It has taken several tries to get this right, and some of the attempts have been dismal, but I think it’s been a worthwhile enterprise, figuring out the right combination of recipes to make the rugelach of our dreams. These will not make everyone happy. There is no jam, there are no nuts. There is no trick. However, the winning combination is this:
You use the rugelach dough recipe from the green Gourmet cookbook, slightly altered (this is basically a brick of cream cheese and two sticks of butter, blended till smooth and then combined with flour and a few other things), and then you make a chocolate filling along the lines of the one given by Yvonne Ruperti at Serious Eats. I say “along the lines of” because it isn’t that I followed her directions precisely, but they were the guidelines I used to figure out proportions.
In previous attempts at rugelach, I’ve found the dough inevitably had annoying flaws. It was too crumbly, or too leathery, or not sweet enough — many rugelach recipes have no sugar in the dough at all, which mystified me. I asked my friend Susan, “Why is this?” and she reasoned that it’s because the cookies are rolled in sugar before baking. I guess that’s fair, but the fact is, I never liked these no-sugar-in-the-dough cookies much, and my friends and family found them lackluster as well.
So this time around, I added about 1/3 cup granulated sugar to the dough. We thus had: one brick of cream cheese, 2 sticks of butter, blended; 2 cups of flour; maybe 1/2 tsp. salt; and 1/3 cup sugar to make the dough. This was a bit of a pain to mix together in the Kitchen Aid, but I persevered. I molded the dough into a flat rectangle and wrapped it in Saran Wrap and then refrigerated it overnight. The next day, I cut the dough into four pieces, floured the countertop, and began to roll out the dough. It was easy to work with these small sections of dough, and I was able to cut a dozen pieces of rugelach from each section. I painted the rolled out dough with a filling I made out of melted chocolate (I used scraps of stuff I had around: about half bittersweet, half semi-sweet chocolate chips), granulated sugar, brown sugar (two tablespoons of each) and (important detail) two tablespoons of Hershey’s Dark cocoa powder. I used the microwave to turn the solid chocolate into a kind of paste and then mixed it all together. The Serious Eats recipe didn’t provide me with enough filling to do all four sections of dough — I would increase the amounts to use something more like 9 oz. solid chocolate total. But it’s the kind of thing where you can add to the bowl, melt, and go, as needed. The paste is very very thick, which is not great to work with, but it means the filling doesn’t just run out all over the place when you bake the cookies. It stays put. So don’t add any liquid to it, even though you’ll be frustrated and want to add something.
The chocolate is spread over the rectangle, the dough gets rolled up into a cylinder, and then you cut small slices from the roll. Toss the little cooky rolls in a dish of cinnamon sugar, place on a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper, and bake 20-25 minutes.
There is probably a faster way to make rugelach, but I don’t know (yet) of a better way. Now that I have the dough recipe settled, it means I can start playing with fillings a little bit. But not too much. I’ve been told that non-chocolate fillings might not be well-received here at home.