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As Hanukkah and Christmas overlap this year, it’s a fine time to share my beloved recipe for rugelach. Before I became Jewish, I had always loved the Christmas cookie baking traditions—from the aromas that filled the house to all the flavors and textures of the different cookies. And all the sampling, of course. Celebrating my first Hanukkah made me yearn for a sweet little bite to bake for the holiday. Hanukkah-themed sugar cookies fell way short, as did a few other strategies. Then I came upon rugelach (the name for which likely comes from the Yiddish word for “royal”). These American-Jewish delicacies that are part cookie and part pastry captured my baking heart, and I’ve made this recipe every year since. It beautifully combines a delicate texture with the comforting flavors of cinnamon, pecans and a kiss of apricot. Rugelach would go well on any cookie tray and a tin full of these makes a wonderful gift.
Cream Cheese Rugelach with Cinnamon and Brown Sugar
Reprinted with permission from “Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life” by Marcia Friedman
1. Cream the cheese and butter in a large bowl until smooth and light. Add ¼ cup granulated sugar, salt and vanilla. Stir in the flour until just combined. The dough will be very sticky. Add a little additional flour if needed to make it cohesive.
2. Divide it into four equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Place one ball on a large piece of plastic wrap, gently press into a disk shape, and then enclose in the plastic. Repeat with the other three balls. Refrigerate for 1 hour or freeze for 20 minutes.
3. Make the filling by combining 6 Tbsp. of granulated sugar, the brown sugar, ¾ tsp. cinnamon and the pecans. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
4. Remove one disk from the refrigerator; unwrap and place dough on a floured surface. Gently roll into an approximate 9-inch circle. Spread a generous ½ Tbsp. of the apricot preserves over the dough to about ¼ inch from the edge. Sprinkle evenly with a scant ½ cup of brown-sugar filling and gently press. Cut the circle into 12 wedges. Starting at the wide edge, roll up each triangle. Place the formed pastries seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes or freeze for about 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
6. Make the topping by combining the 1½ Tbsp. granulated sugar and the ½ tsp. cinnamon.
7. Brush each pastry with the egg and milk mixture, and sprinkle lightly with sugar-cinnamon topping. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until well browned. Remove from oven, and let rest on the cookie sheet for 2 to 3 minutes before transferring rugelach to a wire rack. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Yield: 48 rugelach
Note: Assembled pastries can be frozen and baked at a later time. Defrost partially before placing in oven, and allow extra time for baking.
Bread pudding—essentially made from stale bread and custard—originated in England as a poor family’s dessert. Every culture handles its leftovers differently; in Jewish cooking, the most common pudding recipes include kugel and matzo brei. This particular savory version uses eggs and chicken stock for the custard instead of milk, and the bread is seasoned with all the flavors of Thanksgiving. If you don’t have stale bread for this, save your bread ends instead, using a variety of different breads (other than sandwich bread).
Thanksgiving Dinner Bread Pudding
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cube bread into 1-inch pieces. Bake the bread cubes on a baking sheet for 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the cubes in the oven as it cools.
2. Chop onions and sauté over medium heat with olive oil. Chop the celery into a small dice and toss it in with the onions. Cook for 10 minutes until the onions are translucent and the celery softens slightly.
3. Add 1 Tbsp. sage into the onion mixture. Over the onion mixture, strip the leaves off of two sprigs of thyme by running your fingers, pinched, along the stem (try the opposite direction if that doesn’t work well). Add 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper and stir until mixed. Take the onion mixture out of the pan and put 1/4 cup in a medium-sized bowl to cool. Put the rest aside in another bowl to cool.
4. Take the bread cubes out of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees again. Toss the bread cubes in with the larger portion of the onion mixture and set aside.
5. Once cool, add the ground turkey into the ¼-cup onion mixture. Separate two eggs, keeping the whites. Add the two egg yolks to the ground turkey. Add 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper, brown sugar and 1 Tbsp. sage. Add fresh cranberries and mix together until uniform.
6. In the same pan you used for the onions (no need to rinse it!) add vegetable, grapeseed or canola oil. Form small, burger-sized patties with the turkey mixture and fry them over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes a side. They should be browned on the outside and opaque in the middle. Put the patties aside on a plate to cool. Once cool enough to touch, break them into large pieces.
7. Toss the patty pieces with the bread cubes and onion mixture. Any juices on the plate can be added to the mixture as well.
8. Add four additional eggs to the two egg whites. Whisk with a fork and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour eggs and chicken stock over the bread-pudding mix. Add the remaining thyme and sage, plus the dried cranberries. The best way to mix it all is with your hands. If the mixture is still fairly dry, add another 1/2 cup of stock.
9. Put 1 tsp. vegetable oil in a 9×13 glass baking dish and grease the dish with a paper towel. Gently lay the mixture into the dish. Pat down lightly. If you have extra mixture, you can bake it separately in a small dish. Bake for 30-45 minutes, uncovered. After 30 minutes, sprinkle the potato-chip mixture on top and continue baking. Serve with roasted vegetables, green beans or a nice fall salad.
Serve with some roasted vegetables, green beans or a nice fall salad.
There’s one dish that will always and forever have a place in my heart (probably literally and figuratively at this point!)—macaroni and cheese. To give you a clue as to just how much I love mac and cheese, for my 30th birthday my husband took me out to a well-known restaurant in Ann Arbor, MI, where I was in graduate school at the time, and ordered a flight of four different kinds of made-to-order mac and cheese. Six years later, I still remember it as one of my most favorite meals.
So when it comes to hosting a vegetarian friend for a Shabbat meal, I see it as an opportunity to embrace my mac and cheese side. I like to get creative and go bananas with mac and cheese. For Sukkot one year, I had some friends over for a mac and cheese bar that included every kind of vegetarian-friendly topping you can think of, and about four different kinds of hot sauces. It was awesome! But when I want to bring out a showstopper, the recipe below is the one I go for. The balsamic vinegar pairs perfectly with the cheeses that have been kissed with a hint of mustard. Plus you can never go wrong with a beautiful, colorful topping like tomatoes, basil and Parmesan. And if your kids don’t like greens or vegetables of any color touching their mac and cheese, you can give them the “untouched” pasta on the side. Everyone wins!
Bruschetta Mac and Cheese Recipe
Mac and Cheese
1. In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir, lightly frying for about a minute, removing before the garlic gets too brown (it can be golden). Pour into a mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly.
2. Add tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, basil and salt and pepper to the bowl. Toss to combine, then taste and add more basil and salt, if needed. Cover and set aside.
Mac and Cheese
1. In a large stockpot, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well.
2. While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and started to bubble, whisk in the flour; cook for 1 ½ minutes, whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk until no lumps remain. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook milk mixture, whisking frequently, until it thickens and bubbles, about 8 minutes.
3. Remove saucepan from the heat, and by the handful stir in the cheeses, allowing all of the cheese to melt into the sauce before adding more. Stir in the mustard and salt. Return the saucepan to the heat and stir in the pasta. Be sure to stir up the sauce from the bottom of the pan and thoroughly coat all of the pasta with sauce. Cook for 1-2 minutes over medium-low heat until heated through.
4. Once complete, either spoon all of your mac and cheese into a serving dish and serve with artfully placed bruschetta topping (this is what I recommend for the wow factor!) or spoon into individual bowls and add toppings.