My family celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas; boughs of pine, lights and a menorah decorated our living room. My mother loved bringing family and friends together for dinner and holidays. Many of the recipes I create and photograph are inspired by the food from her table.
I love dessert, particularly chocolate. My mother shared my passion and introduced me to the decadent delights of Viennese pastry and chocolate soufflé.
Rugelah was a staple of family occasions, always a favorite despite its simple filling of finely chopped nuts. The layered dough somehow elevated it beyond a cookie to a pastry.
It wasn’t until I moved to New York City that I tasted rugelah that included the chocolate and jam I always loved in Viennese Sacher tortes. My recipe is an attempt to recreate these bakery treats it owes a great debt to Gourmet magazine and the book Gourmet Today edited by Ruth Reichl.
Experienced pie bakers will love this easy recipe. Although I have little skill with a rolling pin, this wonderful dough developed into marvelously flaky pastry.
Chocolate Apricot Rugelah
Makes approximately 3 ½ dozen cookies, special equipment – parchment paper
Active time: 40 minutes, start to finish 9 ¼ hours – Requires Chilling
2 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1/2 lb.) unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese softened
½ cup, plus 8 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons ground Saigon cinnamon
1 cup apricot preserves
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup pulverized walnuts
Half and half for brushing the cookies
Whisk together flour and salt in a bowl. Beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer. When they are thoroughly combined stir in the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until dough forms. Shape into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Flatten the dough into a 7 x 5 inch rectangle and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place a rack in the middle of the oven (325 F if using a convection oven.) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take out the chilled dough and cut it into 4 pieces. Rewrap 3 pieces and return them to the refrigerator. Cover the work surface and rolling pin with flour before rolling out the dough. Roll out the first piece into a 12 x 8 inch rectangle. Place the finished dough on a baking tray covered with a piece of parchment and refrigerate. Repeat this process with each piece of dough, layering the parchment papers on top of each other on the tray in the refrigerator.
Combine sugar and cinnamon.
Put walnuts in a large freezer bag. Smash the walnuts with a rolling pin or large metal spoon until pulverized.
Take 1 dough rectangle on parchment out of the refrigerator. Work with the long side of the dough. Spread ¼ cup apricot preserves over the dough with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle ¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1/8 cup pulverized walnuts over the jam. Sprinkle with ¼ cup cinnamon sugar. Roll into a log using the parchment as an aid. Place seam side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Pinch the ends closed and fold them under to keep the filling from spilling out. Make the other three pastry logs, and place them 1 inch apart on the baking tray.
Brush each log with half and half and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar. Using a sharp knife cut ¾ of the way through the dough on an angle at 1 – inch intervals, exposing a spiral of dough (if dough has become to soft to cut return to the refrigerator for 20 – 30 minutes.)
Bake for 45 – 50 minutes until golden brown (45 minutes in a convection oven.) Transfer the tray of logs to a rack to cool for 30 minutes. Use a cutting board to cut through the logs and separate the cookies. The cookies last well for a week if kept in a room temperature airtight container.