Welcome to the third installment of my
Christmas Hannukah bake-a-thon!
Have you ever had rugelach? Ever heard of them? They’re these awesome, petite crescents of cream cheese and butter dough wrapped around a filling such as cinnamon, nuts, or preserves. The fact that the dough is almost nothing but cream cheese and butter pretty much had me hooked. But I also saw an opportunity to inject a little deep-south peppery twist on this classic cookie.
Pepper jelly. You know, the jalapeno-spiked stuff that gets poured over blocks of cream cheese? Turns out it’s a remedy for someone who bakes and eats lots of cookies and, quite frankly, needs a little help preventing palate fatigue (that’s Melissa Clark’s term, not mine, but it’s well-put). I was afraid these might be too spicy in the end, but they’re just spicy enough, and a welcome change of spice from the typical holiday range of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. I think you’ll like them. And let’s forge ahead and put pepper jelly in all kinds of sweet things! It’ll be a revolution.
For this recipe, a food processor is best. The steel blade in the processor chops up the cream cheese, butter, and flour into tiny little crumbs, then somehow those crumbs start to cling together, and you end up with a large white ball of heavy, smooth dough, with your only expended effort being that of pushing some buttons. It’s clearly the way to go. I found other recipes online that use a stand mixer, so you might try that if that’s what you’ve got, but I’d cream the butter and cheese together first, then add the flour and salt.
- cream cheese pastry
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
- 4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 12 pieces
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons jalapeno jelly
- ½ cup chopped toasted pecans
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup chopped toasted pecans
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. (If you only have one baking sheet, leave a rack in the middle of the oven.)
- In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the flour, butter, cream cheese, and salt. Pulse until the dough forms a ball (this may take over 50 pulses--just stick with it). Remove the dough from the work bowl and divide into two pieces. Place each on a piece of plastic wrap and press each out into a 6-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate while preparing the filling.
- To make the filling, stir the jelly in a small bowl until it's spreadable; stir together the pecans, sugar, and zest in a bowl.
- Remove one of the pieces of dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured surface. Flour the top of the dough and roll it out into a 9-inch circle. Using a pizza wheel, cut the circle into twelve equal wedges (keep the wedges together in a circle while you put on the filling). Spread with half the jelly and evenly scatter with half the pecan mixture. Roll up each triangle of dough into a small crescent from the outside inward. As the rugelach are formed, place them on one of the baking sheets. Repeat with the other piece of dough and the remaining filling, placing it on the second baking sheet.
- To make the topping, beat the egg in a small bowl until well broken up. In another bowl, mix the sugar and pecans. Brush the top of each pastry with beaten egg, then sprinkle with the pecan sugar.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until golden and slightly caramelized. Slide the papers from the pans to racks.