Tender and Crispy Pastries Filled with 4 Unique Fillings.
I was given the basic recipe for these pastries by a dear friend many years ago and I’ve made them every holiday season since that time. Rugelach are made with the most basic butter, cream cheese, and flour dough. It’s soft, but crisp, flaky, and very easy to work with. The basic recipe is divided into 4 discs, and chilled. I always double the recipe, so I end up with 8 pieces. And I like making it the day before so I can devote the next day to rolling, filling, and baking.
I’ve always made them very simply with sugar, cinnamon, chopped pecans, and raisins in the filling. I’m not a fan of jam in the filling and I don’t roll mine into crescents or brush them with an egg wash. I’ve found that if you roll them into crescent shapes, the ends overcook and some of the filing is exposed, so that’s a no go. As to an egg wash, while it will give you a pretty dark golden color, I don’t like the texture or mouth feel. So, mine are simply rolled into logs and sliced. I like them rolled thinly, so that there are multiple layers of dough and filling. I also don’t bother slicing off the ends of the rolls in order to make the end slices nice and neat. I enjoy those ragged crispy edges.
My son and I always make these together. As we started discussing it, we decided to go in a new direction and try out some different fillings. We had a lot of fun coming up with 4 different fillings. Each one of these fillings makes enough for 2 discs of dough.
First up is the most traditional. I didn’t want to stray too far from our classic filling, so I simply rubbed 1 tablespoon of finely grated orange zest into the sugar before sprinkling it on the rolled out dough and adding cinnamon, pecans, and raisins. I was hesitant to change this filling because it’s the one I’ve always made and loved, but the orange zest is the way I’ll go from here on out. It’s sensational.
Next up is a filling made by combining makrut lime leaves and sugar in a spice grinder, sprinkling it on the rolled out dough, adding minced candied ginger, and plenty of pine nuts. By grinding the lime leaves with the sugar, I had a highly flavored lime infused sugar that was almost powdered sugar-like in texture. The candied ginger ended up being the perfect foil for the lime and the deep buttery flavor of the pine nuts.
For the third filling, I rubbed lemon zest into the sugar, spread it on the dough, topped it with minced candied Meyer lemon peel (regular candied lemon peel would also work well), some anise seeds, and plenty of sliced almonds. I didn’t want the flavor of the anise seeds to overpower the other flavors and it didn’t. You get a slight hint of the anise flavor and it’s beautiful with the lemon and almonds.
Lastly, I had a jar of matcha milk jam on hand. If you’ve never tasted it, I highly recommend you do so. Even if you’re not a matcha lover, this stuff is addicting. Seeing as how I wanted to add plenty of black sesame seeds to this filling, I felt the matcha milk jam needed a little bit of toasted sesame oil. A quarter teaspoon was perfect. It deepened the flavor and emphasized the sesame component.
I’ve had a couple of days to really taste each individual rugelach and I’m very surprised that I don’t have a favorite. No need to be humble here. Each one of these is unique and really outstanding. The candied lemon and makrut lime versions are more delicately flavored than the cinnamon raisin, while the matcha is the least sweet, but maintains a deep and rich matcha and sesame flavor. I will make each flavor again. I couldn’t be more happy with the results of all four variations.