Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Chocolate Cranberry Pecan Rugelach

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas (Hanukkah, etc.) with their families and friends this year. I know I did.
I feel that I am a bit late with these rugelach because they are a tradititionally Jewish cookie and very popular during Hanukkah, especially at parties. This doesn't preclude them from being eaten the rest of the year, of course, but I must say that these were a huge hit as holiday gifts this year.
This rugelach is made with a lightly sweetened cream cheese dough that is very rich, but very easy to work with. The dough is spread with a filling that can include fruit, spices, preserves, nuts or - as in this case - chocolate, then is cut into thin triangles and rolled into individual crescent shapes. The finished cookies look quite impressive, but they are surprisingly easy to make because the dough is, as I said, very easy to handle.
The pastry is soft and tender without being crunchy, brittle or flaky, unlike shortbread and other types of pastry dough. The filling is has a nice balance of chocolate, fruit and nuts that has been ground almost into a paste. It is lightly sweetened and very flavorful, but not overwhelming to the dough. Like so many other cookies, these go perfectly with a hot cup of tea. If you have never had rugelach, I highly recommend giving them a try.

Cranberry Chocolate Pecan Rugelach
(adapted from Bon Appetit)

For dough:
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
8-oz. (1 package) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt

For filling:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsalted pecans (raw or lightly toasted)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 large egg, beaten lightly
coarse sugar, for sprinkling

Make dough:
Beat together butter and cheese in large bowl. then beat in the sugar until light. Gradually mix in flour and salt and when the dough comes together into a smooth ball (you might need to help the mixer with your hands), divide into 2 equal discs and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. Divide each of the discs into four pieces (for a total of 8) before rolling out.

For filling:
Mix sugar, cranberries, pecans, chocolate chips and butter in the bowl of a food processor and blend until spreadable and fairly smooth.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchmemt paper.
Working with one disk of dough at a time, roll into an 8-inch round on a lightly floured surface. Spread the round of dough with 3-4 tbsp of filling, spreading it in a thin, even layer to the edges of the dough. Use a pizza cutter and cut each round into 8 "slices." Working from the outside edge, roll in towards the point, then place the cookies tip-point-down onto the baking sheet. Curve slightly into crescents. When the whole tray is filled, brush each lightly with the beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse sugar (regular sugar can substitute).
Bake about 20 minutes, until light golden.
Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely and repeat with remaining dough.
Store in an airtight container.
Makes 64 cookies.

(Bon Appetit said that these will keep for 1 week in an airtight container and can be frozen for 1 month.)