Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Happy Rugelach

    I really don't know much about Hanukkah or any other Jewish holiday.  (I even have to check the spelling every time I type the word.)  But when you have friends who are Jewish or any other religion/nationality other than your own, it makes me want to learn more about all of it, especially any traditional food that might go along with a holiday or celebration.  And if the recipes are really tasty, then I want to get know it as much as humanly possible by immersing myself  in research and by research, you understand, this means cooking and eating.
     Our friends Molly and Dave (and their two young sons) are Jewish.  The nice thing is that they are quite tolerant of all of my questions, in particular the ones about recipes and dietary restrictions.  Another excellent thing about them is that they are game to try just about anything I concoct in my kitchen.  They are both incredibly willing and enthusiastic participants when it comes to my culinary experiments. 
     Considering it is Hanukkah, I have been trying to come up with an edible gift for them.  I already stashed away a jar of Bourbon Cherries for Molly.  If she doesn't want to share them with Dave, that's her business, not mine. Of course, the booze steeped cherries and not for children.  So, a baked item is definitely in order.  Since I am not familiar with traditional Hanukkah sweets, I googled it.  There were many delicious items. Some fussy, many deep fried and some that I just did not feel inspired to make.  Epicurious.com saved me with an article which caught my eye featuring a few recipes of rugelach.  Considering the dough is basic and it's up to the baker to decide on any number of filling options, I feel the possibilities to be just about endless and I am very likely to find something of use already in my pantry.  The best one out of the bunch looked to be by Dorie Greenspan.  She won me over first with her story about how this recipe became part of her repertoire long before she became a household name and an authority on home baking.  Indeed, according to her it is one of the first cookies she was able to master.  Anyway, I found the cookies from the recipe to be fantastic and everything you could want: crusty, sweet and a bit of crunch from the sugar on top.  After they sit for a day, they get a little softer from the jam filling.  (I used raspberry jam, mini chocolate chips, cinnamon and sugar for the filling, but you can choose whatever you like.)  As for Dave and Molly, I'm not sure if they ended up sharing the rugelach with their boys.  Perhaps they squirreled them away with the cherries to be enjoyed after children go to bed.  Late night cocktails and cookies?  Now that's my kind of celebration! 

Makes 32 cookies


  1. For the dough
    • 4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces
    • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  2. For the filling
    • 2/3 cup seedless raspberry jam, apricot jam or marmalade
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 cup chopped nuts (I prefer pecans, but you can use walnuts or almonds)
    • 1/4 cup plump, moist dried currants
    • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips
  3. For the glaze
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 teaspoon cold water
    • 2 tablespoons sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar


  1. To Make the Dough:
    1. Let the cream cheese and butter rest on the counter for 10 minutes-you want them to be slightly softened but still cool.
    2. Put the flour and salt in a food processor, scatter over the chunks of cream cheese and butter and pulse the machine 6 to 10 times. Then process, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, just until the dough forms large curds-don't work it so long that it forms a ball on the blade.
    3. Turn the dough out, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day. (Wrapped airtight, the dough can be frozen for up to 1 month.)
  2. To Make the Filling:
    1. Heat the jam in a saucepan over low heat, or do this in a microwave oven, until it liquefies. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together.
    2. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. (Silicone baking mats are great for rugelach.)
  3. To Shape the Cookies:
    1. Pull one packet of dough from the refrigerator. If it is too firm to roll easily, either leave it on the counter for about 10 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin.
    2. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 11- to 12-inch circle. Spoon (or brush) a thin gloss of jam over the dough, and sprinkle over half of the cinnamon sugar. Scatter over half of the nuts, half of the currants and half of the chopped chocolate. Cover the filling with a piece of wax paper and gently press the filling into the dough, then remove the paper and save it for the next batch.
    3. Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 wedges, or triangles. (The easiest way to do this is to cut the dough into quarters, then to cut each quarter into 4 triangles.) Starting at the base of each triangle, roll the dough up so that each cookie becomes a little crescent. Arrange the roll-ups on one baking sheet, making sure the points are tucked under the cookies, and refrigerate. Repeat with the second packet of dough, and refrigerate the cookies for at least 30 minutes before baking. (The cookies can be covered and refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to 2 months; don't defrost before baking, just add a couple of extra minutes to the baking time.)
  4. Getting Ready to Bake:
    1. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. To Glaze:
    1. Stir the egg and water together, and brush a bit of this glaze over each rugelach. Sprinkle the cookies with the sugar.
    2. Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until they are puffed and golden. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool to just warm or to room temperature.
Serving: Tea is traditional, but we drink coffee with rugelach. These are pretty and, even with their jam-and-fruit filling, not overly sweet, and they are even good with sparkling wine. Storing: The cookies can be kept covered at room temperature for up to 3 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.

For the whole story on Dorie's rugelach:
For the Bourbon Cherries recipe (Substitute bourbon for vanilla vodka and add 2 more tablespoons of sugar):

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Naughty Cherries

 "Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker"  -Ogden Nash

Just in time to kick off the holiday season, I came across a recipe for  Bourbon Cherries in the December 2015 issue of O Magazine. I immediately thought of my friend, Molly who enjoys a good bourbon and ginger cocktail preferably garnished with 2-3 maraschino cherries and a splash of the red liquid to "beautify" her drink.  I love the idea of steeping the cherries with ginger and bourbon in a mason jar and knew that this would make a great gift for her and her foodie, DIY food project, obsessed husband. I have hers stashed and ready to be delivered along with some other festive treats to be shared in another post.  However, as much as I like this plan for Molly, I'm not so keen on the heavy taste of bourbon and the fact that it practically gives me a headache before I'm even finished with my drink.  Also, I had another booze fan in mind: my sister. She has recently denounced red wine as it makes her stomach ache and has instead reached for the vodka, in particular, vanilla flavored vodka.  So, along with the batch of "Bourbon Cherries", I quickly whipped up some with vodka instead and for lack of a better name, have dubbed them "Naughty Cherries" because of what happened after I gifted my sister a jar full on Thanksgiving day.
It all began innocently enough.  She created a simple cocktail made with the vanilla vodka and a cherry for garnish.  Then she took the rest of the fancy fruit home and ate a few of the booze steeped cherries for a late night snack.  On Friday, after she plowed through the day wrought with shopping excursions and crowd battling in a few big box stores, I received a text:
"I might have a few cherries for lunch"
Still later that same day, closer to 8:00pm:
 "I am having cherries for dessert with my cocktail"
Well at least she is getting her fiber and vitamins along with these liquid based meals. She then proceeded to devour the rest of the  cherries by the end of Saturday.  On Sunday, I got another text update:
 "I just took two big swings (I think she meant swigs) right out of that cherry jar."  Nice.  "I feel like that would be a really great after dinner apertif" 
 "It was AWESOME"

  “I wish I could drink like a lady / I can take one or two at the most / Three and I'm under the table / Four and I'm under the host” -Dorothy Parker

Naughty Cherries
(makes one pint jar)

1 heaping cup of frozen (pitted) cherries  
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 cup vanilla vodka
1 tablespoon sugar
1 (1") knob of ginger, peeled and thickly sliced

Place cherries in a resealable 1-pint jar. Push rosemary alongside cherries in jar.
In a medium sized sauce pan, bring vanilla vodka, sugar and ginger to a simmer over medium- low heat and cook until sugar dissolves, about 3-5 minutes.
Pour mixture into jar of cherries, seal and refrigerate for at least 3 days to steep.  Cherries will keep in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. 

 And....just in time to soften the edges on the madness that takes over in December (or anytime of
 year, for that matter):


Karyn's Cherry Spice Drop
(makes 2 cocktails)

For the glass rim:
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

For the cocktail:
3oz liquid from Naughty Cherries
1 oz vanilla vodka
(or any combination of the above to make 4 oz.)

For the garnish:
2 Naughty Cherries 
2 pieces candied ginger 
2 small sprigs fresh rosemary

Combine rim spices.  Wet 2 martini glasses and gently press wet edge into spice mixture. Set aside glasses.
In a shaker combine Naughty Cherry liquid and vodka over 1 cup of ice.  Shake vigorously until your fingertips stick to the metal of the shaker.  Pour mixture into rimmed glasses.
Poke one piece of candied ginger onto end of one sprig of rosemary.  Top with one Naughty Cherry.  Repeat for second garnish.  Place a garnish into each drink. Enjoy.