I only make Raspberry Rugelach during the holidays.
But why? It’s one of my favorite cookies. I’ll buy them in bakeries during the year, so why not make them more often? I made Gingerbread Pancakes last week because I had leftover Whipped Cream Cream Cheese Frosting and needed something to put it on. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that Pumpkin Waffles are a year round treat. Call it rebel baking, but lately I’ve been throwing the traditional baking calendar to the wind and making whatever we want whenever we want it.
The truth is I was supposed to make these cookies during the holidays. But, it was my first food blogger Christmas and I got a little overwhelmed trying to do all of my normal baking and still keep the blog going while doing everything else that the holidays (and life) bring. Now that I’ve been through it once, I’ll have a better plan in place this year.
Like cheese blintzes, I hadn’t had rugelach when I was growing up. It wasn’t until I graduated from college, moved to the east coast and entered the training program of a large retail company that I discovered this delicious cookie. My first job was as a sales manager in the store line. I worked in the men’s department and was responsible for dress shirts, ties, socks, robes, pajamas and underwear. It wasn’t quite the fashion-y retail job I had imagined when I dreamed of some day becoming a buyer, but it was my first step towards that goal.
I worked hard and hauled heavy cartons of merchandise (underwear is heavy! :) Some days I felt like a glorified stock boy, but I have to say, I built a lot of strength during that position both physical and business. I learned how to manage a team of sales and stock people, most of whom were many years older than I. I also learned how to analyze my business and soon, the buyers were letting me place my own orders, something that wasn’t typical for a sales manager in our store.
I was in the store day and night. Frequently, we would work “iron” days, which if I remember correctly, was a 12 hour shift. We practically lived there, and for all of us transplants from other states, every one we knew in the world was pretty much at work. So, we didn’t really mind being there so much, because that’s where everyone else was anyway.
In our store, we had a gourmet marketplace on the lower level. I used to grab lunch there when I didn’t have time to leave the building. One day, I spied something in the pastry/cookie case and bought a couple to try. They were Raspberry Rugelach and they were delicious! They were buttery and tender and a bit flaky, wonderfully rich but not too sweet. They were heavenly! They also had chocolate and cinnamon flavors but it didn’t take long for me to decide that the raspberry were my favorite.
If I needed a little treat, I would go down to the marketplace and buy one or two little cookies. The Raspberry Rugelach became my very favorite splurge. Later, whenever I would see them in a bakery, I would buy a couple to see if they were as good as the ones from the marketplace. I don’t know if it’s the passage of time or an idealistic memory, but I swear I’ve never had any as good as the ones that I had back in that store.
At some point, I found some at Whole Foods that I liked and would buy on occasion. Then, I found the recipe on their website and started making them myself. They take a bit of time, but are not too difficult to make. Everything mixes up in one bowl. Then you just divide the dough, pat each piece into a flat rectangle and refrigerate it for an hour.
After that, you just roll the dough out a bit, spread the filling on, roll it up like a cinnamon roll then slice and bake. The cream cheese and butter dough is tender and rich and, of course, the raspberry filling is the perfect partner. I like to freeze the baked cookies so that whenever the mood strikes, I can take one or two out of the freezer and relax with a cup of tea. I’m not sure they measure up to the one’s from the marketplace; I don’t think any ever will.
These are made with a whole wheat pastry flour and a lightened cream cheese. So, they’re a smidgen healthier :) than the ones I used to eat. Raspberry Rugelach remains one of my favorites and this is my go to recipe to satisfy that craving. It makes for a delicious cookie and brings back some really great memories of the beginning of my career…except for hauling heavy cartons up a flight of steps to an upstairs stock room.
Yeah, I don’t miss that.
- 1 cup 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 8 ounce package light cream cheese (Neufchatel)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 6 Tablespoons raspberry preserves
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 6 Tablespoons finely chopped pecans
- Cinnamon sugar 2 Tablespoons sugar +3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- mini chocolate chips optional, 1 Tablespoons per log, if using
- milk for brushing
- Turbinado sugar raw sugar for sprinkling
In a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese together until combined, smooth and silky.
Add brown sugar, vanilla and salt and continue mixing until creamy.
Add flours and mix just until well combined. Avoid over working dough or your cookies will be tough.
Divide dough into three equal portions on separate parchment or wax paper sheets. Fold parchment over on top of dough and press into a 6"x 8" rectangle. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. I did this on wax paper then used the same paper to wrap up the dough for refrigeration.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Roll each rectangle of dough between parchment paper to a thickness of 1/4". My rectangle was rolled to just over 7" x 9", but in retrospect I would have rolled it thinner, closer to 7" X10" or 8" x 10". I didn't quite get it to that 1/4". (Leave the remaining dough in the refrigerator until you're ready to roll them.)
Uncover the dough, position it so that it is longest from left to right. Spread 2 Tablespoons of preserves evenly on dough, leaving a good 1" bare at the far side (the last part of the dough to get rolled up.)
Sprinkle with a 1/2 Tablespoon of brown sugar. Then evenly distribute 2 Tablespoons of finely chopped pecans. (Add 1 Tablespoon mini chocolate chips, if desired.) Press the nuts (and chips) lightly into the dough, then sprinkle with 1/2 Tablespoon cinnamon sugar.
Start rolling the dough tightly but without stretching it. You'll be rolling the dough away from you. Roll up completely and press the edge to seal. Roll it up with the parchment to cover it and put it back into the refrigerator until firm. Repeat with remaining dough.
Once logs have firmed up again in the refrigerator (about 30 minutes,) remove parchment, place seam side down, brush with milk and sprinkle Turbinado (or any coarse sugar) generously on top. using a sharp knife, cut into 1" slices.
Repeat these steps with the other logs.
Place slices standing with sugar side up onto parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 25-30 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Allow to cool on baking sheet.
*Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days or freeze in freezer bags for up to 3 months.
*I love these as a sweet addition to a brunch buffet. The sweet fruit and nut filling, combined with the rich dough are reminiscent of a fruity Danish pastry.
*If you roll your dough to about the 8x10 that I mention in the recipe, you should get 30 cookies. I mention that I didn't roll it as thin as I should have so that you'll know that your cookie layers should look thinner than the ones you see pictured.
*I give measurements for filling as a guide. You can add or subtract as you like. This is what works well for me. I like well filled rugelach. Some will seep out during baking, but I don't worry about it.
*Be sure to leave at least one inch at the far side of your roll or you will end up with filling overflowing at the end and that will make for more of a mess during baking.
*I used mini chocolate chips in one of my three rolls. You'll need 1 Tablespoons per roll. Just add them right after the nuts. The picture of the dough with filling on top is the roll that had the chocolate chips.
*Make sure you measure your flour correctly. I accidently put in equal amounts of each flour instead of the 1 1/2 and 1 1/4 cups only because I'm used to splitting these flours equally for other recipes. The cookies were fine, but don't make the mistake. Slow down and read the recipe carefully. An extra quarter cup of flour does not make these cookies better, although they were still delicious and we ate ALL of them :)
Recipe adapted from Whole Foods Fig Rugelach
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