Welcome back to Cookie Monday! Enjoy this week’s installment:
This coming Thursday is a very important day. Not only is it Thanksgiving, it is also the first night of Hanukkah, causing many to refer to it as Thanksgivukkah. Due to the differing patterns of the Gregorian and Jewish calendars, this combination of holidays will not happen for another 80,000 years, so it’s up to all of us to make the most of this special night.
Now, I’m not Jewish, but I have been to enough Hanukkah celebrations to know that Hanukkah food is both incredibly delicious and is very compatible with Thanksgiving flavors. The crescent shaped, rolled cookies known as Rugelach are often filled with spices and walnuts. With the addition of a homemade pumpkin and maple butter, Rugelach are excellent accompaniments to your dessert table, even if you are not celebrating the festival of the lights in addition to Thanksgiving.
These Rugelach are golden brown and flaky, with an irresistible coating of cinnamon-sugar. Rolling out the dough is much easier than rolling out a pie crust, thanks to the cream cheese along with the butter. They do take some time to assemble, but it’s a perfect family activity for the night before the big feast. Between the nutmeg, maple syrup, cinnamon, and toasted walnuts, your kitchen will smell incredible and it will be hard to eat just one of these scrumptious cookies.
Wherever you are this Thursday, and whatever combination of holidays you may be celebrating, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving, from my kitchen to yours. Here’s to the start of a great holiday season!
Dough adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Makes 48 rugelach
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ teaspoon table salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup walnuts
1 cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup maple syrup
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
- For the dough: In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the cream cheese and butter and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the table salt and flour and mix on low speed until the flour is just incorporated. Gather the dough into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap, then let chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours in order to firm up.
- While the dough chills, prepare the filling: In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the walnuts for 5-6 minutes, until fragrant. Transfer to a bowl to cool, then finely chop and set aside. Wipe out the skillet, and add the pumpkin, maple syrup, and nutmeg, and cook on medium-low until thickened and fragrant, 12-15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. In another small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and the water until smooth.
- Now, set up your work station: Line three baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350F. In terms of tools, you will need a bench scraper, rolling pin, pastry wheel or knife, pastry brush, and a spatula (an offset one is best).
- Once the dough has chilled, set it onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into three equal pieces. Place two back into the fridge and roll one of them out into a circle 12 inches in diameter. Evenly spread 1/3 of the pumpkin mixture all over the dough, the sprinkle two heaping tablespoons of the cinnamon-sugar on top of the pumpkin. Distribute 1/3 of the walnuts on top of the cinnamon-sugar and press gently on them to let them stick to the filling. Using a pastry wheel or knife, cut the circle into 16 equal wedges. Take each individual wedge of dough and roll it into a crescent, from the widest part to the point. Transfer the Rugelach, pointy tip face down, to the baking sheets, and brush with the egg wash, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely. While the first batch bakes, you can prepare the other two dough rounds. The Rugelach will keep for 2 days at room temperature in an airtight container, but they are best within 6-8 hours of baking.