Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rugelach 3 Ways with Citrus Zest

This evening's post includes a recipe that is based closely on my mom's Rugelach recipe. Rugelach are a Jewish celebratory sweet--halfway between pastry and cookie, with cream cheese in the dough. My mother's Orthodox friends in her local Chabad community tell a story about this cookie being made as a jubilant confection when Yudit (Judith) slew Holofernes, as he was an enemy General of foreign occupiers who forbade the Jews from carrying on their religious traditions. I do enjoy the odd grisly anecdote, but not necessarily with dessert and so my favorite things about these cookies are that they bake up soft and biscuit-y, no matter how much you work the dough, and also the fact that a single batch of dough can easily make up to four different flavors of Rugelach. The crescent shapes can seem intimidating, but are actually no more difficult to get the hang of than canned crescent rolls. For this recipe I've separated my dough into 3 sections so that I can make orange zest/chocolate chip cookies, lime zest/raspberry jam cookies and lemon zest/sugar cookies (to which you can add any type of chopped nuts you'd like, if you're so moved; even pistachios), and each of those three sections can be divided in two, rolled out into a circle and cut into 12 wedges. My favorite raspberry jam to use is Bonne Maman (available at most stores or online), because it's sweetened with real sugar and I've been eating their jams for so long I now know whether additional sugar is necessary to make the jam palatable in a given recipe (in this case, it's not). The only snag I hit was that it is full of raspberry seeds, so you'll want to warm the jam to loosen its consistency and force it through a sieve before using it. The dough can be made up to three days before and kept in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped in plastic cling wrap, and is also fine to keep in the freezer for a cookie craving day.

Citrus Zest Rugelach
Makes 6 dozen

2 sticks unsalted organic butter (1 cup total), softened
1 package of organic or rbg3-free cream cheese (8oz.), softened
1/4 cup sugar (I use evaporated cane juice sugar that I find at Trader Joe's)
2 cups all purpose flour
*1/3 teaspoon each zest of an orange, lime and lemon

For the fillings:

1/3 c. raspberry jam, strained for seeds if necessary
1/3 c. quality semi-sweet chocolate chips (I live near SF, where Ghirardelli is readily available, but I've seen it in supermarkets across the country)
1/4 c. sugar

*They'll go in the dough after you've portioned it into 3 equal pieces (one for each fruit).

1. Cream together butter, cream cheese and sugar. Fold in flour.
2. Separate dough into 3 equal pieces and add fruit zest (one type of fruit per piece). Work thoroughly into dough.
3. If dough is too soft to roll out, refrigerate, covered tightly in plastic cling wrap, for 20 - 30 minutes. Otherwise, flour a clean work surface and roll out the first piece into a circular shape with a 9" radius. You can roll this cookie dough rather thin, as it puffs when it bakes life puff pastry.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
4. Cover dough evenly and liberally with corresponding fillings (chocolate chips for the orange zest portion, sugar for the lemon zest portion and raspberry jam for the lime zest portion). Cut circle into wedges as though you are slicing a pizza.
5. Starting from the base of each wedge, roll the cookie up until it resembles a crescent roll, with the tip of the wedge on the outside; roll as tightly as possible and pinch the skinny (outside) end of the dough into the cookie to help them keep their shape.
6. Lay on greased cookie sheet, with the outside point of the cookie (tip of the triangle) underneath the cookie. Baste with a little melted butter and sprinkle with a light dusting of sugar. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes, or until tops start to get golden.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

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