Back in high school, I worked at a coffee shop / bakery in my town. The only things that we legitimately "cooked" were the sandwich concoctions we served. All the bakery items were delivered to us frozen, and we would reheat them in the oven. Rugelach was included among these items. They were never very appealing to me as I tended to not care for anything with nuts, plus, it was kind of a pain to throw away these crusty lumps at the end of each day as they always left a sticky mess on the serving platter. And somehow, we always had plenty to throw away.
Well, I am officially a rugelach convert. James actually used the words "out of this world" and "one of the best things you've ever made" upon his first (and fifteenth) bite, and I tend to agree.
So here's how everything went down. A couple weeks early, I made the apricot butter. (I should note that I am loving these multi-step recipes where certain items can be made ahead of time. This has been imperative considering the inconsistent napping schedule of my seven-month-old!)
The apricot butter was super easy - simmer whole dried apricots until soft, drain, then puree with brown sugar and amaretto or lemon juice. (I used lemon juice.) Top with toasted almond slices.
When I was ready to make the actual rugelach, I first had to make the cream cheese pastry. This wasn't the most picturesque task as it basically involved beating butter, cream cheese, salt, sugar and flour together and chilling the mixture.
I then made the topping, in which the rugelach would eventually be rolled - granulated and brown sugar, and cinnamon.
Next came part one of the filling - more granulated sugar, cinnamon, and my choice of chopped nuts. I really am not a big nut person, so I went with a combination of what I feel are "softer" tasting nuts - hazelnuts and almonds.
The recipe then called for dividing the chilled dough in two. Even though this recipe was a "slice and bake" sort of deal, I had seen a number of pictures where the rugelach was shaped in pretty crescent rolls. I started to follow the "slice and bake" directions with half of the dough, but then took the other half of the dough and made a sort of pizza so that the crescent prep would be a bit easier.
The dough was sticky, but pretty easy to roll out. It was then lathered with the apricot butter and the sugar / cinnamon mixture.
Next I sprinkled the dough with my mixed nut combo - more hazelnuts and almonds, but also some chocolate chips!
And finally I added a mixture of chopped, dried fruit. I went with papaya and cranberries.
Here's a look at my second dough half, rolled out into a circle. It looks like quite an interesting pizza!
I read a tip somewhere that said to press the filling down into the dough with parchment paper.
I apparently did not photograph the next couple steps, which involved slicing the dough into triangles (if you chose to go to the crescent roll route) and rolling. Probably because it wasn't too pretty....
After chilling the rugelach overnight, and rolling each piece in more cinnamon and brown sugar, they were ready to baked.
In the end, the looks of my rugelach were probably a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10, but the taste - it was off the charts. Absolutely fantastic out of the oven, but still delicious when reheated in the microwave for 15 seconds (and not a second more).
If you'd like the recipe for these chewy gooey little pieces of heaven, I highly suggest you either buy Baking with Julia, or click over to the Baking with Heart blog. Not only did the Baking with Heart blogger make way more attractive rugelach, but she also posted this week's recipe.