Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Oo-La-La, Rugelach!

Happy Chanukah, Toledo!

In honor of the festival of lights and the annual cookie exchange with my book group, I decided to take on a few rugelach recipes. Rugelach literally means “little horn”. The first recipe, comes from Joan Nathan, the best of Jewish cookbook authors. The second comes from Martha Stewart, the woman who provides America with the best of everything.

Rugelach is not as easy to prepare as it is to pronounce. Yes, it rhymes with oo-la-la. The dough is a combination of 8 oz of cream cheese and two sticks of butter with a little bit of flour to hold it together. It is creamy, sinful, and delicious. If it is done right, it melts in your mouth. However, if you’ve ever worked with butter and cream cheese, or tried to make a homemade pie crust, you probably know the challenges associated with this type of dough. If not, suffice it to say that butter and cheese melt easily and render the combination a sticky goo.

After whipping up each of the doughs, I had to refrigerate them. Martha Stewart recommended waiting six hours for the dough to chill. Joan Nathan, clearly the superior chef in this instance, only has to wait an hour. While waiting, I decided to shave my Scharfen Berger chocolate for the chocolate rugelach. At the end of an hour I pulled out the dough and found that it was too warm and too gooey for me to handle. Joan Nathan has probably been making rugelach for 50 years and is willing to ice her hands to create perfect pastry. I am a complete novice and a bit of a wimp. I chose to give the dough 24 hours to chill thoroughly and begged my Mom to let me use her kitchen. She has top of the line appliances and yards of granite counter tops. I needed any advantage I could find for success with this project.

For those of you who are blessed to have granite countertops as a decorative touch to an unused kitchen, I urge you to try out a rugelach recipe or anything involving filo dough to see the benefits for which you paid dearly. Some luxuries are very practical.

Sunday afternoon, I went to my Mom’s kitchen to make the batches. I decided to use the Joan Nathan dough to make the traditional rugelach “little horn” shape. This was more challenging than I expected. While the dough was cool enough for me to handle it easily, rolling it into a perfect circle to cut identically sized wedges was a little more stressful. After the first two batches, I realized that my circles would never be symmetrical. The easiest solution was to cut the circle in half and then use a pizza wheel to cut each wedge with an even 1 ½ inch outer edge. Perfection. Once I made this adjustment, the batches turned out with identically sized cookies. Presentation still counts in the world of cookie baking.

The Martha Stewart recipe worked somewhat differently. I had to roll the pastry into 8” x 12” rectangles, add the filling, and then roll the pastry into a long roll for baking. This was a helluvalot easier than the “little horn” method. I ended up using her apricot jam, dried currant, walnut and cinnamin filling for three of the rolls. I had leftover chocolate from the Joan Nathan recipe and decided to try this shape with chocolate and pecans…just to see if I preferred one dough over the other.

In the end, the Martha Stewart rolls look fabulous…but the Joan Nathan dough tastes much better. For a novice, I would suggest using the Joan Nathan dough and the Martha Stewart fillings.

“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".


  1. Thanks for the comments about my pizza dough, but we've been busy for the holidays. Visit thebrainpolice and see how easy real French Onion soup is and then we make a mocha mousse buche de noel...now I have to go out and chop more wood!
    I like the rugelach instructions and printed it out!
    Hope you aren't counting calories this holiday season!
    That's what the rest of the year is for!