Friday, December 10, 2010

Grandma's Rugelach

I grew up on these Hanukkah cookies and, fortunately, inherited the recipe from my grandmother.

2 c flour
½ c confectioners' sugar
½ tsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 4-oz sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 8-oz pkg cream cheese (preferably Philadelphia)
granulated sugar
ground cinnamon
1 c small walnut pieces
1 c currants (or raisins)
1 egg, beaten

1. Into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, measure the flour, confectioner's sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Cut each stick of butter into eight pieces and add to the food processor. Cut the block of cream cheese into eight pieces and add to the food processor. Pulse until the dough is well blended and collects in a ball.

2. Remove the dough from the food processor and shape into a ball. (If the dough seems overly sticky, knead in a little more flour.) Seal the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Cut the dough into quarters. Working with one quarter at a time, roll the dough into an 8-inch-by-10-inch rectangle. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon granulated sugar and a few shakes of ground cinnamon over the rectangle. Rub in with the palm of your hand.

5. Spread one-quarter of the walnuts and one-quarter of the currants evenly over the dough, leaving a margin of about one inch on each of the short sides and about three inches on the top. (In other words, the area covered should be about eight inches across by five inches high.) Press the nuts and currants into the dough so that they don't slide around. Beginning at the bottom, roll the dough to create a tight cylinder (as though the dough were a cigar wrapper). Seal by pinching at the seam and at the two ends. Place the log seam-side up on a platter and refrigerate while repeating this procedure with the remaining dough quarters.

6. Brush the top of each log with the beaten egg and sprinkle with additional granulated sugar. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes, then slice each log into 8–10 inch-thick rounds.

7. Place the cookies on baking sheets lined with silicon mats (or parchment paper). Bake until golden brown, about 25–30 minutes.

• It's important that the sides of the dough rectangle be roughly parallel. You can achieve this easily by folding any unevenness back into the rectangle.

• Because currants (and raisins) tend to stick together, I microwave them first for 20-30 seconds. This loosens and also plumps them.

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