A Winter Pastry: Rugelach

Ignore the Christmas lights on Oxford Street, tempting you to head out and shop in this weather; it’s time to stay in, hibernate and dream close to the blazing oven. It’s time for some finicky recipes, the ones no one would bother with in the summer, either because it’s too hot or they require too much effort. The descent into winter also gives me the perfect excuse to cook dense, buttery food and celebrate the richness of the season.

Rugelach are one of those amazingly rich, impressive-looking, semi-elusive (at least in London) pastries. When I lived in Toronto, I walked by Harbord Bakery all the time and often couldn’t resist their delicious Jewish delicacies: blintzes, loaves of raisin-studded challah, and definitely the occasional few rugelach. I’d bring them for friends at school, but would finish half the bag before I could even begin to share.

Rugelach can be made in any way you like; the ones below are very traditional, filled with apricot jam, currants and walnuts. They’re basically miniature filled croissants, so you can fill them with anything: nutella, a different type of jam, or even leftover dulce de leche would all be very nice. The generous quantities of cream cheese and butter keep these pastries really light and moist, so they’ll keep a long time (if you can keep your hands off them). And yeah, they do have to be made in the cold weather–or at least a cold room–or you’ll end up with some very un-pretty rugelach, as per my first batch below. I was going to trash them, and then I thought, no way, they’re still good!

Traditional Rugelach (Adapted from GOOP)

This recipe comes from Gwyneth Paltrow’s weekly blog/newsletter GOOP, which I really enjoy reading. I’ve had good luck with her recipes, and I’m also a fan of her city guides; she seems to have a keen eye for what’s cool–but not too fussy–in a city.

Dough:

  • 8oz or 200g room-temperature cream cheese
  • 250g room-temperature unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (though any flaky salt will do)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Filling:

  • 1/4 cup brown or muscovado sugar
  • 6 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup currants (or raisins)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup apricot jam, warmed up slightly to make it spreadable

Topping:

  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp milk
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Cream together the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until it’s very light and fluffy (the fluffier this is, the fluffier your resulting pastry). Then add the sugar, vanilla and salt. Mix again. Finally, on low speed, add the flour and mix gently until the mixture comes together to form a dough.

Put the dough onto a floured surface and form it into a ball. Cut the dough into four equal pieces, flatten each piece slightly and wrap each in cling film. Leave it to rest in the fridge for 30-60 minutes or even overnight. Meanwhile, combine the dry ingredients for the filling: granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, currants and walnuts.

On the floured surface, roll out one round of dough into a 9-inch circle (this needn’t be exact). Brush about 2 tbsp of the apricot jam almost to the edges of the dough and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling. Now cut the circle into 10 equal wedges.

Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge and place the pastries on a greased or parchment-covered baking tray, point side down. Repeat with the remaining circles and chill the fully-formed pastries in the fridge for 30 minutes (they won’t hold their shape if they’re too soft). Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Brush each pastry with the egg wash. Mix the 3 tbsp of sugar with the 1/2 tsp cinnamon and then sprinkle on the pastries. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned. Let them cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 40 pastries


One Comment on “A Winter Pastry: Rugelach”

  1. Stanislava says:

    Tempting photos and a very clear explanation of how to prepare these beauties. Harbord Bakery sounds like the first place to visit in Toronto!


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