Today I present to you MY second favorite cookie of the three I made this year to satisfy the requirements of our family holiday cookie swap. I emphasise the MY in the prior sentence, because by most accounts the cookie I will be sharing next, a mint-chocolate offering, was the runaway winner of the popularity contest this year; but as I've stated here before, my being one of the very few folks on the planet not enamored of the combo of chocolate and mint, those cookies fell to a distant third place in my personal ranking of this year's cookies.
The recipe is from a book by pastry chef Tracy Zabar that I received as a Christmas present a few years back. Apparently, Tracy had tried to engage other NYC based pastry chefs in a holiday cookie swap of her own and when she couldn't generate enough interest for the idea, pitched the concept of a cookbook where the city's top sweets chefs could share their favorite cookie recipe. Thankfully, that was an idea they could all get behind….. how lucky for the rest of us. The book, entitled One Sweet Cookie: Celebrated Chefs Share Favorite Recipes is just that, a beautiful collection of cookie recipes that'll have you eager to kick-off your very own cookie swap in short order.
This recipe, from Chef Jason Weiner of Almond in NYC is a nice twist on the classic rugelach, traditionally made with a pureed raisin filling, not an apricot paste as we're using here. The dough is a breeze to work with, just take caution to make sure your filling has cooled to room temperature before spreading it on the dough and rolling. In a rush to get my cookies shipped to my sibs I tried to fast-track the manufacture of these babies only to find on my first roll that the still warm fruit paste began to melt the butter and cream cheese in the dough. Oops…..
Aside from that little caveat, these cookies are super simple to make, look quite festive when cut and baked, and taste like a million bucks. So go forth and bake for the holidays, my minions!
Cheers – Steve
For the cream cheese dough:
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and chilled
- 8 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks
- 2 tablespoons sour cream or Greek yogurt
- 2 large egg yolks
For the apricot filling:
- One 15-ounce box dried apricots
- Enough water (or orange juice), to cover the apricots
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup walnuts (or filberts)
- One 12-ounce jar of orange marmalade
- 2 to 3 tablespoons orange brandy
Make the cream cheese dough:
- Pulse the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand with some pea-size pieces of butter. Add the cream cheese and sour cream and pulse just until the batter comes together into a rough dough.
- Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a floured work surface and divide into 4 portions. Pat each portion into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 45 minutes.
For the apricot filling:
- Put the apricots in a medium saucepan and cover with the water. Add the sugar, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla. Simmer over low heat until almost all the water is absorbed and the apricots are soft and plumped, 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the heat and size of the pan. Transfer the apricot sauce to a blender or food processor and pulse. Add the walnuts and marmalade, and process again to form a paste. Stir in the brandy to taste and set aside to cool.
Assembling the rugelach:
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper.
- Roll 1 portion of the dough into a rectangle that’s between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Spread with 1/4 of the filling. Starting with the long side, roll up the dough to make a tight cylinder. Flatten it a bit and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the cylinder in the freezer or refrigerator and repeat the process with the remaining portions of dough.
- Take just one of the cylinders out of the fridge or freezer and slice it into 1 1/2-inch-wide cookies. Place each cookie, seam side down, on the prepared sheet. Whisk the egg yolks and brush very lightly over the tops and then sprinkle sparingly or generously, as you see fit, with sugar. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes. Repeat with the other portion of dough.
- Bake the rugelach for about 25 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Cool the rugelach for a few minutes on the baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.