Rugelach…and a happy new year!

The first time I made these baked treats,  I made them on a lark, since my oven was getting packed up to be shipped half-way across the country, and I really wanted to bake something in it one last time. So I flipped through the baking bible, otherwise known as this,  and chanced upon these gorgeous Yiddish cookies. With cream cheese at its heart, and chocolate, assorted nuts, and raisins giving it its bite and flavor, these cookies are like no other.

They were a hit at the office and a hit with my friends, and had my home smelling of cinnamon long after they were out of the oven. Well done, little cookie!

This time around, I did a little play on the Rugelach. Instead of making them twisties, I made them like itsy-bitsy pies. Same taste, more fun! Go make them today and you will thank Dorie Greenspan and her mother-in-law (who was the original inspiration for these cookies).

Rugelach (rolled cookies of Jewish origin)

Recipe source: Baking: From My Home To Yours

For the Dough

4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped nuts (I prefer pecans, but you can use walnuts or almonds)
1/4 cup plump, moist dried currants
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

For the Glaze

1 large egg
1 teaspoon cold water
2 tablespoons sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar

For the Filling

2/3 cup raspberry jam, apricot jam or marmalade
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Makes 32 cookies

To make the dough:
Let the cream cheese and butter rest on the counter for 10 minutes — you want them to be slightly softened but still cool.

Put the flour and salt in a food processor, scatter over the chunks of cream cheese and butter and pulse the machine 6 to 10 times. Then process, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, just until the dough forms large curds — don’t work it so long that it forms a ball on the blade.

Turn the dough out, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day. (Wrapped airtight, the dough can be frozen for up to 2 months.)

To make the filling:
Heat the jam in a saucepan over low heat, or do this in a microwave, until it liquefies. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together.

Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. (Silicone baking mats are great for rugelach.)

Traditional shape:

TO SHAPE THE COOKIES: Pull one packet of dough from the refrigerator. If it is too firm to roll easily, either leave it on the counter for about 10 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 11- to 12-inch circle. Spoon (or brush) a thin gloss of jam over the dough, and sprinkle over half of the cinnamon sugar. Scatter over half of the nuts, half of the currants and half of the chopped chocolate. Cover the filling with a piece of wax paper and gently press the filling into the dough, then remove the paper and save it for the next batch.

Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 wedges, or triangles. (The easiest way to do this is to cut the dough into quarters, then to cut each quarter into 4 triangles.) Starting at the base of each triangle, roll the dough up so that each cookie becomes a little crescent. Arrange the roll-ups on one baking sheet, making sure the points are tucked under the cookies, and refrigerate. Repeat with the second packet of dough, and refrigerate the cookies for at least 30 minutes before baking. (The cookies can be covered and refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to 2 months; don’t defrost before baking, just add a couple of minutes to the baking time.)

How I made them:

Divide the dough into two portions. Roll both and lay them out.

Using a circular cookie cutter, cut out circles and place these into a greased muffin mould. Glaze the inside of the mould with the jam using a pastry brush, and stuff it with some filling.

Using a small star-shaped cookie cutter, cut stars from the second rolled out piece of dough. Place the stars over the filling in the mould.

Getting ready to bake:
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To glaze:
Stir the egg and water together, and brush a bit of this glaze over each rugelach. Sprinkle the cookies with the sugar.

Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until they are puffed and golden. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool to just warm or to room temperature.

Serving:
Tea is traditional, but we drink coffee with rugelach. These are pretty and, even with their jam-and-fruit filling, not overly sweet, and they are even good with sparkling wine.

Storing:
The cookies can be kept covered at room temperature for up to 3 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.

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