The last of the holiday parties rolled around last Saturday evening, so off we went through fog and over slick, rain-misted roads to gather at Cathy and Harold's house for one last Bacchanalian food fest! My goodness, what a lot of wonderful tidbits! Cathy always asks that folks share a savory or sweet platter of small bites. There were little shrimp skewered with pineapple and grapes, salty mixed nuts that were perfectly roasted, tiny egg rolls with dipping sauce, spicy kielbasa bites on skewers, hummus and veggie spears, warm meatballs and sauce, decadent brownies, copious Christmas cookies in all their spangled glory, small cheesecake bites, and these perfectly golden and sugar glazed rugelach.
This may seem a boring picture, but I was hoping you could see the striations within this silky perfect dough ... Neufchatel cheese and cold butter cubes make for a super smooth pliable dough. Chilled and cut, one can quickly ball it up with warm hands and then roll it to a thin 12-inch circle. Scattered with a rich gooey cherry and walnut slather, it makes a 'sort of pizza' when it gets a quick slice up with the pizza cutter.
Then, all that's left is to roll the rugelach up and put them on parchment covered baking sheets and chill them for about a half hour. You may balk at this, but it is absolutely necessary. The key to a light and perfectly shaped rugelach lies in keeping that dough cold and then smacking it with the hot oven to 'poof' the flake of the dough. It also keeps a crisp line to the shape of the pastry. No slouching, please.
Fresh from the oven, the pastries get transferred to racks to cool slightly and then glazed with a loose sugar syrup that dries to a beautiful and sweet shine. They're just so pretty when they're plated up. The recipe made enough for a nice platter and couple layers in the cookie jar for snacking. That's my kind of recipe ... enough to share and enough to knosh with tea or coffee!
Here's the recipe that I found on-line several seasons ago ... I wish I could credit the source, but I've forgotten the link, so I'm sorry! I think it might have been from a Martha Stewart holiday link, but I'm not sure!
Bourboned Cherry and Walnut Rugelach
1 c. dried cherries
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. bourbon, I used King's County small batch
1/2 c. water
1 c. walnuts, roasted and finely chopped
2/3 c. sugar
1 - 8 oz. brick of Neufchatel cheese, room temperature
2 sticks of cold butter, cut into small chunks
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
2 c. all purpose flour
2 egg whites plus a tsp water, beaten - for glazing the dough just before baking
Making the Rugelach:
1. Combine the first four ingredients in a small sauce pan. bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture sit to cool and absorb almost all the liquid. Place in a small food processor bowl and pulse to a fine chop. Turn into a small bowl and set aside to cure the flavours.
2. In a larger food processor bowl fitted with the chopping blade, combine the Neufchatel, the sugar, and half the chunked butter. Whiz to make a soft paste. Add the salt and the other half of the butter and pulse gently to make a striated paste. Then, begin to add the flour in three aditions, whizzing to combine.
3. After the third addition of flour, the dough will begin to ball up and pull away from the sides of the processor bowl. The motor may begin to labor ... that's your sign that the dough needs to be turned out to a large piece of plastic wrap. Scrap the sides of the bowl and should there be any flour cling, just push it into the dough ball with a few quick fast pushes of your hands. wrap the ball and chill for a few hours to firm it up completely.
4. Just before you want to roll out the dough, combine the cherries and their juices with the walnuts and sugar. Mix to make a gooey slather.
5. Divide the cold dough into thirds. Roll each lump into a round 12-inch 'circle. Put one third of the cherry and walnut slather in the center of the dough round and break it up, spreading it out to within an inch of the outer edges of the rugelach round.
6. Use a pizza cutter to cut twelve wedges. Roll them up into 'crescents' and place them on a parchment lined baking sheets. They can be quite close, but there does need to be space between so that they crisp up at the edges.
7. Chill the pastries for half an hour in the fridge or on a cold back porch.
8. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Farenheit. Beat the egg white and water glaze. just before you pop a pan into the middle of the preheated oven, brush the rugelach with the egg glaze. bake for 30 minutes or until golden.
9. Let the baked rugelach rest on the baking sheet for a couple minutes after you remove them from the oven. Then, use a spatula to remove them to a cooling rack. Brush them while they are still slightly warm with a loose sugar glaze. Cool completely and store them in a loosely covered tin or cookie jar.
NOTE: I'm sorry about the golden hue in these photos ... winter light and shooting without flash doesn't let me completely get rid of the glow that incandescent lighting fixtures give to my photos ... and when one bakes in the last hours of the daylight, I'm stuck with overhead lighting. Sorry !