If any cookie got the shaft in the naming department, it would definitely be these completely underrated cookies... Rugelach. What a horrible name. I'm sorry, but it sounds more like a warning than a treat. I think the name is derived from the word crescent somehow, in some language, but they certainly got the short end of the stick after Croissants and even Kipferl which sound way more festive.
So if you've never made Rugelach simply for fear of having to pronounce it to your guests and accidentally offend them, then you need to face those fears. These cookies are so damn good and actually so darn easy to put together. They are buttery, rich and melt-in-your-mouth. The dough is more like a pastry than a traditionall cookie dough and is a delight to work with. Cream cheese makes them taste incredible but it also lends a heap of dense protein which makes the dough really pliable and workable. It should roll out smoothly if it is well rested.
To begin with the pastry dough, I really wasn't kidding about the buttery part or the resting time. This dough is very rich in fat with about 100g each of butter and cream cheese to just 142g (or 1 cup) of flour.
There is no added liquid or egg in this recipe either, so the only moisture available to the flour is the water present in the cream cheese. Resist the temptation to add more flour if the dough feels too soft. It will hydrate and feel more pliable once chilled and rested. If you add too much flour, the dough will be crumbly and crack all crazy when you try to roll it. There's nothing more annoying than cracking pastry. We've all been there and there is only so much patchwork one can put up with. Plus, you don't have time for that... you need to decorate the Christmas tree, put out the snow globes and dig up the broken (but precious) nutcrackers.
Another key point is the order of addition of the fats. Butter gets blended in first, then the cream cheese. No cheating! Cold butter is firmer or more solid and has a higher fat content so it will first coat the flour and remain as visible pieces to make a crumbly mixture. The cream cheese, when added next, is softer and more moist so it will blend in more readily and its water content will bring the dough together. If we were to blend in the cream cheese with the butter at the beginning, there is more chance of encouraging gluten development (because water + flour = gluten) and more risk of a tougher-textured dough.
The filling is pure heaven! Chunks and bits of dark chocolate with brown sugar, toasted almonds and cinnamon. Just mix all of these A-list ingredients in a bowl and sprinkle them all over the rolled out dough. Try your best to roll it out into a circle, but otherwise, a rough circle with some wonky edges won't matter. Cut the dough like you would slice a pizza, and if you have a pizza cutter then here's your chance to exercise it. Now roll up each slice or wedge starting from the outside (like the crust part of the pizza) towards the center. Curl the ends of each rolled piece of dough to form a crescent and place them on baking trays lined with parchment paper.
They will spread only slightly so you don't have to leave so much space between each one. Brush them with beaten egg for gloss, give them a generous sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and even some sliced almonds if you care to before baking. The pastry will turn so golden brown and some of the sugar from the filling will bubble up and caramelize. It's like bitting into the crispy edge of a waffle every time!
Since Rugelach sounds more like the noise you make when you sneeze, save yourself the strange looks and raised eyebrows and say, "I made these fkaky buttery cream cheese pastries filled with dark chocolate and toasted almonds all caramelized inside.. they're ropped with cinnamon sugar and they will make you want to kiss me. Merry Christmas!"
Dark Chocolate & Almond Rugelach
Makes 16 large crescents
For the dough:
1 cup (142g) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
7 tbsp (100g) cold unsalted butter
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
For the filling:
¼ cup dark brown sugar, packed
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ cup (60g) toasted sliced almonds, chopped
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, cooled
70g dark chocolate, chopped
For the topping:
1 egg, beaten for egg wash
3 tbsp turbinado sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Combine flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to blend. Add cubed cold butter and pulse until it is broken up and forms large crumbs. Add cold cubed cream cheese and pulse until the dough holds together, working quickly so that the fat doesn’t melt. Divide the dough in two equal portions, flatten into a disk and wrap well in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
Prepare filling by combining both sugars, cinnamon, almonds and melted butter in a small bowl until blended. Stir through dark chocolate and set aside.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll one portion of dough out into a 10-inch round with about 1/8-inch thickness. Sprinkle the filling in a thin layer evenly over the surface of the dough. Slice the dough, like a pizza, into 8 triangles. Beginning with the wide outside edge, roll up dough towards the point. Place cookies on the prepared baking tray with the pointed tip tucked underneath. Space cookies about 1 1/2-inches from one another. Refrigerate on tray for 15 minutes. Repeat with other half of dough.
Brush cookies with beaten egg. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle generously over top of each cookie. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. These keep for at least a week in an airtight container at room temperature and even longer in the fridge.