Buttery, flaky, and sweet without being cloying, Bittersweet Chocolate Rugelach are a perfect addition to any holiday cookie assortment. It’s nearly impossible to eat just one!
four three two days away, holiday baking has been in full swing here at Striped Spatula. When the snow started falling two Saturdays ago, and cookie-making commenced, I had big plans for the upcoming week’s blog. I was going to share recipes for every! single! cookie! that would appear on my holiday gift trays. (New blogger enthusiasm.) Things were going well when I posted the Venetian cookies. I even got a quadruple recipe of Rugelach dough mixed and chilled with no issues. Full steam ahead.
Then, fun things started happening in my kitchen. Halfway through Spritz production, my cookie press cracked straight down the center. Cleaning it up, I managed to bump into a precariously-perched cooling rack, sending about 40 cookies flying into the air and onto the floor. It was one of those slow motion movie moments that you know isn’t going to end well, but you’re utterly defenseless to stop. Falling slightly behind in my baking, I managed to photograph all of the recipes (a mere 917 shots), but pre-holiday schedules have kept me from writing up the recipes as planned. If I curb my verbosity, one or two more cookies might just post before Santa makes his way down the chimney. Having devoured no less than four Rugelach in the past half hour, I figured they would be the best place to pick back up (just follow the crumb trail!).
Rugelach are a Jewish cream cheese (or sour cream) pastry rolled with a variety of sweet fillings. As I’m not Jewish (but love Jewish cuisine—Matzo balls? Latkes? Anything from Russ & Daughters? I’m there!), I never had a tried and true recipe for them. Luckily, Ina Garten came to the rescue back in 2001 with Parties! (my favorite of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks), and I’ve been hooked on making them ever since. Despite looking a bit like mini croissants, Rugelach are not difficult to make. Like the Venetian cookies, a lot of the time commitment is spent chilling the dough. After that, just roll, fill, and bake. My favorite filling is bittersweet chocolate, with a touch of cinnamon and sprinkling of Demerara sugar on the top. The Barefoot Contessa recipe fills the pastry with apricot preserves, walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon sugar, a combination that always gets rave reviews from my gift recipients. Prefer raspberry preserves? Pecans instead of walnuts? Go for it! Rugelach are endlessly customizable.
Bittersweet Chocolate Rugelach
One of my favorite cookies to bake at the holidays, Rugelach store well in an airtight container, layered between sheets of wax paper, at room temperature for up to a week. They also freeze beautifully unbaked. Just defrost and pop in the oven whenever you need them.
Pastry Adapted from Ina Garten, "Rugelach" (Barefoot Contessa Parties!, 2001)
For the pastry
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 8 ounces Bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped or shaved
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- Demerara sugar ("Raw"), for topping
Assemble the Pastry
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and 1/2 pound butter until fluffy. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the kosher salt, and the vanilla, beating until combined. Scrape bowl. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour and mix just until incorporated.
Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and roll it into a ball. Cut the ball into four equal pieces, and roll each quarter into a ball, flattening slightly. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least one hour. After the dough has rested, re-flour your work surface and roll each quarter into a 9-10 inch circle (about 1/4-inch thick).
In a small bowl, mix together the chocolate, cinnamon, and remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar.
Brush each dough round with melted butter. Spread with about 1/3 cup chocolate mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and gently press filling into dough.
With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the round into quarters, and then each quarter into thirds to make 12 wedges. Starting at the widest edge, roll each wedge toward the center and transfer rolled cookies, point tucked under, to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate 30 minutes, until dough is firm. Repeat process for the remaining 3 rounds of dough.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine egg and milk. Brush each cookie lightly with the egg wash. Sprinkle with Demerara sugar.
Bake pastry for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes before removing from baking sheets with a thin metal spatula and transferring to a wire rack to cool.