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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Kitchen Mailbox: Rolling with the rugelach

Thursday, August 17, 2000

By Arlene Burnett, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Our recipe today is for a rich, deliciously delicate, crescent-shaped cookie known as rugelach. Rugelach is made with a cream cheese dough and an assortment of fillings such as nuts, jam and raisins.

Interested in the origin of this cookie? Read on.

According to the "Jewish Cooking From Around the World," by Josephine Levy Bacon, rugelach is a Polish cookie. Crescent-shaped cookies were popular in Vienna because they symbolized victory over the Turks. And "The World of Jewish Cooking," by Gil Marks, tells us that in 1793 Austrian bakers, in celebration of the lifting of the Turkish siege of Vienna, shaped various baked goods into crescents (kipferin), the emblem on the Ottoman flag. Rugelach is known as "little twists" in Yiddish.

On to the recipe. We made a few mistakes with our first batch of rugelach (this was our first time making these cookies) -- they tasted heavenly, but they weren't exactly pleasing to the eye. We tried again with much better results. We would hate for you to make the same mistakes, so we're passing on what we hope are a few helpful hints.

Rugelach dough is extremely delicate; be gentle but work quickly -- this dough tears easily. Before you roll out the dough, generously flour the surface. We didn't the first time, and the dough stuck and broke apart.

Both recipes call for unsalted butter -- unsalted butter has a sweeter taste than salted butter (salt acts as a preservative), but it doesn't have as long a shelf life. Unopened unsalted butter lasts about 8 weeks, salted up to 12 weeks. Any opened butter must be used within three weeks. Butter absorbs odors -- store it in the refrigerator wrapped tightly and away from other foods (there's a reason for the butter compartment). Butter can be frozen tightly wrapped for up to six months, but the flavor may sour slightly.

Source: "The All New Joy All Purpose Joy of Cooking," by Irma S.Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker.

Mary Ballas of McKeesport requested a recipe for rugelach. Here are two versions. The first recipe was sent in by Mary Lou Lattner of Ross.

Rugalech

Pastry:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter or margarine, melted
1 1/2 cups sugar mixed with 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
6 tablespoons walnuts, finely chopped
Melted unsalted butter for brushing over baked cookies (about 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Mix butter and cream cheese until smooth; add flour and salt and mix. Divide dough into 4 parts. Shape into a ball, wrap and chill till firm, about 2 to 4 hours.

On a floured surface, roll 1 portion of dough into a 10-inch circle. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, then 1 tablespoon walnuts. Cut circle into 10 wedges (like pie wedges). Roll up from wide edge to point. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bend into crescent shape.

Bake about 28 minutes or until golden; cool slightly. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar. Makes about 40 cookies.

This version of rugelach was sent to us by Mildred Wenzel of Brentwood.

Raspberry Rugelach

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 3-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
2 1/4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup raspberry jam
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup dark seedless raisins

In a medium bowl with electric mixer on low speed, beat butter and cream cheese just until combined. Add flour and beat until a smooth dough forms. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at east 2 hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon; set aside. Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator. Working quickly on a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a 10- to 16-inch rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. Spread 1/4 cup raspberry jam over the rectangle, leaving a 1/4-inch border of pastry. Sprinkle 1/4 cup walnuts and one tablespoon cinnamon sugar over the jam. Using 1/4 cup raisins, form a row down one long side of the pastry. Carefully roll the pastry around the raisins, gently tucking and tightening as you go. Sprinkle top with 2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar. Repeat process with 2 remaining balls of dough, making 2 more logs. Cut each log into 10 pieces. Place pieces on nonstick baking sheet or line baking sheet with parchment paper or coat with vegetable oil cooking spray.

Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Transfer rugelach to a wire rack and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 3 days. Makes about 30 cookies.

Note: you can substitute apricot jam for the raspberry jam.

Requests

Virginia Slosnerick of New Castle wonders where she can find a "gizmo" dough cutter (for pierogis) that can cut several circles of dough at the same time. Virginia says, "The women at St. Vincent de Paul in New Castle make pierogis at different times of the year. If something could be done to make things easier for the cutting of the pierogi it would indeed be a blessing."

June Casey of New Castle never made linguine with clam sauce, but her spouse would enjoy this dish. Anyone have a recipe?

Ginnie Grondwalski of Las Vegas would like a recipe for a custard-like cheesecake. This recipe was printed in the Pittsburgh Press about 20 years ago.

Theresa Marx of Whitehall writes: "I ate a wonderful coconut cake which was one of the desserts at Kaufmann's Tic Toc restaurant. I would really love having the recipe for the marshmallow icing and filling. The cake was absolutely heavenly. I received recipes using marshmallow cream in the icing, but it is not the same. I sincerely hope that you are able to obtain these recipes."

Nellie R. Mittenzwey of Drakes Branch, Va., lost her recipe for fruit cocktail pie. Who can help?

Mary Wood of Baldwin Borough writes: "My son hopes someone can remember the recipe for hunter's stew that the Boy Scouts made when they were camping. He's been trying to find it for a long time. I would like to have a recipe for deep-fried eggplant sticks."

Audrey Patterson of the North Side requested a recipe for salt-free bread. The only response we received was from Ann Jacobs who states, "The old 'Joy of Cooking' cookbook had a recipe for salt-free bread; it was OK."

We checked "The All New Joy All Purpose Joy of Cooking," by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker, and couldn't find a recipe for salt-free bread. But they did explain the importance of salt in bread recipes -- "Almost all breads, some Italian and Spanish breads are the exception, require salt, for flavor, texture, and color and also to slow the fermentation process so that the yeast does not act too quickly. By affecting the water absorption of the yeast and gluten cells, salt also firms dough and increases elasticity."


If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence. All recipes are kitchen-tested by the Post-Gazette.



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