Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Yeasted Rugelach


Last week I looked for a challenge in the kitchen.  Sometimes it's the easiest place for me to conquer fears of the unknown. Unlike the rest of my life, especially as a mother- where every day can feel unchartered. Parenting, in my world, is an all consuming venture and sometimes my confidence wanes. I'm doing my best, but still feel like I'm winging it.  It's hard to relax and not think that I must certainly be messing up, falling short, or maybe even overdoing it.


I thumbed through Ruth's Box, looking for a project for distraction.  Something I could immerse myself in while Roman was preoccupied with his cars and trucks one morning.  I seized the moment purely for my own enjoyment. Ruth's box contained three rugelach recipes, the "little twist" cookies of Jewish Ashkenazic origin.  One called for a cream cheese dough, the other, sour cream.  The third intrigued me the most-- a neatly typed version of Libby Hillman's Yeasted Rugelach recipe from her 1963 cookbook Lessons in Gourmet Cooking.  By the way Ruth had loosely copied down her recipe, I could tell she was no new-comer to baking rugelach.  I pictured her rolling these effortlessly.  At first I was a little intimidated.  I wanted someone to show me, someone to work along side.  Kind of how I feel in parenting sometimes.  But I devised my own plan. 


I divided the dough into three balls, wrapping each in plastic wrap.  Ruth had noted that the dough would last up to three days, so I decided to bake one small batch per day and give myself time to improve.  (The dough also improved over time.) By the third day I was rolling the supple dough without it sticking to the counter or to my hands.  I could sense the right amount of filling, and exactly how long they should bake.  By then the cookies were exactly to my liking.  It felt good to have mastered them.  And who knows.  Maybe over time I will come to feel the same sense of mastery about parenting.

Yeasted Rugelach with Apricot, Almond and Chocolate Filling
Adapted from Libby Hillman's recipe

This recipe called for a sugar/cinnamon/nut filling, more like the authentic rugelach found in New York City.  I adapted the filling to my own cravings using apricot jam, slivered almonds and chocolate chunks, and making these rugelach are pretty irresistible.  

1/2 lb (226 grams) unsalted butter
1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup (59 ml) warm water
2 cups (198 grams) flour
2 tablespoons (23 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

Apricot Jam
Slivered Almonds
Chocolate Chips or chunks

Melt the butter and set aside to cool.  Dissolve yeast in warm water.  Mix together the flour, sugar, salt. To this, add the dissolved yeast, cooled butter, salt, cream, vanilla extract and two eggs.  Mix until you can form a ball, which you can roll in a little extra flour and then refrigerate overnight (or at least 6 hours.)  The dough will last up to three days, and improves with time. 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (190 C). Divide the dough into three. Work with one portion at a time and return the rest, covered, to the refrigerator.  The dough cooperates best when chilled.  Using a floured rolling pin, roll one portion of dough into an 8 inch circle.  You can cut 8-10 wedges from this. Gently spread on the jam, then sprinkle on the almonds and chocolate and roll from the wide end of the base to the thin end.  Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 18-25 minutes.  Watch after about 18 minutes to check browning.  Baking time will vary based on thickness and size of cookies and oven strength.  Makes 5-6 dozen.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Baked Peaches


These are cozy times.  Really, nothing is cozy about a New York City summer with the heat, humidity, smog, smoke and dirt that come along with it.  But we've been nesting.  With six (or so) weeks 'til baby brother arrives, I've been sorting, cleaning, washing, folding, unwrapping, and list making.  In between, we take sweaty jaunts to area parks, only to return home again, grateful for the air conditioning where we make our way through piles of books.


One of these books, The Maggie B., was my childhood favorite.  At sea during a storm, Margaret battens down the hatches of her ship and retreats to the safety of the kitchen.  She prepares a dreamy sort of meal for her baby brother, a steamy fish stew, fresh rolls and baked peaches.  Margaret sings sea shanties, bathes the little one and puts him to bed, the lull of the waves rocking him to sleep.


My whole life, I've never lost the image of Margaret baking her peaches in the safety of her ship's hold, and finally today I made my own.  The baked peaches tasted homey with their dash of cinnamon and sprinkling of brown sugar.  I finished off my baked peach feeling grateful, thinking about our new little peach who will be here in no time.  I hope he finds it cozy here.

Baked Peaches
This barely warrants a recipe. But if you're a lover of stone fruit and you can bear to turn your oven on in August, this is a wonderful ending to a simple summer meal.  Feel free to add whipped cream or ice cream for an added flourish. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Halve several ripe, organic peaches.  Remove the stone and place cut side up on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle the peaches with about a teaspoon of brown sugar or honey, and a few shakes of cinnamon.  Bake for 30 minutes. 
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