Rugelach is one of those transcendent desserts, not unlike madelines, that one has a hard time calling “cookies” and leaving it at that. These bite-sized pastries consist of a rich cream cheese laden dough, much akin to pie pastry, rolled with a filling of your choosing. Dried fruit, preserves, nuts and chocolate are all common additions, making rugelach the ideal vehicle for our dark chocolate-hazelnut paste.
Below you will find my recipe for the chocolate-nut filling, as well some hints on preparing the dough and assembling the cookies. The delicious and surprisingly simple cream cheese pastry recipe comes from leitesculinaria.com, and was written by Tracey Zabar for her book One Sweet Cookie.
I modeled my chocolate-hazelnut paste after a Taste of Home Magazine recipe for DIY chocolate-hazelnut spread, and after some experimentation I settled on several alterations.
The original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar, but I prefer to use granulated sugar over ready-made icing sugar whenever possible because the latter contains a fair amount of cornstarch. To ensure that the sugar dissolved, I cooked the milk/sugar mixture on very low heat while stirring with a heat proof spatula until I could rub some of the liquid between my fingers without feeling any granules. I also substituted half (3 oz) of the milk chocolate for dark chocolate, and swapped the cows milk for fruity coconut milk.
Recipe: Dark Chocolate-Hazelnut Paste
Adapted from: Taste of Home Magazine, DIY Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread
Most likely when you purchase hazelnuts, they will come with their thin, papery skin still attached. While some people do not bother to remove it, I find that I can sometimes detect the skin’s slight bitter taste and I prefer to rub as much off as possible before chopping or grinding the nuts. The quickest and most effective way of doing this is to preheat the oven to 350° F, and line a heatproof bowl with a clean dish cloth. Toast the hazelnuts on a tray for 5-8 minutes, or until the skin begins to crack and peel, then quickly toss them into the bowl and cover with the towel. Let the hazelnuts steam for 15 minutes, then briskly rub the towel together to remove the skin.
3/4 cup whole hazelnuts (filberts), lightly toasted and skin removed
3 oz dark chocolate
3 oz good quality milk chocolate
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon mild honey
1/4 cup well stirred coconut milk
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon flavorless oil
Finely chop both chocolates and place in a large microwave safe bowl.
Combine the coconut milk, sugar, honey, and salt in a small saucepan and heat on low until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture just up to a simmer, then remove the pot from the heat.
Immediately poor the milk mixture over the chopped chocolate and let sit 5 minutes. Stir gently until smooth.
Note: If not all of the chocolate completely melts, microwave the bowl for 15 seconds and stir again until smooth.
Place the hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor and process until the nuts begin to form a paste. Add the oil and process until a paste forms.
Scrape the chocolate mixture into the bowl with the nuts, and process briefly, just until the paste clings together and forms a ball.
Store in the refrigerator for up to one week. Bring to room temperature before use.
Note: If your food processor is like mine, and not quite capable of producing a smooth nut paste, do not fret. Simply process the hazelnuts as much as possible and continue on with the recipe. The result will be a rich chocolate and nut paste rather then a smooth spread, and it will be excellent when paired with pastry, sandwiched between cookies, or layered in tarts or pies.
Dough & Assembly: Cream Cheese Rugelach
Source: Tracey Zabar, One Sweet Cookie
- I followed the recipe for the pastry as written, but found that after my processor had cut in the cream cheese, I had a damp but sandy bowl of tiny crumbs rather than a cohesive dough. To adjust, I dumped the mixture into a large mixing bowl and used my hands to form the crumbs into 4 equal balls, which was quite easy considering the cold dough quickly clung together.
- After rolling the dough and trimming the edges, I chilled the rectangles in the fridge until they were firm so that the filling would spread more easily across the pastry. I also discovered that the best way to evenly distribute the filling was to use my fingertips to quickly and gently smooth it over the dough. When had I finished rolling the logs, I placed them in the freezer for about an hour to chill them, then I cut the logs into 1 ½ inch pieces as directed, and froze the fully assembled cookies overnight.
- In the morning, I made an egg wash by whisking together 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon of water, and brushed each cookie lightly but thoroughly with the wash before pressing them into some vanilla sugar.
- I baked the rugelach at 375° for 30-35 minutes on a large metal tray lined with a silicone mat. The silicone barrier helped to ensure that the bottom of the pastries did not burn before the center of the roll had cooked through.
- After removing them from the oven, I quickly transferred the cookies to a cooling rack so they did not sit in the moisture that had formed on the tray during baking (I suspect this was mostly oil from the chocolate filling).
The rugelach are best eaten on the first or second day, but they will keep for several days more refrigerated in an airtight container.