When I cook, I mostly take the easy route. I don’t consider my recipes to be that challenging. Once you have the ingredients, and possibly a few kitchen utensils (big and small), you are good to go! But sometimes, I get this inkling to try something beyond the easy. I could make traditional rugelach, a Jewish pastry with a cream cheese dough in the shape of a crescent, filled with nuts, raisins and apricot jam. Or I could make rugelach PINWHEELS filled walnuts, dried cranberries and cinnamon. Forget the crescents, the pinwheels had me smitten when I spotted them at Smitten Kitchen and Technicolor Kitchen. OK, OK. In truth, my (new) sister-in-law (back when I made this she was still my brother’s fiancee) makes fabulous traditional rugelach, so I knew I couldn’t compete – and I didn’t want to – so I wanted to try something different with my favourite ingredients (cranberries and cinnamon).
So I combined both recipes into something I could work well with, using an egg to help stick the final topping. The dough was easy to put together and easy to roll. And easy to spread the filling onto it. And even easy to roll it up. But cutting it became trickier. Maybe there is a reason people normally make crescents for rugelach. :P I kept trying to figure out how to keep everything together. In the end, I could cobble them together and they baked up nicely. When I baked them on their flat side, not standing perched up. A few of the soldiers fell over in the oven. More than a few. ;)
The verdict? My mom raved about them. My grandmother raved more about the World Peace Cookies (and I side with her; it is hard to compete with cookies so good they invoke world peace!). For me, they were not as tasty as I had hoped, after fiddling with the pinwheels for an evening. I like the soft centre from traditional rugelach and the thin pinwheel makes it more crisp. I think I like my sister-in-law’s traditional rugelach better… thank goodness she is a part of the family now. :)
Walnut, Cranberry and Cinnamon Rugelach Pinwheels
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups sifted bleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup apricot preserves, heated and cooled slightly
1 egg, beaten
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer, combine the butter and cream cheese and beat on medium speed until the mixture is light, fluffy and has increased in volume, 5-8 minutes. On slow speed, add the dry ingredients and beat until the dough is thoroughly combined. Set the mixer on medium speed and beat the dough for 15 seconds.
2. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap the dough tightly and press it down until it is 2.5 cm (1 in) thick. Refrigerate the dough at least 2 hours or overnight.
3. Meanwhile, make filling. In a medium bowl, mix together granulated and brown sugar, cinnamon, cranberries, and walnuts; set aside.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick. Spread a thin layer of preserves over dough; sprinkle with filling mixture. Roll dough into a log beginning with one of the long sides; wrap in plastic wrap. Transfer dough log baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining piece of dough. Place dough logs in refrigerator; let chill at least 1 hour.
5. Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Mix together the cinnamon and sugar for the topping; set aside. Baste log with egg mixture (this will make it sticky).
6. Slice chilled dough logs crosswise, about 1/4 inch thick. Toss each cookie in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place cookies 3 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until lightly browned, 18 to 20 minutes. Lift parchment paper from baking sheets and transfer to a wire cooling rack; let cool.
Makes 50 cookies.