Thursday, September 20, 2007

Recipe- Apricot Almond Rugelach

Rugelach are a traditional German Jewish pastry, but they've long been a traditional Christmas cookie in my family's house. My parents and brothers are bigger on pie and cake throughout the year, but once Thanksgiving is over it's all about the Christmas cookies. Mom makes 6-10 different kinds during the holidays- some new and some old standbys. Some are beautiful works of art, others aren't as pretty but taste just as good.
These apricot rugelach are on the 'Must make' list. In fact, they are often made twice a season, and should they not appear there would be cries of despair from us all.

Our first experience with rugelach occured when I was a little girl living in Atlanta. Beyond the neighborhood Kroger, Mom would visit Harry's a local warehouse grocer (Whole Foods slash Home Depot? best way I can think to describe it). My very first experience with sushi took place here as well, but that's another story. But on special days, Mom would purchase chocolate walnut rugelach, and at least 3 would be consumed on the way home (myself, Brother #1 and Brother #2) and the rest didn't last much longer. We didn't stay in Atlanta long and it was a few years before rugelach entered our lives again in the form of this recipe.

Now I have my own home but we'll still be home for Christmas so we won't miss the cookies. But it's never too early to practice the family favorites, so I made my first batch of apricot rugelach solo this weekend.

I learned alot- my first experience with cream cheese dough taught me that Mom was right as usual- it is easy to work with! I was a little concerned in the beginning- the dough didn't come together as fast as I thought it would, and I worried I had done something wrong. But lo and behold, it came together beautifully. You separate the dough into two parts and work with one at a time. Only when working with the second piece of dough did I remember that we received a fluted pastry wheel as a wedding gift- so one batch had lovely scalloped edges and the other was plain. But no problem- they still tasted great! And I can't wait to make another batch- soon, since I have 1/2 a block of cream cheese left and I'm not sure what else to do with it. But next time, I think I'll try a chocolate walnut raspberry filling, reminiscient of the cookies I had at Harry's. I'll let you know how those turn out!

Apricot Almond Rugelach
(adapted from Cookies Unlimited)
makes 24 cookies

cream cheese pastry:
1 cup all-purpose Flour
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 12 pieces

1/4 cup apricot jam
2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) chopped toasted Almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1 Teaspoon finely grated Lemon zest

1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) chopped almonds

2 cookie sheets covered with parchment

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flour, butter, and cream cheese. Pulse until the dough forms a ball. Remove the dough from the work bowl and divide into two pieces. Place each on a piece of plastic wrap and press each out into a 6-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate while preparing the filling.

To make the filling, you'll need 4 bowls: in the first, stir the jam until it is spreadable; in the second, stir together the almonds, sugar, and lemon zest. In the third bowl, beat the egg until well broken. In the fourth bowl, mix the sugar and almonds for the topping.
Remove one of the pieces of dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured surface. Flour the dough and roll it out into a 9- to 10-inch circle. Spread with half the jam and half the almond mixture. Using a pastry wheel, cut the circle into 12 equal wedges. Roll up each triangle into a small crescent from the outside inward. As the rugelach are formed, place them on the prepared pan. Repeat with the second piece of dough and the remaining filling.
Brush the top of each pastry with the beaten egg, then sprinkle with the almond sugar.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden and slightly caramelized. Slide the papers from the pan to a cooling rack.

Rugelach are best the day they are baked, but they will keep between sheets of parchment in a tight-lidded container. But trust me, these won't last longer than a day or two anyway!

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