Friday, December 23, 2011

Apple Pie Rugelach

Although I have decidedly taken a vacation from holiday baking this year (sacrilege, I know) at least my mom is here to pick up the slack.  While elbow deep in Buckeye cookies, chocolate-dipped meringues, dark chocolate cherry fudge and gingerbread, she somehow found the time to write up the exploits of her first attempt at rugelach--Enjoy!

To help celebrate my first year of retirement I decided to attempt something that I had never before had the time to do...Holiday Baking!  I figured that Hilary must have gotten the baking gene from me, right? Wrong!  While I could handle the simple cut-outs from pre-made Pillsbury gingerbread cookie dough and Chocolate-Almond Meringues, Apple Pie Rugelach was more challenging for a beginning baker.

I confess that I had never even heard of rugelach until I saw the recipe in the December issue of Good Housekeeping and then saw some on display at Whole Foods.  After scanning the ingredients and making sure there was nothing that would be hard to find I decided to tackle this treat [note from Hilary: we scoured THREE stores looking for dried apples. Just saying].  After some trial and error (duh, cutting the dough incorrectly) and advice from Hilary the final batch looked pretty good and even the rejects were tasty.

Here are some pointers I would have liked to have seen included with the recipe:

1) Parchment paper is a MUST as the jelly oozes out of the sides. I even decreased the jelly by 1 tablespoon for the last 3 batches.  2) Immediately remove the rugelach from the jelly puddles or they will cool attached to your cookie.  3) I reduced the baking time to 23 minutes, this depends on how well-done you like your rugelach.

Bring on the next challenge!  But maybe not until next year.

Apple Pie Rugelach
     from Good Housekeeping, makes 64 cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 package (8-ounce) cream cheese, softened 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon salt

4 ounces (1 1/2 cups) dried apples, finely chopped 
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped 
1/4 cup packed brown sugar 
3/4 cup apple jelly
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Cinnamon Sugar:
1 cup granulated sugar 
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 

Trial and error.  Even the rejects were tasty.
1.  Prepare dough: In large bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat butter and cream cheese until creamy, scraping bowl occasionally. Reduce speed to low; gradually beat in flour and salt just until blended, scraping bowl occasionally. Divide dough into 4 equal pieces; flatten each into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll. 

2.  Meanwhile, prepare filling: In medium bowl, combine apples, walnuts, and brown sugar. 

3.  Prepare Spice Sugar: In small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon.

4.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

5.  Sprinkle work surface with 2 tablespoons Spice Sugar. Place 1 disk dough on top of sugar; turn over to coat both sides. Roll dough into 10-inch round, turning round over a few times and sprinkling dough with 2 more tablespoons Spice Sugar to coat both sides.

6.  Spread top of round with 3 tablespoons jelly, then sprinkle with 1/2 cup filling, leaving 1/2-inch border around edge. With knife, cut dough into 16 equal wedges. Starting at wide end, roll up each wedge jelly-roll fashion. Place rugelach, 1 inch apart, on prepared cookie sheet, point side down.

7.  Bake rugelach 30 to 33 minutes or until dough is browned and cooked through. Immediately transfer to wire rack to cool.

8.  Repeat with remaining dough, Spice Sugar, jelly, and filling. Store cookies in airtight containers at room temperature up to 1 week or in freezer up to 3 months. Dust with confectioners' sugar to serve.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Brown Sugar Cardamom Sweet Potato Pie

Whereas in my last post I went out on a limb to try Eggnog Scones, a treat that brought together a couple of the flavors that I usually dislike, this recipe incorporates two of the ingredients that I've gone completely nuts for in the past year: cardamom and sweet potatoes.  When I saw this recipe from Baking Bites last month I couldn't wait to try it--two of my favorite flavors combined in one dessert! It's like she knows me!--and, honestly, I can't believe I didn't think of it myself since I'm pretty much a cardamom fanatic at this point and add it to anything and everything possible.

I was actually completely unaware of cardamom until relatively recently when I ate at one of my now-favorite DC restaurants, Rasika.  The delicious gulab jamun I had for dessert there were unlike anything I'd tasted and I HAD to know what spice was at work in the dish. And the rest is cardamom-scented history :)

If you haven't worked with cardamom before, it's very aromatic and has a slight citrusy taste that you'll probably recognize if you've ever had chai.  It can be purchased as whole pods (often crushed and used for infusing flavor before being removed) as well as ground, which looks like a cross between cinnamon and nutmeg.  If you're a big cardamom fan like me, you might also want to check out this recipe for Cardamom Panna Cotta, which showcases the flavor beautifully.

Even though Thanksgiving has come and gone, this would also be a great alternative for next year's pumpkin pie if you're not a pumpkin fan, or just looking for something different--although sweet potatoes have more calories from sugar than pumpkin, they are significantly higher in fiber, vitamins A and C, as well as calcium and iron.  So go ahead and have a second slice ; )

*A Few Notes: I've included the Martha Stewart graham cracker crust recipe I used but, if you don't feel like making the crust from scratch you honestly don't lose anything to taste in the recipe by buying a pre-made crust.  If you do make the crust, you should be more adventurous than I was and try it using cinnamon or gingerbread graham crackers (but in that case you might want to omit the added 3 Tbs sugar).  You can also cut sugar by skipping the caramelized brown sugar layer added to the crust before pouring in the filling.

Brown Sugar Cardamom Sweet Potato Pie
     from Baking Bites
1 9 or 10-inch graham cracker pie crust, prebaked or store bought
1 cup brown sugar, divided
1 1/4 cup cooked, pureed sweet potato or canned
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp all purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Place graham cracker crust onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle 1/4 cup brown sugar evenly over the bottom of the crust. Bake sugar-lined crust for 10 minutes while you prepare the filling.

3. Press sweet potato puree through a wire strainer to make it as smooth as possible, adding a tablespoon or two of water if you are working with leftover potatoes to make them a bit more pliable.

4. In a large bowl (or the bowl of a food processor), whisk together all ingredients except the flour. Whisk until very smooth. Sift flour over the sweet potato mixture, and whisk until fully incorporated.

5. Slide brown sugar-filled crust out of the oven and pour filling into pie crust (do not overfill crust if your pie is slightly shallow, just discard excess filling), then return pie to oven.

6. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until pie is set and jiggles only slightly when the pan is bumped.

7. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight, before serving.

Graham Cracker Crust
     makes 1 9-inch crust
12 graham crackers finely ground
6 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
3 Tbs sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pulse graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar in a food processor until combined.

2.  Firmly press crumb mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie dish.  Bake until edges are golden, 12-14 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.