For many, this time of year means one thing. Cookies. It is a long-standing tradition to make and gift cookies for friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances…and perhaps even that weird guy in your office that sits in the corner mumbling about his stapler.
I personally hear a lot of rumblings and get a lot of invites to cookie-exchange parties right around now. And a little secret I will let you in on…I am actually horrible at baking! It’s true, for the most part unless I have a great recipe to follow because it’s so scientific and measurement based. I am more of a ‘pinch of this and that’ kinda girl, which doesn’t bode well for baking unless you are interested in making a baking powder flavored cake (don’t laugh, I’ve done it. But alas, those parties are really just an excuse to drink wine and mingle with friends anyhow. And while there is no shame in that game, I long for the days when it wasn’t acceptable to pick up processed cookies in a plastic container and pass them off as treats. When pre-made dough was unheard of, and cooking was a craft. You could taste the love in every bite.
I am at heart a traditional gal. I think this is a trait inherited by my Mom. She never takes the shortcut or compromises quality for convenience. We grew up with everything made by hand with patience and love…no shortcuts allowed. And I know everyone is saying right about now. ‘But I don’t have the time!” Granted, doing things the old-fashioned way isn’t always easiest, but it really is an important characteristic that we can’t afford to lose…that pomp and circumstance of creating recipes mired in family history. It is, after all, the essence that makes the holidays so special for us all.
I wouldn’t believe a one of you if you told me you didn’t have some favorite something or another that your Mom or Aunt Betty makes each year that you just can’t WAIT to sink your teeth into. I certainly have plenty of those items! In my house each year,the little elves are always hard at work in the kitchen making the most beautiful and elaborate cookie baskets on the planet! There are gingerbread cookies, peanut butter cookies, peanut butter kisses (or balls…what have you), M&M cookies, sugar cookies, thumbprint cookies, magic chocolate bars…the exhaustive list goes on.
My mom and brother spend hours in the kitchen, a skill that they have organized to a fine science over the past few decades. It is like watching a dysfunctional ballet, as they glide around the kitchen, my Mom mixing, my brother using the cookie press to crank out the most precise little christmas tree shaped sugar cookies you have ever seen, dusting them with just the right amount of sprinkled sugar to make them sparkle in festive hues of red and green. It really is something to watch.
I never got in the mix with them for two reasons. First, as I said earlier, I am not much of a baker, and not big on sweets, so it never roped me in so much. My Mom thinks I am an alien from outerspace, or the mailman’s child, given that I don’t like chocolate so much. I mean, she would know better than I of her scandalous relationship with our parcel carrier is what I tell her. Secondly, my brother and I would inevitably stab one or the other of us with a dull butter knife, and I would likely be the recipient of said stabbing.
Much like with our crayons as children, his were always perfectly pointed, stacked neatly in the two tiered cardboard container in order of color family. Mine were broken, dulled down to a nub, and shoved back in the box upside down and in no particular order (see example below to get a better picture). I liked to consider myself ‘avante gard.’ Cooking for us is the same. One look at my blobbed Christmas tree cookies deluged in a mound of mixed colored sugars would surely send my brother into a rage of fury, red-eyes widening, vein in next bulging like a Christmas time Hulk.
So, needless to say, I am not a part of the cookie making process, but I do so enjoy watching it happen and sitting at the end of the counter and laughing along with them, distracting the dogs from their permeating beggar-like gazes.
One of the recipes that my Mom is famous for is a time-tested traditional rugelach. For those new to rugelach, it is a European pastry that is rolled into spirals with an array of toppings which are at the discretion of the baker. Its name is derived from Yiddish origin, and roughly translates to ‘little twists’ because of their rolled, crescent shape. My Mom makes the most amazing cinnamon flavored crescents, so I think for life, that will be my preference because it is what I grew up on, but go ahead and get fancy! You can add chocolate, jam, honey, crushed graham crackers or walnuts…the sky is the limit and they all taste great!
I recently found an article on The Ktchn that featured some excellent tips for making the perfect consistency rugelach, as well as some dreamy pics…both of which I will share with you now. So print it out, save it…but most importantly USE it and start your own cookie making tradition this year!
Tips & Tricks for the Perfect Rugelach
Try to make your rugelach dough in a food processor rather than with a mixer or by hand. This makes an incredibly tender dough where the cream cheese and butter are cut into the flour rather than absorbed by it. If you don’t have a food processor, though, no worries: take a look at the instructions for making rugelach by hand at the end of the recipe.
Try adding an egg yolk to your dough. It’s not strictly necessary, but it helps to create extra richness and a guaranteed golden color in the oven. These are, after all, celebration cookies, so now is not the time to shy away from a decadent cookie.
To form the perfect traditional shape for your rugelach, roll individually into crescents rather than rolling the dough around the filling and then slicing them into pinwheels. This technique is a bit more labor-intensive, but the crescent shape tends to create a more satisfying bite and pleasing appearance.
|Prep time||1 hour, 30 minutes|
|Cook time||1 hour|
|Total time||2 hours, 30 minutes|
|Allergy||Egg, Milk, Peanuts|
|Misc||Freezable, Serve Hot|
- 2 Cups Flour
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 1 Package (8 oz) Cream Cheese (Cubed)
- 2 Sticks Butter (Cubed)
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla
- 1 Yolk Egg
- 1 Batch Filling
- 1 bag Powdered Sugar (for sprinkling)