Sunday, January 12, 2014

Date & Nut Rugelach

How can Christmas be complete without baking cookies! I was debating if I should bake a cake or cookies. I knew they had to have dates in them, because it reminds of my chidlhood and Christmas with my family in Saudi Arabia, where dates are always in the house.
I was searching for recipes on Epicurious and came across this recipe for a Rugelach. This seemed intriguing to me because they looked like mini croissants with a date filing in them. The recipe wasn't too complicated so I decided to give it a try. I also referred Ina Garten's rugelach recipe (video available in link) for the dough.
Initially I found it messy and difficult, but I played around with a few batches and got the hang of it. Refer my notes for pointers. They all tasted really good, so no problems there!
This brings an end to year 2013's series of Christmas recipes. Hope you enjoyed them, and try them any time of the year!

For the dough:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2-pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 9 tablespoons
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

Confectioners' sugar for rolling out dough
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash

For the filling:
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup fig preserves

Cream the cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the salt, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix until just combined. Do not overwork it or the dough will become tough. (I combined the flour with my hands) Dump the dough out onto a well-floured board and roll it into a ball. Cut the ball in quarters, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To make the filling, finely chop dates and walnuts and in a bowl with your hands toss together dates, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla until combined well.

On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9-inch circle. Spread the dough with 2 tablespoons fig preserves and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling. Press the filling lightly into the dough.

Cut the circle into 12 equal wedges—cutting the whole circle in quarters, then each quarter into thirds. Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge. Place the cookies, points tucked under, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush each cookie with the egg wash. Combine 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle on the cookies. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.

Notes: Chilling the dough is key. It will make it more manageable.
The first time, I rolled out the dough without any extra flour. It stuck to everything and rolling it with the filling was a nightmare. It did not shape very well and was all mangled. I thought it was going to be a disaster. I even cursed Ina Garten for ruining Christmas for me. But I decided to bake the messy globs anyway. The finished product was really tasty and I forgot all my frustrations.
The glob (first batch - Christmas dessert)
The next batch, I placed the chilled dough between two sheets of cling film. I then rolled it out. The dough rolled out much better this way. I removed the top film and dusted a little flour on the dough. Turned it over, and removed the other sheet. Spread the fig jam and sprinkled the filling, cut it into triangular sections and rolled them perfectly.
The last one, I did the same procedure while rolling it (between cling films). But then I stuck it in the freezer to chill, to avoid dusting flour on it. It turned out to be brittle, so rolling them into crescents were a bit difficult. I think the second option works best.
You can also use confectioner's sugar for dusting instead of flour - in hindsight, I wish I'd done that. Oh well, next time. :)