As we near the end of 2015, I've begun to think about how I want to celebrate the new year. Ideally it would involve pizza, cookies, and snuggles on the couch with our new puppy (yes we got a dog and he is a little ball of love and kisses but more on him later), but realistically it will involve a low-key dinner with friends. There will be glasses of bubbly, an absurd amount of cheese, and cookies, because it isn't a celebration without something sweet.
Normally, I would stick to tried and true chocolate chip cookies - they are a crowd pleaser after all, but stepping it up a notch seems appropriate considering it's a holiday (though I imagine no one would be sad to see a chocolate-chip cookie served at a fancy party). Rugelach to me are the holiday cookie of choice. Their full of flavors and textures (jam! nuts! chocolate!) yet slightly more sophisticated then your standard cookie. Not to mention they are equally enjoyable the morning after your soiree with a mug of good coffee and sweatpants.
Recipe adapted slightly from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
I've always shied away from making rugelach because the traditional process of rolling the dough into a circle and then rolling each rugelach individually was way to fussy for me. This recipe is genius since it has you roll the dough like a log and then slice each cookie. Wee for ease! Also, I upped the amount of nuts, fruit, and chocolate in my recipe because well, more is better in my book.
Makes 40 to 48 rugelach
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
1/2 pound (225 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 pound (1 8-ounce or 225-gram package) cream cheese
2/3 cup (135 grams) granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips or finely chopped bitter- or semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup toasted nuts, chopped small (I used walnuts)
1/2 cup dried fruit, chopped small; (I used tiny dried currants, no chopping needed)
1/2 to 3/4 cup jam (I used seedless raspberry, apricot is more traditional)
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water or milk
Remaining cinnamon-sugar from above
Make the dough: In a food processor: Place flour and salt in work bowl fitted with standard blade. Pulse to combine. Add cream cheese, chopped into large chunks, and run machine until it’s fully dispersed into the flour. Add butter in large chunks and run machine until dough starts to clump. Dump out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and form into a flattish disc.
With a mixer: Let butter and cream cheese soften at room temperature. Beat both together until light and fluffy. Beat in salt. Add flour, beating until it disappears. Scrape dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and form into a flattish disc.
Both methods: Chill dough until totally firm — about 2 hours in the fridge you can hasten this along in the freezer for about 30 minutes. (Dough keeps in fridge for up to a week, and in freezer much longer.)
Form the pastries: Heat oven to 350 degrees F and line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.
Stir cinnamon and sugar together in a small dish. Combine coarse mixture of chocolate, nuts and dried fruit in a second dish.
Divide dough into quarters and roll first quarter out on a floured counter into a rectangle about 12 inches wide and 7 to 8 inches long, with the wider side to you. Thinly spread dough to all but the furthest 1/4 inch from you — which seals better once rolled if bare — with about 2 to 3 tablespoons jam. (I find that with seedless raspberry, 2T covers nicely but with thicker jam, you’ll need 3T to coat it thinly. If your jam is difficult to spread, you can warm it gently in the microwave for a few seconds first.) Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar mixture, then 1/4 of the coarse fruit and nut mixture.
Roll dough from the 12-inch side in front of you into as tight as a log as you can, using your fingers to lightly seal the ends onto the log. Repeat with remaining logs.
Place log of filled dough in freezer for 10 to 15 minutes; it will cut more cleanly once semi-firm. Trim ends from log so they have a clean shape. Cut log into 10 to 12 even slices. Arrange on prepared baking sheets a couple inches apart from each other.
Brush top(s) lightly with egg wash and sprinkle with a total of 1 teaspoon of the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown on top.
Cooled cookies keep in a container at room temperature for a week, and in the freezer for a month.