Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Spiced Pumpkin Rugelach
Rugelach are one of those little cookies that I've always thought I knew how to make (as evidenced here). I mean, these looked like rugelach and tasted like rugelach, so I assumed that the little crescents that I was pulling out from my oven were in fact, rugelach. I liked how they tasted, and I thought I could turn the page on rugelach. One more cookie that I had nailed, and it was on to the next.
While I may have always thought that I knew what I was doing when it came to rugelach, my mom always begged to differ. She said they tasted fine, but were always too big.
"They're supposed to be just a little bite!" she'd always say.
I obviously thought I knew better, so I ignored her comments. Every single time I made a batch of rugelach, she would say the same thing, and I would always brush her input aside, because I knew what I was doing. In reality though, I didn't.
It wasn't until I got a box of rugelach in last year's Food Blogger Cookie Swap that I realized my mom was right. The rugelach I received were incredible. They were flaky and buttery, tender and rich, but most importantly, they were tiny. It took two small bites two eat each cookie, and it was a hard truth to accept. I was wrong, and my mom was right (this seems like it always happens to me...).
I didn't set out to make rugelach right away, mostly because I needed to come to terms with that fact that my mom was oh so right about something that I was overly confident in. I mean, where did I get off thinking I knew how to make perfect rugelach? I'm not sure. But, when a craving for these tiny cookies, I mean, pastries, kicked in last weekend, I knew that I would have to turn to someone who did know how to make perfect rugelach. Why I hadn't turned to Dorie Greenspan before is something that I'll never know, but what I do know now, is that these are actually the best rugelach I've ever had, let alone made.
Dorie's recipe for rugelach is quite simple, but then again, they all are. The interesting thing about this particular recipe is that it really isn't all that different from the rugelach I've made in the past. While the ingredients and quantities are very similar, it's the preparation that's different, and this is the key to the success of these pastries. This recipe starts off with cold cream cheese and butter, and is made completely in the food processor, with as little mixing time as possible. It's a completely different process than my old recipe! By mixing the rugelach dough in the food processor with cold ingredients, I was able to get that perfectly flaky texture that is key in a good rugelach.
To address my mom's concerns about size, I was happy to see that Dorie's recipe instructs to cut the each round of rugelach dough into 16 wedges to shape them. Rugelach are shaped by rolling out the dough into a circle, spreading the filling on top, slicing it into wedges, and then rolling up the wedges into little crescent shapes. Smaller wedges mean smaller cookies, and my mom was finally happy to see that I listened and made small rugelach. While I followed Dorie's recipe for the dough exactly, I did take some liberties with the filling, just to make them a little more seasonal. I added a thin layer of pumpkin puree, a sprinkling of spiced sugar, and some crunchy walnuts and chewy raisins to finish off the cookies. They're not overly sweet, since there is no sugar mixed directly into the pumpkin, but if you like your cookies on the sweeter side, I'd mix in a little bit of brown sugar for sweetness and a little more depth of flavor. I was perfectly happy though with the way my lightly sweet, rich, flaky rugelach pastries turned out. While I won't claim that I'm any more of an expert now than I was before, I do know that I make a much better batch of rugelach than I used to!
Spiced Pumpkin Rugelach
pastry recipe from Dorie Greenspan
For the Dough
4 oz cold cream cheese, cut in 4 pieces
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut in 4 pieces
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Filling
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of salt
1/2 cup pure pumpkin
1/4 cup chopped raisins
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 large egg (for egg wash)
To make the dough, begin by letting the cream cheese and butter rest on the counter for about ten minutes while you prepare the remaining ingredients. They should be just barely softened and still cool. Add the flour and salt to a food processor, and toss in the cream cheese and butter chunks. Pulse the food processor about 6-10 times, just to incorporate everything, then process until the dough begins to form large curds. Don't over-process the dough, the dough shouldn't form a ball on the food processor blade.
Turn the dough out and divide it in half. Shape each half into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or up to one day.
When it's time to shape the cookies, pull one disk from the refrigerator and leave it on the counter for a few minutes so it can lose its chill. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground ginger. Unwrap the disk and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle, and spread 1/4 cup of pure pumpkin in an even layer. Sprinkle a little less than half of the cinnamon sugar mixture over the pumpkin, and then sprinkle over half of the raisins and chopped walnuts. Cover the filling with a piece of waxed paper and gently press the filling into the dough. Remove the paper, and save it for the second batch.
Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 wedges. The easiest way to do this is to cut the dough into quarters, and then cut each quarter into 4 wedges. Separate one wedge from the circle roll the dough up, and tuck in the corners at the wide end. Then, roll the dough up onto itself, starting at the wide end to create a crescent shape. Gently bend the cookies slightly at the center to give them a curved shape. Repeat with the remaining wedges. Arrange the cookies on a baking sheet that's been lined with parchment paper or a silicone liner and place in the refrigerator. Repeat with the second disk of dough.
Refrigerate the shaped cookies for 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Beat the egg with a tablespoon of water to create an egg wash, and brush it over the cookies. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining cinnamon sugar, and then bake until the tops are golden brown, about 23-25 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the baking sheets before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely. Enjoy!
Makes 32 cookies