Rugelach are one of those foods that have come on a serious journey. Originating in Poland with a standard yeasted dough, they are now eaten all around the world in Jewish communities and have evolved to include ingredients such as sour cream, cream cheese, laminated pastry and fillings such as halva and Nutella. These are quite a different beast to the original basic dough filled with dried fruit and jams.
A big question when it comes to making rugelach is whether or not to add dairy. In orthodox Judaism, milk and meat are not to be eaten in the same meal so by including butter or sour cream in your dough, you are preventing yourself from eating the rugelach as a dessert after a meaty meal. The obvious choice would be to leave it out but of course the dairy adds a large fat content to your dough which softens it dramatically. You could always add oil to replace the fat from the dairy but that still will not solve the tricky problem of laminating the pastry. One solution is that you could use some sort of margarine instead of the butter – after all, the pasty is a soft lamination, you are not required to keep the butter cold at all times like in puff pastry – but the flavour wouldn’t be the same (although with enough added sugar, I am certain that this would not be a problem).
This dough takes a relatively long time to rise. Both milk and sour cream have a non-neutral pH (they are both slightly acidic) and their pHs both lie outside the range at which yeast ferments best. The eggs and the dairy constituents contain fats which coat the flour during the mixing stage. This slows down the rate at which the yeast can break down the carbohydrates into fermentable sugar. With eggs, butter, milk and sour cream in this recipe you should not be worried if your dough rises slowly but you will have to be patient. Rugelach which are under proved – especially during the second rise – will not cook through in the oven, resulting in a doughy interior.
The sugars in the milk (as well as the sugar added to the dough) will result in the rugelach browning in the oven faster than normal bread but you have to hold your nerve about this. Make sure you know the temperature your oven is working at and, if you have a fan oven, adjust it down a little to ensure perfectly cooked, unburnt pastries.
The recipe I use for rugelach includes chocolate in the soft lamination. The cocoa butter in the chocolate helps to separate the layers and it also ensures you have a huge quantity of chocolate in the final pasty (which is never a bad thing). You are of course welcome to laminate just with butter – I can assure you this works very well as it is the technique I use when making Pastéis de Nata. You could even use a flavoured butter – cinnamon or why not give it a savoury twist and infuse your butter with herbs or garlic and stuff the rugelach with cheese? Go wild!
These things will make your house smell delicious – forget baking bread when someone is coming over for a viewing, make rugelach! Hopefully you will enjoy these as much as I did and let me know how they go if you try them at home.
Rugelach (the sour cream variety)
Work time: 1 hour
Proving time: 8 hours
Cook time: 30 minutes
650g plain white flour
1 ½ tbsp yeast
150g white sugar
1 egg and 3 egg yolks
200ml sour cream
80g very soft butter
160ml warm milk
200g dark chocolate
1 egg + 1 tbsp water
Tip the dough ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached.
Mix until combined and then knead on a medium to low speed for five to ten minutes – until the dough is stretchy and bounces back a little when a finger is pressed into it.
Cover the dough and leave in a warm place for about four hours (or until doubled in size). Alternatively, you could leave this overnight at room temperature (providing the room is not too hot).
Melt the chocolate and butter together and leave to cool until the mixture begins to thicken to a spreadable paste.
Flour a surface and roll out the dough to a twenty by twenty five-inch rectangle.
Spread a quarter of the chocolate filling over two thirds of the rectangle. Fold the uncovered third over the middle third and the final third over them both (this is a letter fold – when the dough is folded in three, like a letter).
Pat out any air bubbles and seal the edges.
Roll this log back out again into a twenty by twenty five-inch rectangle but the other way from the first time. This will ensure that the folds are perpendicular to before.
Repeat the spreading and folding again with one third of the remaining filling.
Mix the sugar into the filling that remains.
Roll out the dough back into its rectangle and square off the edges.
Spread the remaining filling over the dough.
Cut the dough in half lengthwise.
Cut each rectangle into triangles with bases around three inches long.
Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
Roll each triangle up into a little croissant like shape and place it on the baking sheet with the tip underneath the body – this will prevent any unrolling during rising and baking.
Cover the rugelach and leave for one to two hours or until they are visibly risen and they wobble a little when the tray is jiggled.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C).
Whisk the egg in a bowl with 1 tbsp water.
Egg wash the rugelach and bake for 25-30 minutes.
While the rugelach are baking, pour the sugar and water into a saucepan. Bring to the boil and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Continue to boil for another minute and then remove from the heat.
The moment the rugelach come out of the oven, glaze them with the sugar syrup. This might sizzle a little when it hits the rugelach or the baking tray but that is fine.
After glazing, move the rugelach to a wire rack and leave to cool.
Pile up on a platter to serve
These rugelach really are amazing and I would say they are 100% worth the effort it takes to make them. If you are a fan of laminated doughs, why not try making some puff pastry to bake with or maybe you could have a go at croissants!
Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious savoury treat.