Apricot Walnut Rugelach

April 27, 2011 at 7:26 pm 78 comments

Apricot Walnut Rugelach

It takes exactly two minutes to walk from my dorm building to the restaurant where I work.

I know this because I usually tumble out of bed, still sluggish from my afternoon nap, and throw my work clothes into a bag. I half-jog, looking down at my watch at every intersection. In the basement I twist my hair into a side ponytail and tuck a bundle of pens in my apron. I step onto the floor, barely on time.

You’d think I’d learn, but I frequently forget to eat before realizing my shift is in five minutes. Most days I arrive at the restaurant on an empty stomach, thoroughly unprepared for the physical and perhaps emotional stress a nine-hour waitressing shift demands. I’m not really supposed to snack while working, and I don’t have time anyway between running plates and dropping checks.

It takes me six minutes to walk back from the restaurant. I’m considerably slower on my feet by the time I’m through. Eight months experience and I’m still unused to the soreness that seeps into my body at the end of the night. Sometimes the rumbling in my stomach distracts from the tenderness of each step home.

Apricot Walnut Rugelach

One night, after a particularly taxing shift, I walked straight to my boyfriend I-’s room and pounded on the door, still in chocolate stained work clothes. “I really need to eat,” I said. It was 1:15 am on a Thursday but he shook off the sleep and grabbed his keys. “Wherever you want to go,” he replied, and then we were back outside.

I picked a dumpling house in Chinatown, one of my favorites. I like it because the food is steamy and succulent, I find the Korean pop music they play hilarious, and best of all, it’s open until 2 am. He wasn’t really hungry, and I over-ordered: fried rice, beef kabobs, eggrolls and dumplings. But just before the waiter grabbed our menus, I- added, “And an ice cream sundae too.”

For whatever reason, the sundae came out before the meal. Just a few scoops of store-bought vanilla ice cream, with a quick drizzle of chocolate syrup and a ruffled dome of spray-can whipped cream. For a second, I considered not eating it. But then my hand automatically reached for a spoon and dug in, beyond caring. I don’t know if it was hunger, exhaustion, or the happiness that overcame me sitting with I- in that empty restaurant, but the first bite comforted like cool watermelon juice in August. I scraped the spoon against the bottom of the bowl.

The food that followed was predictably satisfying, but when I look back on that night, what I remember is the sundae we demolished.

Unrolled Rugelach

Since then, I- texts me throughout my shifts – “Do you want Chinese, pizza, or Mexican when you get back?” Whenever I can, I try to bring him something back from the restaurant in return. Usually, it’s a cookie. The cookies at our restaurant are tangible temptation beneath a glass cake dome. They don’t often last, but if any remain at the end of the night, I snag a peanut butter cookie for myself, a sugar cookie for I-, and triple chocolate for I-’s roommate D-. Mine usually disappears in the six-minute walk back.

I’m a quiet fan of the cookie. They’re irrefutably a childhood staple, considering that at 19 years old, I experience nostalgia when I eat them. I think of the butter cookies my grandma and I made for holidays. The coconut sugar biscuits my Chinese teacher offered during recess. Gingersnaps return me to the 8th grade, sitting Indian-style on the kitchen floor with my nose against the oven’s glass window, watching the tops crack.

As much as I like them, I don’t bake many. I get bored scooping mound after mound, or I get frustrated with the capriciousness of roll-out cookie dough (it’s too soft! Too cold! Too sticky!) With that kind of time, I’d prefer to pipe buttercream onto cupcakes or delve into yeast-risen territory.

This rugelach, though? Worth it, worth it a million times.

Apricot Walnut Rugelach

As cookies go, these ones are a considerable amount of work. The dough needs to be chilled, requiring some forethought. Then you have to roll out, sprinkle toppings, slice, and bundle into crescent-shaped pillows of brown sugar and apricot preserves. An egg wash coat and dash of cinnamon before the rugelach bakes.

But the resulting cookie is pure heaven. The apricot preserves bubble and transform into a sticky sweet filling, alluring as honey and perfect with milk. The walnuts add just the right textural crunch. Throw in the moist chew of dried cranberries and the soft flakiness cream cheese introduces? An all around winner. Even better than those peanut butter cookies.

Maybe, when I get my hands on a real kitchen and kiss finals week goodbye, I’ll make these cookies for I- and D-. They might not know how much effort goes into them, or how long I spent with floured palms. All they’ll know is that it only takes two minutes to polish off an entire plate, and an afternoon to shake off the smile.

Apricot Walnut Rugelach

These cookies are easy to customize. Use raspberry jam and almonds, toss in mini chocolate chips, swap dried cherries or raisins for the dried cranberries. Be careful, because they are strangely addictive. I don’t know if it’s the buttery, delicate dough or the wonderfully chewy and crunchy filling, but the combination is incredible.

Apricot Walnut Rugelach
Just barely tweaked from Ina Garten
Makes 4 dozen cookies

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2-pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 9 tablespoons
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of a tangerine
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup apricot preserves, pureed in a food processor
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the cream cheese and butter with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Beat in 1/4 cup sugar, the salt, the vanilla extract and tangerine zest. Add the flour and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Transfer the dough to a well-floured board and roll it into a ball. Cut the mound into four pieces, wrap each quarter in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for one hour.

Make the filling by combining 6 tablespoons of the granulated sugar, the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, the dried cranberries, and the walnuts.

On a well-floured board, roll each quarter of chilled dough into a 9″ circle. Spread the dough with 2 tablespoons apricot preserves and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling mixture. Lightly press the filling into the dough, then cut the circle into 12 equal wedges. I used a pizza roller to cut the whole circle into quarters, then each quarter into thirds. Roll each wedge up into a crescent shape, starting with the wider end. Set the cookies, with the points tucked under, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Make the topping by mixing 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

Lightly brush each cookie with egg wash and sprinkle with the topping. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.

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78 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Semarn Kaur  |  May 10, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    awww this post was very cute. And I loved your writing style. Life can overwhelm us at times, but I like how you are trying to enjoy it as much as you can. Good Luck on the finals and your future.
    – Semarn K

  • 2. Lexie  |  May 12, 2011 at 12:18 am

    Love this post, just as I do all your other ones! My favorite thing about it though is the connections that you make between the cookies and childhood moments. One of the greatest things about food (despite the taste) is the fact that a homemade recipe or a resemblence to one of mom’s dishes can bring you back to any moment in the blink of an eye. The smell, the taste, the flavor… they all bring back a little part of a profound memory and for that food is irreplaceable. Thank you for sharing, this recipe looks delicious and I cannot wait to try!

  • 3. Neil Butterfield  |  May 12, 2011 at 12:37 am

    I agree with Lexie, it is strange how the smell of food can take one back to happy childhood memories. That said, I still cannot handle the smell of cooking liver or kidneys :-)

  • 4. Amanda  |  May 12, 2011 at 11:27 am

    I absolutlely love the way you make the reader feel like they are there, watching you experience this things! Your post are always so much fun to read and I love to try the recipes you post at the end of each blog! thanks :)

  • 5. Emily T  |  May 15, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    These look so delicious…I can’t wait to try the recipe! Cookies do remind me of childhood. Your boyfriend sounds so sweet too!
    -Emily T

  • 6. ashley  |  May 15, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    I love your writing and the way you connect the cookies to the story. The apricot walnut rugelach looks delicious!

  • 7. Jasmine  |  May 15, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    This recipe sounds amazing! I like the way you tie the recipe into personal experiences.

  • 8. Samantha  |  May 16, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Is it just me or did you take down the watermarks? I wish nobody would rip off your beautiful photography, and ruin it for everyone else!

  • 9. S.  |  May 16, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    I am not one for baking. Never have been, and to be totally honest, am probably never going to be. Yet something about the way that you add stories to the things you bake makes them seem more fun to try! I actually really want to try baking these – though maybe an amateur like me really should try something easier first! – and maybe even coming up with my own stories for whatever it is, or more accurately, whenever it is, that i choose to bake again!

  • 10. aesh came  |  May 17, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    my first visit here. and your baking looks great just as your blog is. just love it all. the photography is perfect. you really know how to bake and snap. If it was me, things could go horribly wrong.

  • 11. annakristina28  |  May 25, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    I’m a big fan of cookies, but not making the time-consuming ones (I like to keep chocolate chip cookie dough in the freezer all the time…) But your description of these makes me think they would be well worth the time! I hope you enjoy your well deserved summer vacation. And I have to ask – was it the Dumpling Cafe? That’s my favorite place for juicy pork dumplings!

  • 12. Selena  |  June 14, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    mmm! looks great! they were taunting me on the screen, “eat me!”

  • 13. Anita  |  October 7, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Just wanted to let you know that the first time I made these they were amazing! I’m not making them for our Yom Kippur break-the-fast dinner. I think I’m going to skip everything else and just eat these. You know they’re going to be good when the raw dough is delish!
    Thank you!

  • 14. Anita  |  October 7, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Whoops! I meant I AM making them for Yom Kippur, which started this evening. They are spectaular!

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  • 16. Barbra & Jack Donachy  |  December 18, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Thanks for the terrific recipe. I was looking for a rugelach with a cranberry filling. I live waaay of the grid and needed a recipe that matched the ingredients that are already in my pantry. Cheers from bush Alaska!

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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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