Imagine this: you’re drying off after a morning shower. Your oatmeal is in the microwave. As usual, you look into the mirror and think, “My god, am I pale?” You hear this sound coming from the living area. The noise gets louder as you get closer. It’s a frantic sound, with fluttering and scratching. Is that (groan) another mouse? Why does it sound so much like a bird? How can there be a wall with a bird? What if the bird is stuck? There’s a lot of noise. Deb, calm down. It’s probably nothing. Most likely, it’s just a tiny bird perched outside of your thin tenement wall circa 1870. Eat your oatmeal, and everything will be… #$%!!!! BIRD! BIRD! BIRD! BIRD! A BIRD FLEW OUT OF THE RADIATOR. It is throwing itself at the window. Help! HALP!
You call your husband, who is still at work. How dare he let you stay home alone with a WILD animal banging on the walls. You open another window wide and are afraid to get near the one the bird throws himself against because you have watched the movie. It won’t look at the windows but instead wants to leave them. You think, “Wow, you don’t seem that smart, are you?” But you never say “birdbrain” because you know who is in charge. When you finally reach your husband, he laughs, and you mentally file for divorce.
The bird will then cower behind the jade plants as you calm down. What happens when you open both windows (and your front door, which technically does not lead outside, but this isn’t your problem), and the bird still doesn’t fly out? Nothing. It goes on like this for 15 minutes. You reason with your new roommate, “Come on, little birdie!” “Fly! Fly! The other way! It turns around, whooshes through the window, and says, “Nooo” (imagining it is making a nest of your cashmere sweatshirts).
Then you add some Baileys to your oatmeal. Uh, kidding. You update your blog. Who wouldn’t update their blog?
Ha, no. I won’t insult your attention by making a painfully awkward transition. You may recall a less traumatizing trip I made to the Martha Stewart Show two months ago. I was a little confused and hoodwinked because the show didn’t warn us that we would be called out. Then, I tried to pretend that it had never happened. Really!
Martha invited two women from the Sweet on your bakery in Stamford, Conn., to make her signature rugelach pinwheel cookies. The truth is, I love Rugelach more than anyone else should, and I was wondering why they would want to fix something that wasn’t broken.
The traditional rugelach is shaped like little crescent rolls. But these women said they didn’t like how the center became soft. But I love soft centers! Before I tried these cookies, I wrote them off.
Guess what happened? This rugelach was terrific. They were “Holy wow, OMG” amazing. It was like, “I’m so excited to blog about them” Good.
They’re better than I remembered if that is possible. They manage to be thin as a cookie while tasting exactly like traditional rugelach-ever-so-slightly soft center. You might have an unwelcome guest in your apartment the next day. If this happens, and please don’t claim that I didn’t warn of it, I can only advise you to cover up your cookies (literally or figuratively) and not try to reason with them.
Rugelach is my favorite cookie. But they are challenging to make. It would be best to roll out multiple dough circles, spread them with jam, and add dry ingredients. Then, you cut each circle into 8 or 16 wedges. Each wedge must be individually rolled to form crescents. They are then brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with Sugar before baking. A-yee. Rugelach are made with the same dough and ingredients. However, you can save time by rolling it into two large rolls that you can slice and bake as needed. They’re also incredible. I make several logs during the holidays and store them in the fridge until I need them. Allow them to warm up for 30 minutes at room temperature before slicing.
While apricot preserves, raisins, and walnuts have been used for centuries, any jam, dried fruit, or nut could be substituted. My husband is so anti-raisins that I’m sure he was kicked by one in a previous life. We used dried tart cherry instead. We also used dried currants that were so small they didn’t require any additional chopping. And we swapped half of the currants for mini chocolate chips to satisfy the chocolate lovers in the family.
Notes added on 12/22/14. Additional tips for rolling, slicing, and cooling the cookies after baking and reshaping them if necessary. I discovered that only half the cinnamon-sugar mixture was required for dipping, and I have made the adjustments below.
Note for 12/17: Many ways can streamline and speed up the process of making rugelach. These tips also work for the assembly of the dough (namely, there is no need to soften it if you use a food processor). Then you can continue with the instructions for rolling, filling, and slicing below.
This recipe makes about 50 cookies
Dough1 pound (8 ounces), room temperature cream cheese
Cut into small pieces 1 cup (or two sticks) of unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup of Granulated Sugar
2 cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt or kosher Salt
1/4 cup plus two tablespoons granulated Sugar
1/4 cup of light brown Sugar
Half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
Chop finely 3/4 cup golden raisins or any other dried fruit you choose.
If you have time, toast 1 cup of finely chopped nuts or any other nut.
Heat and cool 1/2 cup of apricots/raspberry preserves
Half a cup of granulated Sugar
Cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoons
Put the cream cheese and butter into a food processor bowl and blend until creamy and smooth. Add the Sugar and process until it is fully incorporated. Add the flour and Salt, and pulse until the dough is formed.
You don’t own a food processor. Stand mixers or electric beaters work equally well. Mix butter and cream until fluffy. Add Sugar, and beat until combined. Remove the bowl from the oven and scrape it down well. I find that cream cheese tends to hide in the bottom. Mix in the flour and Salt until no flour is visible. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours.