Remember how I said my mom doesn’t like food all that much? I made an all-important exception for cheese, and should have probably clarified further. She does like food, I guess, but as a kid, it never felt that way. I was embarrassed to bring classmates over lest she force “that weird green mush” (guacamole) on them. And, unlike my best friend’s mother and every other good mother I knew, she almost never baked. My treats came from Friendly’s, our neighborhood’s historic “little store” (now owned by Steve Carrell!), or my best friend’s mom (hi, Debbie!).
Of course – as always – there is an exception. Whenever my mom was unable to shake a twinge of homesickness, she would decide to embark on the process that is making rugelach. She would grab her tattered old Hebrew cookbook, turn up NPR just loud enough to drown out her children’s cries, set about with flour, butter and raisins and bake herself happy. By now, the smells that would waft from the oven have come to mean for me what they meant for her: home.
4 tsp yeast
4 cups flour
1 cup (220 g) butter, melted
½ cup sugar
¼ cup warm water
2 egg yolks
½ cup milk
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp lemon zest
pinch of salt
jam or preserves
In a large bowl, mix the flour, yeast, sugar, lemon zest and salt. In another bowl, mix all the other dough ingredients. Mix dry ingredients with wets by hand until dough is very smooth.
Leave dough in bowl, cover, and cool in the fridge (for between an hour and 2 days).
When ready to bake the rugelach, preheat oven to 350 F (180 C); in a small bowl, mix the filling spread ingredients.
Cut dough into 8 workable pieces. Working with one piece at a time, thinly roll dough out onto a heavily floured surface. Liberally spread the melted butter mixture on the dough. Cut into 12-16 slices, (like a pizza), and, at the top of each, make a little pile of filling. Roll up, starting from wide end moving downwards.
To make shoshanim (roses): roll the dough pieces into a rectangle and spread the buttery mixture all over and sprinkle evenly with the desired filling. Then roll the entire rectangle up like a jelly roll and slice the log into 1/2″ pieces.
Bake flat-side down on a cookie sheet.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Makes 45.