Ridiculously good rugelach

Before you scroll down and lay your eyes upon my photograph depicting my first attempt at making rugelach – don’t have a mouthful of coffee to spew. Well, truthfully, this was my second rugelach. My very first was bacon jam rugelach which I made while testing a recipe for Cathy Barrow and her debut cookbook Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry. While my pastry wasn’t reasonable to look at, it was incredibly tasty.

There are almost 100 online recipes indexed here at EYB for rugelach and nearly 400 indexed recipes from cookbooks. Why is this Jewish treat so popular? Could it be the flaky, tangy dough? Or, the caramelized, almost burnt, sugar or chocolate peeking through that flaky dough tempting you to take that first bite? Or, the nutty fillings (or savory surprises) that explode with flavor once you break through that blanket of dough? Maybe it is a combination of all of the above.

Rugelach to me is a small bite of perfection – part pastry, part cookie and even when they aren’t beautiful they are still are delicious (see Exhibit A above, my photo). Ugly rugelach is better than no rugelach.

Hannah Goldberg of The New Yorker went on a quest to find superior rugelach in New York and ended up in Harlem. She met Alvin (Lee Lee) Smalls whose customers crave his “rugelach by a brother” all year long. Hannah writes, “Smalls’s recipe includes pound-cake crumbs in the filling (“It has a nice lemon flavor to it,” he told me, “and I sprinkle it on there heavy so it’s crunchy”), and almond extract. But neither is his secret ingredient. In the kitchen, he let me watch him as he tossed the crumb onto his rolled-out dough, tearing off strips and forming them into little packages before placing them on a cookie sheet. Then he requested that I leave the room for five minutes.” I hope that someday we will know his secret. Next time I am in New York, I need to go visit Lee Lee’s Baked Goods and maybe, just maybe, I will figure it out.

For other rugelach recipes and tips: 

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