Have you ever tasted Rugelach? An overstated flake for a cookie and irresistible tang come to mind.
The paper sign reads “Rohlíček”; I’ve adapted to reading words and not understanding their meanings at this point, so my eyes continue to dance around the pastry case until they circle back to what looks like a less voluminous croissant. The rolled pastry appears crisp and flaky, but also satiny, dusted in powdered sugar; I have a hunch that this is no befuddled croissant. Curiosity wins me over, eternally, and I choose the twisted pastry to accompany a shot of espresso at breakfast.
A few bites in, I’m oozing contentment as I taste nuts and fruitiness. Some moments and bites pass me by unnoticed while I rack my brain for the identity of this baked good. Remembering the characters on the sign, I attempt a few silent pronunciations in my mind until, my mouth spews RUGELACH. I scurry back towards the pastry case to check the sign once more, making sure the word resembles what I think it does, before excitedly proclaiming to my beloved companion “Oh my goodness, this is rugelach!” He doesn’t mind much; we’re in Prague, after all, and the prospect of pilsner has his full attention. That, and the full plate of English breakfast he’s hastily devouring. Meanwhile, I’m hot on the pastry trail. And content to keep at it. Later in my trip, I’ll find pavlova for the first time too.
Almost two years, plus many liters of pilsner later, and I’ve yet to taste another rugelach. Time to change that. We’re heading down a new path on the pastry trail today. Essentially we are making a flake-i-fied cookie dough, with the addition of cream cheese and sour cream for extra tenderness, and then covering that dough with a preserve, jam or fillling of your choice! You can use nuts, chocolate or dried fruit too; just pick a filling or combination of fillings that sounds most appetizing to you. I went for toasted pecans, because the smell of those reminds me of Christmas time, and candied figs, because, well, I think they’re delicious enough to elicit celebratory vibes.
The candied fig recipe came to me by way of Sarah Owens’ most recent cookbook called, “Toast & Jam.” This past summer , as part of her book tour, Sarah visited the bakery where I work and hosted a workshop about sourdough bread. I got to meet her, learn a thing or two about scoring loaves and support a real life bake queen role model (aka badass woman in food) by purchasing her book. It all felt really, really good.
Her recipe is inspired by a moment she experienced in Ecuador, and infuses warming spices and soaked, fresh figs together in a dark, sweet syrup. Her story speaks of a salty cheese accompaniment, which I have yet to try, but, can you imagine a cheesy, figgy sweet and savory rugelach? If you need more inspiration, want to try Dulce de Higos or if you enjoy cookbooks, “Toast & Jam” should be at the top of your must-reads list. It has taught me a lot about preserving food and inspired many musings in my kitchen.
I hope you find time to bake some form of cookie and to cuddle up with a good book this holiday season! They are both highly effective varieties of self-care; so necessary this time of year. I would love to hear about your holiday bakes and rugelach filling flavors, if you feel like stopping by in the comments. Happy baking!
Candied Fig Pecan Rugelach
A tangy cookie dough, lightly sweet and cinnamon, filled with candied figs and toasted pecans. Inspired by King Arthur Flour's rugelach recipe and Sarah Owen's Dulce de Higos.
- 8 ounces cream cheese room temperature
- 1 cup butter unsalted, room temperature
- 1/3 cup sour cream room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon ground
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons coarse sugar for sprinkling
- 3/4 cup candied figs, pureed Recipe from "Toast & Jam"
- 2 tablespoons candied fig syrup
- 1 1/4 cups toasted pecans finely chopped
Beat together the butter, cream cheese, sour cream and salt with a stand mixer until smooth, stopping to scrape down the bowl a couple times. Add the vanilla and cinnamon. Mix in the flour and sugar to form a stiff dough. Divide the dough into three equal portions, forming smooth disks. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate for 1-2 hours; until the dough is firm and cold.
Put all of the figs and their syrup into a food processor and process until silky smooth. Pour the puree into a mixing bowl with the finely chopped and toasted pecans. Mix until the nuts are evenly distributed.
Flour your work surface liberally. Roll each disk into an even 10-inch circle. Smooth the edges of your dough together with your fingers if it begins to crack. Spread one-third of the filling onto each circle, lightly pressing it into the dough and all the way to the edge. Divide each circle into 12 even wedges by slicing with a pizza cutter or a long, sharp knife. Use a ruler if you would like. With each wedge, begin with the filling side facing up and orientated in front of you as an isosceles triangle. Slit the short side of the triangle, closest to you, with your blade about a half inch. Roll each flap up towards the tip of the triangle to create the traditional croissant shape. Place each rolled rugelach onto a baking sheet with parchment paper. Make sure the tip, or the tail, of the dough is tucked underneath the bottom side of your rugelach so that it doesn't unfurl. Refrigerate, covered with a towel, while the oven is pre-heating to 350.
Once your oven is completely heated up, use a pastry brush to wash each rugelach with a beaten egg. Sprinkle the rugelachs with coarse sugar, or granulated, and bake for 25-35 minutes, until they are oh so golden brown. Let them cool on the pan until you are tempted to taste.