American rugelach are made with a flaky pastry dough that usually contains cream cheese, either instead of or in addition to butter.
Makes 48 rugelach
The dough is sprinkled with chopped chocolate and nuts or raisins and cinnamon, rolled into a log, and sliced crosswise into small pieces. My rugelach are more of a pastry than a cookie. I use babka dough rolled very thin, spread the dough with Nutella and bittersweet chocolate ganache, and then shape the rugelach into mini croissants. The key to the success of the rugelach is for the dough to be rolled extra-thin, and since the dough is yeasted (remember, you’re using babka dough), it’s important to refrigerate it whenever it starts to resist your rolling pin, which I guarantee will happen. A marble surface is excellent for rolling this pastry. You can get the effect of cool marble by placing a couple of bags of ice on the counter to chill it before rolling.
Heavy cream 140 grams (½ cup plus 1 tablespoon)
Bittersweet chocolate (at least 55% cacao) 120 grams (4 ounces), finely chopped
Dark brown sugar 60 grams (¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon, lightly packed)
Cocoa powder (sifted) 30 grams (2 tablespoons)
Unsalted butter (at room temperature) 30 grams (2 tablespoons)
Nutella 120 grams (½ cup)
1 recipe Basic Babka Dough (page 68), refrigerated for 24 hours
All-purpose flour for rolling
Large egg 1
Water 1 tablespoon
Fine salt Pinch
Granulated sugar 160 grams (¾ plus 1 tablespoon)
Water 120 grams (½ cup)
Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Place the chocolate and the dark brown sugar in a heat-safe bowl and pour the hot cream over it. Set aside for 5 minutes, then stir until smooth. Sift in the cocoa powder (yes, it is sifted twice), then stir in the butter until it’s completely melted. Stir in the Nutella until the mixture is smooth, and set aside until it is cooled to room temperature (this is very important).
Set the dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll it, flouring the top as needed, into a rectangle that is about 8 by 22 inches with the short side facing you. Smear half the chocolate mixture over the bottom two-thirds of the dough. Fold the top third of the dough over the middle, then fold the bottom third of the dough over the middle (this is called a simple fold). Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 20 minutes.
Lightly flour the work surface and set the dough on top with the seam of the dough facing to the right. Repeat step 2, rolling the dough out to an 8-by-22-inch rectangle and spreading the remaining chocolate mixture over the bottom two-thirds. Fold the dough again into a simple fold. Wrap the dough and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.
NOTE: It is very important to chill the filled dough for exactly the amount of time as directed. If the filled dough is chilled too long, when you go to roll the dough the filling will break and the rugelach will look tiger-striped.
Set the dough on a lightly floured work surface with the opening facing left. Lightly dust the top with flour, and roll the dough into a 15-by-28-inch rectangle with a long side facing you. When the dough resists rolling and bounces back (and it will), cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rest for 10 minutes (if resting longer than 10 minutes, place it in the refrigerator), then try again.
Divide the dough lengthwise into three 5-by-28-inch strips. Following the photo on page 251, make a small cut in the right edge of one of the strips of dough, about 1 inch from the bottom right corner of the strip. Then, starting at that notch, make another notch every 2½ inches. Repeat on the top left edge of the strip, making the first notch at 2½ inches and repeating in 2½-inch lengths all the way down. Place a dough cutter or a chef’s knife in the first notch at the bottom right edge and angle the knife up to the next notch on the left edge to make the first diagonal cut. Repeat in the other direction and continue, connecting the notches to create triangles.
Following the photo on page 251, make a small notch in the center of the wide base of each triangle. Hold a triangle in your hand and gently stretch to elongate it. Repeat with the remaining triangles, then roll the triangles up, starting at the wide base and ending at the narrow tip. Place the rugelach, with the pointy end tucked under the dough, on parchment paper–lined sheet pans. (You’ll have enough rugelach to fill 2 to 3 sheets; you may need to bake the cookies in batches if you run out of sheet pans.)
Cover the sheet pans with kitchen towels (see page 17 for other homemade proof box ideas) and set them aside in a warm, draft-free spot to proof until they jiggle when the sheet pan is tapped, about 1½ hours.
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Make the egg wash and brush each rugelach so the top is lightly coated. Bake the rugelach until they are nicely browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes (do this in batches if necessary), rotating the pan midway through baking.
Meanwhile, make the simple syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat and set aside the syrup to cool. Transfer the rugelach to a wire rack set over a sheet of parchment paper, and brush the still-warm rugelach with the simple syrup. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store the rugelach in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Excerpted from Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking–Flatbreads, Stuffed Breads, Challahs, Cookies, and the Legendary Chocolate Babka by Uri Scheft (Artisan Books). Photographs by Con Poulos. Copyright © 2016.