With a new blizzard, nor’easter, or ice storm being forecast seemingly every other day here in the northeast U.S., I’ve been on a mission to preserve the memory and hope of warmer days, even in the face of such wintry opposition. And, after opening up some of last year’s peach preserves for the jam sandwich cookies we made a couple weeks ago, I’ve been itching to find another recipe that could highlight such a sweet summery flavor, especially while we’re still in the dead of winter. With this goal in mind, I decided to return to the cuisine of Russia and Eastern Europe to find a culinary escape from thoughts of ice and snow (what better place to find examples of winter escapism than a land plagued by severe winters?). While digging up the culinary treasures of this expansive corner of the world, I stumbled across a twisting, crescent-shaped pastry that seemed to answer all of the desires I held for this week’s recipe: it originated in Eastern Europe, it’s typically filled with fruit preserves, and, as an added bonus, has an origin shrouded in mystery!
This culinary form takes on a different name in each country that makes it, so for the sake of simplicity, we’re going to call this pastry by its traditional Jewish name, “rugelach” (translating literally to “little twists”). With such a widespread distribution in many Eastern European countries, no one seems to know exactly where the rugelach first came from, only that it is a distinctly Jewish invention. As it has no attachment to any Jewish holiday, the rugelach is a perfect year round recipe that can be altered to fit whatever season you’re in! For today, though, we’re going to capitalize on the rugelach’s affinity for fruit preserves and make a peach and pecan variation of this centuries old pastry!
Ingredients for Pastry
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 8 ounces of cream cheese
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- a pinch of salt
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Ingredients for Filling
- 6 Tablespoons fruit preserves (apricot is traditional, but any fruit will really work!)
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (or a mixture of both)
- 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer. Add in sugar, vanilla extract, and salt, and beat until fluffy and combined.
- Mix in 1 and 1/4 cup of the flour slowly until the flour incorporates with the batter. Mix in the remaining 1 cup of flour and repeat, being careful not to over mix the dough.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 – 20 seconds, just to ensure that the flour has completely mixed into the dough. Divide the kneaded dough into three equal parts, wrap the pieces in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours, or until the dough is firm.
- Meanwhile, to make the filling, combine the chopped nuts, granulated and brown sugars, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
- When the dough has chilled, remove one part from the refrigerator, place on a floured surface, and roll out into a circle. Top the circle with 2 Tablespoons of fruit preserves, leaving one inch of room around the edge, and then sprinkle with one third of the nut/sugar mixture. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the circle into 16 equal pieces.
- Working from the widest end of each segment, roll each piece of dough to form a small crescent shape (see pictures below for a visual guide). Be careful not to roll the dough too tightly or the filling will spill out of the pastry, which can cause the dough to burn in the oven. Place the rolled rugelach on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
- Repeat this process for the remaining two pieces of refrigerated dough.
- Bake in a 350 F / 175 C oven for 30 minutes, or until the pastries are just lightly brown.
- When the rugelach has finished baking, let them cool completely on the baking sheets before enjoying!
As always, thanks for stopping by! I hope to see you again soon for another kitchen excavation!