Sunday, July 12, 2015

Raspberry Rose Rugelach

A little over a week ago, my dear friends got married. We bore witness to a beautiful ceremony, watched some precarious descending of outdoor stairs in fierce high heels, read poems about love, toasted the supreme court, drank rum and coke, and danced until we were sweaty and spent.

But amidst all the beauty and flowers and fried cheese, there’s a bit of sadness at the inability to just grab hold of all of it. How can all the people we love be in one place, but we can’t spend days upon days with each one of them? College friends and cousins, parents and coworkers. Even when you forego sleep (as inevitably happens), you can’t grab fistfuls enough of it all. It makes you wonder why we don’t rent up an Italian villa, and shove all of our dearest there for, say, the month of August — with time enough for catching up and adventures and down time, and three-hour dinners with glasses of wine long into the night. That's how it's supposed to be, right? I can’t help but feeling like we’re somehow doing this all wrong. Hopefully we can someday do it up as God and Europe intended. But, in the meanwhile, there’s brunch. With cookies.

I signed on to host the post-wedding brunch, so that we could have one more leisurely opportunity to all spend time together (and because I have a compulsion to foist food upon people, and an inability to conceive of people paying big money for brunch when we can pull it off ourselves). With thanks to friends and partners and neighbors (and obsessive google doc planning), brunch triumphed. We were expecting 50 people, so decided to forgo the insanity of serving hot food. Instead we picked up some bagels and lox, and laid out onions and capers and dill and a rainbow of sliced tomatoes. There were drippy-sweet nectarines, and a bowl of yellow cherries with some sprigs of mint tucked here and there. But I couldn't let it go without some home-baked contribution. So before I left, I baked up some rugelach.

I love love love rugelach, all flaky and rich, swirled around apricot jam and walnuts and cinnamon. But since I was making 100+, I wanted a bit of variety. Loosely inspired by the amazing cookbook Cookie Love, I decided to fill half of my favorite family dough recipe with a new filling — raspberry jam, pistachios, and rosewater sugar.

The combination is just lovely. There's a bit of tang from the raspberry, with the aromatic notes of rosewater (and rose petals, because I had some so why not), wrapped in that familiar rich dough. I froze them and toted a cooler on a plane, then just took them out of the freezer an hour or so before things got going. Guests noshed and talked, and stretched out the love-fest out for a few more leisurely living room/backyard hours.

Raspberry Rose Rugelach
yields 64 small cookies

3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 pound (two sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized cubes
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons rosewater
a few dried rosebuds (optional)
scant 2 cups raspberry jam
1 cup chopped pistachios

egg wash of 1 egg beaten with a splash of water

The day before you want to bake, make the rose sugar. In a food processor (you can just use a bowl if you're skipping the rose petals), mix together the sugar and rosewater. Add the rose petals, if using, and blitz until combined. Leave out, uncovered (or partially covered, depending upon your bug situation) overnight, until dry.

At least an hour before you want to bake, make the dough: In a bowl or a food processor, mix together the flour, salt and sugar until combined. Add the butter, and pulse in the food processor or cut with a pastry cutter (or two knives) until it is reduced to bits that are about half the size of a pea. If using a food processor, dump the contents into a bowl at this point. Stir the vanilla into the sour cream. Using a spoon, and then your hands when needed, knead the sour cream and vanilla into the flour mixture until it is well incorporated, and the dough holds together when you squeeze it. Stop as soon as this is possible — do not over-mix. Shape the dough into four chubby disks, cover with plastic and allow to relax in the refrigerator for at least one hour (overnight is fine too).

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit, and line two cookie sheets with parchment or liners (very important, as the molten jam tends to solder them to a pan).

Take a disk of dough out of the refrigerator, and place on a floured countertop or pastry mat. Roll out to a 12" circle, trimming off the ends if needed. This dough is much softer than a traditional pastry crust, so you shouldn't need to let it warm up before rolling. Spread 1/4 of the jam over the round of dough, and sprinkle with 1/4 of the nuts, and a few tablespoons of the rose sugar. Taking a chef's knife or pizza cutter, divide the dough evenly into 16 wedges. Starting from the wide base of each wedge, roll towards the center to form a crescent. Place on your prepared baking sheets, making sure that the tip of the crescent is pinned underneath to prevent the cookie from unrolling.

Take your egg wash, and, using a pastry brush, gently give the cookies a nice slather. Sprinkle generously with the rose sugar. Transfer to the oven, and bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is just beginning to color, about 30 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool, being careful of the hot jam. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Best enjoyed the day they are made (any leftovers are best kept in the freezer).


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