It’s Hanukkah. To me, that means family, food, and tradition. One of my favourite Hanukkah treats is the trusty rugelach – a fancy rolled up cookie. Rugelach is a transliteration from Yiddish, that basically means little twists – hence the shape! There are LOTS of different interpretations (Yay! Transliteration!), but little twists is the one I like best. Even though this isn’t a fried treat, it’s still a fairly traditional Hanukkah food. Having said that, it’s good all year round too.
There are many schools of thought on what makes the perfect rugelach, and being the baking science nerd that I am I decided to test each of them until I found The Perfect One. Through a lot of trial and error (as much as any cookie can be considered an error), and several kilos of cream cheese and butter, I’m satisfied with my recipe.
The two most important things I learned was that using cold butter and cream cheese leads to a more tender dough, and that laminating the dough gives it that beautiful flaky texture. Laminating dough is fairly simple, and it’s one of those techniques that once you have down it can be applied to so many other things. This is the same method that you’d use to make puff pastry, only on a thicker scale.
To do this, you roll your dough out to about a half centimetre thickness. And then you fold it in half, and in half again, and repeat the process three or four times. Laminating done? It’s time to roll out your dough in earnest. The aim is for a circle shape, but as you can see from my examples, perfect circles are optional.
Add the Nutella, cut the dough up like you would a pizza and add the smashed up hazlenuts.
Roll the dough slices from the wide end up, and put them on a lined cookie sheet. Once you’ve wrapped all your triangles, pop the tray into the freezer for 30 minutes, so the cookies don’t lose their shape when they cook in the oven.
When they’re chilled, brush them with an egg wash, and sprinkle the top with sugar. Bake for 25 minutes at 175 degrees Celsius in a traditional oven, or for 17 minutes in a fan forced oven.
Rugelach is one of those things that you have to think about well in advance, since it needs 24 hours to chill before it’s ready to be rolled out and baked. The upside is the dough itself can be frozen for up to three months!
Kitchen gear you’ll need:
- A medium sized bowl.
- An electric mixer – hand or stand, either is fine. I use a hand mixer, because my kitchen is too small for anything else.
- Cling wrap.
- A pastry brush.
- A rolling pin.
- A knife to cut the dough into triangles.
- 225g of cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 225g cream cheese, cut into chunks
- 125g of sour cream
- 2 tsp of vanilla extract
- 1/2 a cup of sugar, and extra for sprinkling
- Scant half teaspoon of salt
- 2 and a half cups of plain flour (and like, tons extra for the rolling portion of the evening)
- 100g of hazelnuts, smashed up into different sized pieces
- 1 egg yolk and 1 tsp of water, whisked together
- Cream the sugar, and the chunks of butter and cream cheese in a medium bowl until it is light and fluffy.
- Add the vanilla and the sour cream and combine.
- Turn dough onto a floured surface, and divide into four equal sized balls. Wrap the balls in cling wrap and chill them in the fridge for at least four hours. It'd be better if you left it for 24 hours though.
- Pre heat your oven to 175C.
- Roll out your dough one ball at a time on a well floured surface until it's about a centimetre thick, then fold it in half and roll it out again. Repeat this 3 or 4 times. Make sure to use enough flour to keep it from sticking!
- Roll the dough into a circle type shape, keep the edges much thinner than the middle part, they'll form the inside of the cookie and if they are too thick they won't cook enough.
- Spread a thin(ish) layer of Nutella on the circle, and sprinkle with hazelnuts. I like to use bigger chunks towards the outside of the circle, and smaller bits towards the middle.
- Cut the circle into triangles - like you would a pizza. How many you get depends on how you cut it! I usually end up with between 12 and 18 triangles.
- Roll up each triangle from the wide end and put on a cookie sheet lined with baking paper.
- Freeze the raw cookies for 30 minutes so they keep their shape and don't spread when they are in the oven.
- Brush rugelach with the egg wash, and sprinkle with sugar. It's OK if you do this before freezing as well.
- Bake for 25 minutes, or for 18 minutes in a fan forced oven. Cookies should be a beautiful golden brown.
- Cool for 5 minutes on the cooking sheet and then finish cooling on cooling rack.
- Make sure you keep your surfaces well floured, this is an incredibly sticky dough. I usually end up using a whole 'nother cup when rolling the dough out!
- Laminating the dough might seem like one of those fussy chef tricks you don't have time for, but I promise it helps the end texture so much!