Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rugelach...for "When the Schnecken Beckons"

In further efforts to re-create the noshes of my youth, today's project are Rugelach.

Rugelach are small, flaky pastries with a filling that contains any of chocolate, cinnamon, currants, and walnuts. And although they can look somewhat impressive and professional, you'll be pleased to know that the baking and assembly is quite simple.

The dough is made from a 1:1 mixture of butter to cream cheese, which makes them extremely flaky and, obviously, ridiculously fattening. Just do yourself a favour and pretend that we live in an age where nutritional information simply doesn't exist on food packaging, okay? You`ll want to make sure that the butter and cream cheese are beaten together for a good length of time so as to maximize the prospects of a delicious dough.

Traditionally, Rugelach are made by rolling the filling and dough into a large log, and slicing the cookies into small pieces. Case and point, the recipe I followed suggested this, but I decided to deviate on account of a) those pieces are too close to bite-sized morsels for comfort and/or portion control, and b) small spirals are prettier. I mean, really. Not wanting to end my rebellious streak there, I opted to replace the currants with semi-sweet chocolate chips, because I am crazy about the chocolate/walnut/sugar combination, and currants just seemed a bit...I dunno...healthy? 

Now, I was always under the impression that Rugelach and Schnecken were one and the same, but the good folks over at Schnecken Connection (Ira's endorsement for Best Name Ever), set the record straight: "Schecken" meaning "snail" in German, are pastries that are rolled (like mine), whereas Rugelach are result of the ol' log-and-slice technique above. Additionally, Schnecken are made with sour cream, and Rugelach of cream cheese So, I guess I really made a Rugelach-Schecken hybrid? The important thing is, we still have our health, and both these pastires descended from immigrant European Jewish communities.

For those not familiar with delicious, heart-attack inducing pastries of the Jewish heritage, you may remember them from their brief cameo in the 1996 film The Birdcage.

Photo: Ira Sherr

I have to give respect to Kate Zuckerman for this recipe - the butter-cream cheese dough is off the hook! I'm not sure how much it deviates or borrows from "traditional" rugelach recipes, but this is the first time I've made these, and I'm very pleased with the results. True to her claims, the dough is very flaky, but also has a nice sourness to it that is heavily addictive. I only wish that I had stuffed an irresponsible amount of filling into these little guys in order to maximize the flavour profile and play off the dough better. For those baking along at home, I would recommend at least doubling -- or even tripling - the dough recipe. I have nearly 3/4 of the filling left over, currently residing in my freezer. Thankfully, it's delicious and is one of those guilty pleasures you  could just eat by itself. Or if that seems too uncivilized for your tastes, you could probably dump it into yogurt for a sugary, impromptu `granola`.

The recipe was taken from The Sweet Life, which is an amazing resource. More to the point, Kate is really friendly and very helpful - I know this because she's actually returned my emails! If you are looking for a dessert cookbook with solid, impressive recipes, I would highly recommend it.

Let the Schecken beckon!

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