Day 4 of the 12 Days of Cookies is … rugelah! Can you really have a holiday cookie project without addressing rugelah? Oh I think not and it an absolute must for Hanukkah, which starts today. A fruity or nutty filling spiraled within an impossibly tender cream cheese dough that both delights and aggravates. Cream cheese doughs are notorious for warming up impossibly fast and mastering one is a badge of courage. All that said, it’s well worth the effort and I can easily devour these treats by the dozen. In this case, I went for a fruity filling spiked with some booze. ‘Til the season, right? The idea of peaches, while not very wintery, appealed to me because I became a little fixated on the idea of working bourbon into this cookie and to my mind, peaches go beautifully with bourbon. C’mon, you know they do.
The dough is from pastry chef Mindy Segal’s latest bookie, Cookie Love, and it is perfect. Soft, tender, gorgeous and even though it too warms up and becomes impossible to deal with faster than you’d like, it’s a beautiful dough. In fact, her hot fudge rugelah made with this dough is probably the best thing I’ve ever tasted and you need to make it pronto. A fudge filling and hazelnut/cocoa nib streusel is rolled into this dough in a big glorious mess, where the fudge oozes out and crisps during baking. It’s an idea so good, I’m really pissed I didn’t think of it myself. But that doesn’t stop me from making it. Or eating it.
This is not that idea, though it does use that dough. Why reinvent the wheel? So what I do instead is take some diced dried peaches and cook them with vanilla and bourbon to a thick jammy consistency with the help of some cornstarch. Then I wrap that delicious concoction along with a pecan studded streusel in that same dough and you’ve got one helluva holiday cookie. Nicely done.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: JOY AND PAIN. The key to this one is work cold. Repeat that over and over; let it become your mantra. Once this dough warms up it may very well reduce you into a puddle of tears. But here’s the thing: you can and will master it and there’s a sweet spot with this dough. You have to let it warm up just enough to be flexible; too cold and it will crack rather than roll. Too warm and it’s a gooey mess. That’s why I always think of this as a winter cookie. My kitchen is so much more hospitable to temperamental doughs when it’s not 100°F outside.
six years ago: Pumpkin Bundt Cake
five years ago: Bacon Cheddar Gougeres
four years ago: Southern Cheese Straws
three years ago: Kale & Squash Salad
two years ago: Pumpkin Spice Granola
last year: Cider Apple Pie
12 Days of Cookies Recap so far:
— Day 1 – Pretzel Caramel Shortbread
— Day 2 – Fig Mezzaluna
— Day 3 – Dutch Windmills
BOURBON PEACH RUGELAH – partially adapted from Mindy Segal’s Hot Fudge Rugelah
makes about 3 dozen
For the cream cheese dough:
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (1 stick)
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (1 package)
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
for the streusel:
½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped
2 Tablespoons sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 Tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
for the peach filling:
1 ½ cups diced dried peaches (about 8 ounces)
¾ cup peach nectar or peach juice
¼ cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon bourbon
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg white, lightly beaten, for glazing
- For the cream cheese dough: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt and set aside until needed.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until just combined, about 15-20 seconds.
- Add the sugar and mix until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl.
- On medium speed, add the vanilla and mix briefly.
- Add the flour mixture all at once and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together but still looks shaggy, approximately 30 seconds. Do not overmix.
- With a plastic scraper, turn the dough out onto the counter and knead gently to bring together.
- Pat the dough into a rectangle and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least at least 2 hours or up to 1 week. The dough can also be frozen up to 2 months; defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
- For the streusel: In a small bowl, combine the pecans, sugar, brown sugar, flour and salt. Set aside until needed. Can be made 1 week ahead.
- For the peach filling: Combine the diced peaches, peach nectar, sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan.
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is very thick, 4-5 minutes.
- Stir in the bourbon and vanilla. Let cool completely. Can be made up to 1 week ahead; store in the refrigerator.
- To assemble: lightly flour a sheet of parchment the same size as a sheet pan (13” x 18”). Unwrap the chilled dough and place on top.
- Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle, leaving a 1” border from the edge of the parchment paper, dusting the dough lightly with flour to prevent sticking. The dough should be just shy of ¼” thick. If the edges become uneven, push a bench scraper against the sides to straighten them out. To keep the dough from sticking to the parchment paper, periodically dust the top lightly with flour, cover with another piece of parchment paper, and flip the dough and paper over. Peel off the top layer of parchment paper and continue to roll.
- Top with a piece of parchment paper and slide onto the sheet pan; refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350° Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.
- To assemble: Invert the chilled dough sheet onto the work surface and peel off the top sheet of parchment paper.
- Spread the cooled peach filling in a thin, even layer across the surface.
- Sprinkle approximately ½ cup of the streusel over the filling.
- Using a dough or pizza cutter, divide the sheet in half lengthwise into two long strips.
- Working with one strip at a time and moving crosswise, cut out triangles with flat tips, with each base approximately 1 ½” wide and each tip about ¼” wide. Shoot for around 18 triangles per strip.
- Using an offset spatula, separate a triangle away from the rest of the dough.
- Starting from the base, roll the dough up like a crescent roll.
- Place tip-side up on the prepared sheet pan and repeat with the remaining triangles, spacing them on the pans 1” apart. If the dough starts to warm up too much, slide it back onto the sheet pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Brush the tops with the egg white and sprinkle with the remaining streusel.
- Bake 15 minutes, rotate the pans back to front and top to bottom and bake for another 8-10 minutes until golden brown.
- Let cool completely on the sheet pan. Store, tightly wrapped at room temperature up to 5 days.
- Do Ahead: the dough, streusel and filling can all be made ahead as noted above. Rolled, unbaked rugelach can be frozen for up 1 month; bake directly from the freezer adding a minute or two to the overall baking time.