Monday, December 22, 2014

Cranberry Pecan Rugalach

Rugalach (pronounced ROO-guh-la) is a magical, delicious Jewish pastry. These are one of a couple kinds of cookies I make at the holidays these days. The buttery, flakey cookie part of these crescent-shaped pastries are balanced out by the tart, crunchy filling. You can replace the cranberries in this recipe with cherries or apricots if you prefer and they still turn out delicious.

I made a double batch of these bad boys, so if you're doing a single batch you'll have half of the stuff you see in the pictures.

Cranberry Pecan Filling

3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted
2/3 cup finely chopped sweetened, dried cranberries
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground allspice

Stir all ingredients together until well mixed.

I'll just pretend that when I bake my workspace always looks so neat and organized. Because, you know, I secretly live on a cooking show.

The filling is pretty straightforward, but to work with it easier later, I find heating it up over low heat makes it a little more spreadable.

I suggest having a good amount of counter space instead of using the kitchen table like I do. I made the filling and dough the night before and let the dough chill overnight before starting on assembly and actual baking. Spending 5 hours bent over the kitchen table assembling these does a number on your back so try and use a counter if you have enough room. Also, one of those sweet anti-fatigue mats that Lee Valley sells is a good idea for all baking. Well really just about everything at Lee Valley is awesome (no, I'm not getting money for saying that... and now I'm rambling).


Cranberry Pecan Rugalach

1 cup butter, softened
1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
Cranberry Pecan Filling
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sparkling sugar

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.

Yes I realize that's a terrifying amount of butter and cream cheese. Believe me, the second you inhale your 7th or 8th cookie you'll not only appreciate all this fatty goodness, you will start to hallucinate an angelic choir lulling you into pastry euphoria. Or you'll end up with a stomach ache. Either way - worth it.

Gradually add granulated sugar, beating until fluffy.  Stir in flour and salt. 

I like using a pastry cutter to get the initial mixing done. But nothing beats just getting in there with your hands to make sure it's mixed well. You'll want to make sure the dough is very smooth. You'll know it's ready when it's the consistency of soft playdough.

Divide dough into 8 equal portions.

Flatten each portion into a disc, wrap separately in plastic wrap, and chill for 8 hours.

Having done a double batch, I ended up with quite a few of these (16).

Remove dough from the fridge (or the porch if you're making these in Canada in the winter).
Roll one portion of dough at a time into an 8" circle on a lightly floured surface. 

Spread with about 3 tablespoons of the Cranberry Pecan Filling, leaving about a 1/2" border around the edge. Cut circle into 8 wedges. Roll up the wedges, starting at the wide end, to form a crescent shape. Place, point side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet (or on parchment paper).

This is what takes the most time with these cookies. Getting the filling to spread out evenly is tricky, and getting the crescents rolled up without all the filling falling out is tricky. Then picking them up and placing them on the tray so that they don't unroll is also tricky. My best advice here is to take your time and cut yourself some slack if they don't turn out perfectly - they'll still be delicious.

Brush gently with egg. Sprinkle evenly with sparkling sugar. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Bake at 350 degrees on a lightly greased baking sheet (or on parchment paper lined baking sheet) for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

I ended up making a double batch for Christmas since they're always such a hit. They are admittedly tedious to make but worth it!

Merry Christmas!

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