minutes.
12. Combine sugar and cinnamon for topping in a small bowl.
13. Remove rugelach from refrigerator. Brush with cream or milk. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. Top with a very small pinch of cayenne.
14. Bake until lightly browned, 16-18 minutes.
15. Transfer rugelach to a wire rack to cool.
16. Store in airtight container.
Tip: Make ahead and freeze for up to 3 months, tightly sealed