The first of the big gatherings is behind us. Some of us have containers of day-after-thanksgiving-soup in the freezer to be warmed up on a cold December afternoon. However, personally I need to make sure I keep room in my freezer for containers of cookies. Starting this week I become a cookie-producing machine. They become my go-to holiday host gift; my contribution to the inevitable cookie swap party invitation that comes in and not mention one of the numerous desserts put out on a holiday table.
I have been trying to replicate the rugelach cookies that were always found in my mother’s freezer. She was an avid baker, and daily she would make cake, cookies, or other confectionaries to be stored away in the freezer in the garage. I remember the rugelach nestled in a discarded shoebox lined with waxed paper secured with two heavy-duty rubber bands. They were totally off limits to us kids for they were designated for yet to be announced company or a holiday dinner that was off in the distance. That did not stop my impish impulses – I would eat those cookies frozen leaning against my 10-speed bike in the garage.
Upon the passing of my mother, a few years back, I become the trustee of all my mother’s recipes. I have managed to replicate most of her delectable concoctions but her rugelach has been more elusive. I loved them so as a kid and sneaking them into my mouth has elevated this cookie to cult status for me and they never achieve the same satisfaction though other family members continually applaud my execution. I accept their commendation but I have decided to take the cookies in a new direction. Instead of apricot jam or grape jelly as its filling I looked far afield from the Eastern European flavor profile I know as a kid and have gone Latin, and now I can adore my mother’s re-worked classic without any pangs of innocence lost.
Rugelach – yields approx 48 pieces
8 ounces (2-sticks) unsalted butter – at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese
2-cups all-purpose flour
14-ounce guava paste – roughly cut up
1/2-cup chopped walnuts
To make the pastry dough:
In the food processor fitted with the plastic blade beat the butter, cream cheese and salt together until smooth and light. Then mix in the flour to completely combine. The dough should be a bit tacky to the touch.
Divide the dough into 4 portions and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 to 24 hours.
Pre-heat the oven to 350-degrees.
In a 3-cup sauce pan add ½-cup water and the guava paste. Over a medium flame warm the guava to melt completley. Remove from the heat.
On a lightly floured surface roll each quarter of the dough out to a 10-inch round disk. Brush each round with a quarter of the guava paste and sprinkle each quarter 2-tablespoon of walnuts.
Cut each round into 12 wedges. Roll each wedge up, starting out the wider end. Place the rugalach on a parchment lined baking tray keeping about 1-inch spacing around them. Give the rugelach a slightly crescent shape.
Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Let them cool slightly, and transfer to a cooling rack.