For years I always felt making rugelach was beyond the scope of my capabilities. Too many steps, too complicated and just too much work.
What is rugelach you ask? Why are you afraid of a cookie you ask?
Rugelach (/ˈruːɡələx/; roo-ge-lahkh; Yiddish: רוגעלך) and Hebrew: רוגלך) has its roots in the Jewish tradition and is from eastern Europe. The name has Yiddish origins. It is traditionally a crescent-rolled cookie made from cream cheese laced dough filled with not-too-sweet handmade fruit or chocolate filling with finely chopped nuts, cinnamon and sugar. It's rolled and then baked to perfection. The finished product has a crunchy exterior with a soft flaky interior. It's delicate but hardy at the same time. There are lots of imitators out there that label monstrosities as rugelach but the true believers can tell the difference. Rugelach are truly nuggets of deliciousness.
I have eaten rugelach for many years. Spending 25 years in New York City has certainly given me easy access to the best of the best. Perhaps I even took them for granted. The further I strayed from the city epicenter the worse the cookies tasted. I've had plenty of tasteless crunchy imposters! You don't need a license to make them (although now I think you need at least an official certification) so the imitators have purveyed and the results have simplified the taste buds of America! There are so many people that just don't know what real rugelach tastes like. I want to remedy that situation here in my little pocket of southern Maine.
So just the other day I said why not. Let's experiment. Feeling like Dr. Frankenstein I jumped into the deep end of the cream cheese filled pool. I looked at some recipes, made some adjustments and began my quest.
I did realize starting from ground zero was quite a task as I needed to make everything. It started with the fruit filling made from dried fruit which was soaked then pureed and finally cooked down. I decided to make strawberry, apricot and raspberry. That was a full day right there. Between the soaking, pureeing, cooking and cooling it was a good investment for my future rugelach babies. Then there was the dough - a cream cheese pastry dough with some vanilla beans that would give it a real tasty bite. I chilled and rolled it out, cut it into shape, added a generous layer of filling and sprinkled on nuts, cinnamon and sugar. The final step was rolling each piece into its crescent form and popping it into the freezer for several hours so it would retain its shape after baking in the oven. Then a final quick stint in the oven.
It sounds like a lot but I found it a simple and straight-forward, albeit lengthy process. The results were extremely tasty (so said my official taste testers). It's the real deal! The great thing is that this cookie is very sturdy, travels well and keeps for a long time. We'll have it as part of our fall/winter menu and available at farmers' markets and for the holiday season. These babies make the perfect gift for someone or treat for yourself.