Cookie Calendar: Cherry-Nut Rugelach

cookiecalendar.jpgRugelach arrived in this country from Eastern Europe, much like I did a few months ago.

OK, they might have spent more time there than I did.

Regardless, their Eastern European roots help explain why this cookie variety is so often associated with Jewish holidays, including Hanukkah. Eastern Europe at one time boasted a vibrant Jewish community, from Germany and the Czech Republic through Poland to Russia (and more, of course).

My family isn't Jewish, but enjoying cookies like rugelach doesn't require knowing the difference between Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. Though we celebrate Christmas in December rather than Hanukkah, I make rugelach every year I have an oven.

I usually make the simpler Kraft recipe for rugelach since it goes over better with my family, but this cinnamon-y dried cherry filling is my personal preference. I made them in Las Vegas before heading home one year and shared them with my co-workers. Deeeeeelicious.

Rugelach dough tastes like a flaky pie crust, and but the filling is on the scant side since you don't create a pocket to hold it. Make sure you bake them on parchment, as otherwise you'll have a hard time scraping up the sticky filling bubbling out the edges.

Cherry-Nut Rugelach
Source: The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion
Yield: 64 cookies

1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter
One 8 ounce package cream cheese (reduced fat or full fat)
½ cup (3½ ounces) sugar
1¼ teaspoons salt
3 cups (12¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup (4⁵⁄₈ ounces) dried cherries
¾ cup (3 ounces) walnuts, toasted
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
¼ cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
2½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt

1 large egg beaten with 2 teaspoons water
Granulated, coarse, or pearl sugar

1. To make the dough: In a large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese until light. Add the sugar and salt and beat until fluffy. Stir in the flour, the gather the dough into a ball and knead it until it's smooth and all the flour is incorporated.

2. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, roll each into a ball, then flatten each slightly into thick disks. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

4. To make the filling: Combine the filling ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times (or finely dice the cherries and walnuts, add the remaining filling ingredients, and blend well).

5. To shape the cookies: Work with one dough disk at a time, and keep the others refrigerated. On a piece of parchment or a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into an 8-inch circle. Place a small round lid (from a film canister, a salad dressing bottle, or something similar-sized) in the center of the circle. Spread ¼ cup of the filling over the dough, leaving ½ inch uncovered around the outside edge of the circle.

6. Remove the lid and use a sharp knife or pizza wheel to cut the circle into 8 equal wedges. Starting at the wide (outside) edge of each wedge, roll it toward its narrow edge, as you would a crescent roll. Place the rolled wedges, tip down, on the prepared baking sheets. Curve each cookie into a crescent shape. Repeat this process with the remaining dough.

7. Brush each cookie with some of the beaten egg mixture and sprinkle with sugar. Bake the rugelach for 20 minutes, or until they're golden brown. Remove them from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool.

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