I recently met up with a friend in the new bookshop in town, shakespeare and co. the shop itself is beautiful, with a well-curated book collection housed on floor-to-ceiling bookshelves straight out of beauty and the beast, a small cafe and ample upstairs seating, and what looks like a printing press, where the store will “rewrite” any children’s book and rename the main characters the names of your choosing (for a fee, of course). I thought it was a fun new local joint, but actually comes to philadelphia by way of new york.
anyways, my friend is a classical musician, which may explain her penchant for places with an old world vibe. before she went sober, we used to meet up in monk’s cafe, a low-ceilinged warren of dark, ornamented wood. back when we worked together, we’d hop in her mini cooper (sadly lost to a flash flood) on some evenings and go to the opera. every summer, she teaches at a music festival in portugal, where the buildings have beautiful tiles and massive iron-framed windows, but no air conditioning. this past summer was particularly brutal and she ended up cutting all her hair off just to make the heat slightly more tolerable, but she keeps going back because she loves the friendly small town feel of porto.
I share some of her admiration of tradition – though I enjoy the viral recipe as much as the next person, I really love a dish with history. part of what motivated me to start cooking was the realization that I could not name, much less cook, many of the chinese dishes my parents made. when I read cookbooks, I love the little asides about baking in the kitchen with grandmothers and aunts. similarly, a friend of mine, before he went vegan, used to make rugelach around rosh hashanah every year. the crescent shape is beautiful, and though the cookies look a bit rustic, with bits of caramelized apricot jam oozing out of the folds, they have that special nostalgia factor that makes them a winner at any gathering. this is not his family’s recipe, but it is from an acquaintance of ottolenghi’s, so you can trust it (!), and it’s quite close to what I remember.
makes 24 rugelach
160g all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
finely grated zest of 1 small lemon (~3/4 tsp)
scraped seeds of 1/4 vanilla pod
125g cold unsalted butter, cut roughly into 3cm cubes
125g cold cream cheese
40g walnut halves
100g soft light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
150g apricot marmalade
1 tsp lemon juice
1 large egg, lightly beaten
25g demarara sugar
yotam ottolenghi and helen goh. sweet. london: ebury press, 2017.
2 divide pastry into two parts, wrap each half loosely in plastic wrap, and press to flatten into discs. transfer to fridge to chill for at least 1 hour.
3 preheat oven to 350ºF. line two baking sheets with parchment.
filling|1 spread walnuts on baking tray and roast at 350ºF for 5 minutes. remove from oven, set aside to cool, then chop finely and place in small bowl with brown sugar and cinnamon. mix together and set aside.
2 in separate small bowl, combine apricot marmalade and lemon juice to form smooth paste. if marmalade is too firm, microwave at 10-second increments until soft and spreadable.
assembly+glaze|1 on a lightly floured work surface, roll 1 disc of chilled dough into a 9-inch circle. use a small spatula or back of spoon to spread half of marmalade evenly over surface, then sprinkle with half of sugar and nut mixture. use pizza wheel to cut dough into 12 equal triangles. one at a time, roll each wedge tightly, starting from the wide outside edge towards the center, so that the filling is enclosed.
2 place rugelachs on lined baking trays, seam side down, spaced ~1 1/2-in apart. repeat rolling process with remaining disc of dough and filling ingredients, then chill rugelachs in fridge for at least 30 minutes before baking.
3 when ready to bake, lightly brush tops of rugelachs with egg wash and sprinkle with demerara sugar. bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating trays halfway through, until golden brown. remove from oven and allow to rest on trays for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.