Rugelach, a much-loved Jewish pastry, is ubiquitous in Israel nowadays, where varieties range from merely-average cookies sold at neighborhood grocery chains to gourmet delicacies at the country’s best bakeries.
This lightly yeasted pastry has its roots in the Ashkenazi communities of Eastern Europe, where it was made with traditional fillings such as fruit jams, poppy seed or nuts. From there, it followed Hungarian and Polish Jewish immigrants to Israel and the United States.
But the versions prepared in each country diverged. American bakers, in the name of convenience, substituted a sour-cream or cream-cheese dough in place of the yeast dough.
Professional Israeli bakers, on the other hand, took the pastry up a notch – making an all-out laminated yeast dough just like that used for croissants, with many thin layers of butter.
The secret to bakery-quality rugelach is just a little advance planning. Leave yourself extra time, in order to make the dough a day in advance, and let the dough rest as needed between steps. This makes the dough more manageable and pliable, which is necessary when you’re rolling it out into the fine, butter-filled layers that give these pastries their lovely texture.
For the rugelach dough:
2 cups flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 large egg at room temperature
1/4 cup softened butter (50 grams(
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk
For folding the dough:
100 grams softened butter (1/2 cup)
For the rugelach filling:
1/4 cup chocolate
1/4 cup softened butter (50 grams)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
For the glaze:
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
Ideally, start a day before you plan to make the rugelach. Put flour in a bowl. Add yeast, sugar, softened butter, egg and milk. Mix to form a dough. Add a bit more flour or milk if needed, a teaspoon at a time, until the dough comes together as a soft, but not sticky, ball. Knead for a few minutes, and then set aside. Wrap in plastic.
Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for a minimum of one hour, but ideally overnight.
On the day you want to make the rugelach, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit).
Take out the dough, and let the butter soften until room temperature. Lightly flour a large work surface. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle. Spread evenly with the butter, leaving the edges clean. Fold into thirds (left and right), and then fold into thirds again (top and bottom). Re-wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
In the meanwhile, make the filling: Put the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave for 30 seconds, until it starts to melt. Mix in the sugar and cocoa until smooth.
Take the dough out of the fridge, and roll it out into a long rectangle about 30 centimeters (12 inches) deep and 3 millimeters (1/8 inch) thick. Spread with the filling, leaving the edges clean. Fold in half lengthwise, so that the rectangle becomes a long strip about 15 centimeters (6 inches) deep. Roll out lengthwise a bit more, until the dough is close to 3 millimeters (1/8 inch) thick again.
Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into elongated, 15-centimeter (6-inch) long triangles with bases of 6-7 centimeters (2 inches). Starting at the base of each triangle, roll into a croissant shape. Arrange finished rugelach on a baking sheet covered with baking paper.
Place the rugelach in the oven, and bake until lightly golden, 20-25 minutes.
While the rugelach are baking, prepare the syrup: Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan.
When rugelach are golden, remove from the oven and brush with syrup.