Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Apricot Almond Ruglach

Recipe adapted from the book Desserts
(Random House of Canada, 1998) 
by Bonnie Stern, Canada’s top food authority.

Falling in love with a cookie is not difficult to do. Falling in love with a cookie that is so easy to make and delicious, well, that's icing on the cake.

The ruglach cookie (aka: rugelach) is one of my favorite cookies. There is something about it that reminds me of times-gone-by. Sure we all love our chocolate chip/sugar/snicker-doodle cookies that can be whipped up with our eyes closed. But the ruglach is delicate and sweet and you can picture grandma making it in the kitchen....tirelessly working for hours to make these cookies! Oh how....awwwww it is!

The truth is, my grandmother never made these cookies. They are not even from my heritage. I was born in Yugoslavia and I believe the ruglach cookie is from Jewish decent. Does it matter? Nope! I am not a cookie discriminator.

And the best part, these cookies are so easy to make that you will start to make them on a regular basis. You make the dough by mixing the flour, salt, butter and cream cheese. Chop up some almonds, throw in some sugar and lemon zest. Divide the dough, roll it out, spread with apricot jam, sprinkle with the almond/sugar/lemon zest mix, cut it in wedges like a pizza, roll up, brush with egg wash, sprinkle the tops and bake. Wallah

(A shout out to my daughter's teacher Mrs. Kollsmith for being my #1 fan of these cookies!)

Apricot Almond Ruglach

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 sticks (16 Tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cubed

8 oz (1 package) cold cream cheese, cubed

Filling & Topping
½ cup apricot jam
½ cup chopped almonds (lightly toasted)
½ cup sugar
2-3 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (whole lemon)

1 egg for brushing
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl, add flour, salt, butter and cream cheese. Use a steel blade and pulse in food processor or use a pastry cutter and cut the butter and cream cheese into the flour until combined and a dough forms. (Same process as making pie crust.)

Remove dough from bowl and divide in half, then divide in half again so you are left with four equal pieces of dough. (A food scale is very helpful at this point, but eyeballing it works just fine.) Press down on each piece gently until a disc is formed. Completely cover each piece with plastic wrap and refrigerate while making the filling. May be made ahead of time 1-2 days and kept in the refrigerator. 

Stir the almonds, sugar and lemon zest in a bowl. Set aside. In a separate bowl, stir the apricot jam until it is spreadable. 

Remove one of the pieces of dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured surface. Flour the dough and roll it out into a 9- to 10- inch circle.

Spread the jam all over the circle dough. Sprinkle with the almond/sugar/lemon zest mixture. Using a pizza wheel, or scalloped pastry wheel, cut the circle in twelve wedges.  Roll up each triangle of dough into a small crescent from the outside inward. As the Ruglach are formed, place them on the parchment paper lined baking pans.

Beat the egg and water until well combined. Brush the top of each pastry and then lightly sprinkle with the almond/sugar/lemon zest mixture.

Bake 20-25 minutes. Pastries will puff out a little and start to caramelize.

Ruglach pastries are best on the day they are baked.  Makes 48 pastries. Recipe may be halved.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Moist Cake With Tart Cherries

This is a traditional Serbian cake served with coffee (or any beverage) in many Yugoslavian households.  This recipe has been in our family for a very long time. Moist and not too sweet, it is always made with tart cherries as it was with generations beforehand. Delicious!

The Serbian name is
“ViĆĄnjak Torta” – Cherry Cake

Moist Cake With Tart Cherries

3 cups all-purpose flour 
2 Tsp baking powder
¼ Tsp salt
3 eggs
1 ¾ cups sugar
2 Tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk*
½ cup vegetable oil
2 cups frozen tart cherries thawed**
2-3 Tbsp flour
Powdered Sugar for Dusting

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Have a greased 9”x13” baking dish ready.  

In separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt.

Using a stand mixer, mix eggs, sugar, and vanilla until pale and well combined. 

Then add buttermilk and oil, and mix. Gradually add the flour mixture. Mix on low speed. Will be thick consistency, muffin like batter.  

Place thawed and drained cherries in their own bowl. Add about 2 Tbsp of flour and shake them so they get coated with flour, this is very important to assure they don’t sink during baking.

Add cherries to the batter and fold in gently. 

Transfer to the baking dish. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and it is a nice golden color. Edge of cake may brown slightly. We usually cut the edges off before serving.

Remove from oven and let cool. Dust with powdered sugar. Cut into squares. Tastes wonderful warm but even better completely cooled or the next day. Nice treat to make ahead.

*If you don’t have buttermilk, in a measuring cup add two tablespoons lemon juice and fill rest with milk to the 1 cup line. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes. Since buttermilk is generally not in our household, we use this method to make our own buttermilk in recipes.

**May substitute with fresh tart cherries. Rinse and dust with flour also.