Although I am not an observer of Hanukkah, on its last day of celebration I bring unto you a dessert of Jewish origin with a twist (pun intended), that I’ve always enjoyed: Raspberry Rugelach Pinwheels.
As a child, my siblings and I would frequently visit a local Brooklyn bakery – now since closed – in which we were able to try many of the freshly baked goodies. From still warm banana bread with nuts to huge corn muffins filled with sweet jams, there really wasn’t anything I can remember not loving. But one of the treats I remember enjoying most were little crescent-shaped cookies called rugelach.
The soft, but flaky sugar-topped pastry filled with crunchy walnuts, plump raisins and tart fruit preserves was a combination difficult to resist and one that always had me coming back for more. It was only recently that I discovered they are of Jewish origin and being that Brooklyn has a huge Jewish population, with New York being home to the largest Jewish population in the world outside Israel, and it is Hanukkah, I thought it’d be a perfect time to try making some myself.
The reason why I chose a pinwheel shape instead of the usual crescent is all a matter of simplicity. The first batch that I made using the standard shape, while very tasty, turned into little puddles of cookies instead of the beautiful moon-shaped masterpieces that I love. Fearing a repeat of this misstep, I searched around for alternative shapes and came across Smitten Kitchen’s Rugelach Pinwheels and thought bingo!
The second batch using this new shape not only tasted great, but looked amazing as well! That’s one of the things that I both love and hate about baking; it forces you to step outside of your comfort zone and try new things that may or may not work, but it’s about being persistent and trying again until you get it just right. I’ll still include the preparation for the crescent shape for all of the traditionalists out there (you know who you are 😉 )
So onto the recipe! It uses a yummy cream cheese dough that helps make these cookies melt-in-your-mouth delicious and pairs perfectly with the sweet raisins and jam. Also, instead of the usual apricot jam I used raspberry because I wanted that nice tartness that raspberries provide, but it’s completely up to you how you’d like your them.
Anyhow, have fun and enjoy and a Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate!
Raspberry Rugelach Pinwheels
For the dough:
- 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
- Two sticks of butter unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash (for crescent shaped cookies)
For the filling:
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup apricot preserves (or raspberry)
For the dough:
- Cream the cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light.
- Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the salt, and vanilla.
- With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix until just combined.
- Dump the dough out onto a well-floured board and roll it into a ball.
- Cut the ball in quarters, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.
For the filling:
- Combine 6 tablespoons of granulated sugar, the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, the raisins, and walnuts.
For the crescent shape:
- On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9-inch circle.
- Spread the dough with 2 tablespoons apricot preserves and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling.
- Press the filling lightly into the dough.
- Cut the circle into 12 equal wedges—cutting the whole circle in quarters, then each quarter into thirds. Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge.
- Place the cookies, points tucked under, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill for 30 minutes.
For the pinwheels:
- Roll dough into a tight log beginning with one of the long sides; wrap in plastic wrap.
- Transfer dough log onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Slice chilled dough logs crosswise, about 1/4 inch thick.
- Toss each cookie in the cinnamon-sugar mixture (the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon). If using crescent shape, first brush with egg wash before sprinkling with sugar mixture.
- Preheat oven to 350° F and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned
- Remove to wire rack and let cool.