(This is continued from my article Cream Cheese is Not Just for Bagels)
The list of my favorite cookies is small but biting into this tender and flakey cookie has taught me that there is indeed love at first bite. I am always an advocate of simple ingredients well prepared. The secret is truly in the preparation and not through the use of some exotic and hard to find ingredients. When I first was saw this recipe, the instructions pretty much just said to blend the ingredients to make the dough, mix the ingredients to make the filling, chill, fill, roll and bake. Needless to say, the first few batches didn’t quite turn out the way we wanted. Since then we have learned several tricks and have included them here to help you make some killer crescents.
Several years ago, my wife and I entered this recipe into a couple of cookie contests. We thought (and still do) that everyone would and should love these marvelous morsels. Our fantasy was shattered when the judges at the Pennsylvania State Fair didn’t even give it an honorable mention. We did learn that you have to take your recipes to where they will be appreciated. This cookie uses walnuts, so what better place to show it then the Edwards Freeman Nut company’s cookie contest?
After seeing who won third, then second, we thought we had no chance. The other cookies were loaded with nuts and looked as if they were baked by professionals. We were flabbergasted when our names were called as the winner. It seemed that the simple yet complex nature of this cookie had struck a chord with the judges. So here is the recipe. The key is in the execution. Be patient and persistent and you will be rewarded.
Rugelach (makes 48 cookies)
1/2 lb (8 oz.) cream cheese
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 lb (16 oz) salted butter
1 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts (about 1.5 cups pre-chopped)
Blend cream cheese and butter. I find it easiest to use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Be careful not to over mix the dough. (You are blending not creaming the butter.) Start out slow and then raise the speed to medium until the two ingredients are just blended. There are some Rugelach recipes that say to let the butter and cream cheese come to room temperature to make the mixing easier. When we first started making this cookie we did this because we also mixed the dough by hand. (Though we broke a few wooden spoons mixing when the butter was still cold.) We found that the cookies did not turn out as flakey. It’s like a good pie crust. You can let the cream cheese come to room temp but keeping the butter cold helps, we think it makes the dough more flakey and tender.
Next slowly add flour with the mixer on medium low until all of the flour is incorporated.
Remove dough from mixer and separate into three even balls. Flatten the balls slightly into a cylindrical shape and wrap them in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to two days. You can also freeze the dough at this point and have the dough ready to bake when you want fresh cookies. Just make sure to let the dough thaw in the refrigerator before proceeding.
Prepare filling by mixing all the ingredients together. Finding fresh shelled whole walnuts are the best. We find using a Zyliss (or similar type) hand chopper makes chopping the nuts easier.
Powder work surface and rolling pin with flour. Remove one ball of dough from the refrigerator. You will now see why flattening the top and bottom helps in starting the rolling process. Roll out dough into a circle that is 10″ in diameter. This part is the hardest to master. I prefer to use a tapered French rolling pin (looks like a large wooden dowel). I tried a marble rolling pin thinking the marble would keep the dough colder but found it harder to handle. The heavy weight of the rolling pin made it difficult to roll the somewhat delicate dough evenly.
Roll from the center and push out in all directions evenly. This helps to keep the circle as uniform as possible. If the edges start to break, I find it easy to press back together and smooth back out with the rolling pin. If the dough is kept chilled, it keeps a consistency that allows you to roll and shape like working with fresh Play-Doh. If the dough gets too warm, it becomes impossible to work with as it will contanstantly stick to the board and rolling pin. This is why maintaining the right temperature is important.
The circle does not need to be perfect, just somewhat uniform in shape and thickness. Next cut each circle into 16ths. We have found that the best tool for this is a pizza cutter and a straight edge. Cut the circle first into quarters and then cut each quarter in half and then half again. This gives you 16 even slices.
Spread one-third of the filling over the dough reserving a little of the filling. Now roll up each slice into a crescent. Do not roll too tightly. Finish with the point of the crescent pointing down. This is key so that the crescent doesn’t fall apart when backing.
Place the rolled crescents on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I’ve tried silicone liners but they don’t seem to work as well. Sprinkle the reserved filling over the top of the crescents and place them back in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.
Bake at 350 for 17 – 20 minutes. Check after 17 minutes to see if cookies are a light brown. If cookies melted flat or fell apart while baking, the dough was probably too warm when placed in the oven.
Move to a cooling rack and let cool. Refrigerate if you are not going to serve immediately. The cookies also freeze well. I like to use a freezer zip top bag and use the ones that I can seal and remove the air to avoid freezer burn.
Just three simple ingredients in the dough and three in the filling produce such a treasure of a cookie. Now that you know all the little tricks, your cookies will turn out award winning as well!(Become a member at http://www.smartshopit.com/ to save time and money grocery shopping. Create shopping lists, see product price and nutrition information, get free coupons and compare products. Also accesible via your mobile web device at http://m.SmartShopIt.com.)
Filed under: Recipes