Gingerbread, Rugelach + Pecan Squares

cookie cutters

I didn’t think I would actually forget which dough was which. It did. It yeiled the best rugelach I’ve ever tasted and proof that Ina Garten really is ‘The Butter Lady.’ I would however recommend labelling your cookie dough if you make it WAY ahead of time and totally forget which is which. You may not have a culinary epiphany and end up mistaking oatmeal raisin cookies for chocolate, not a dire situation, but people no one likes to get a raisin when promised a chocolate chip.

 

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Since my introduction to the traditional Jewish cookies called rugelach, it’s been my mission to make it my own. I’ve made salted carmel almond, peanut butter chocolate and pretty much any other variation under the sun. With my rugelach dough being used elsewhere, I still NEEDED my little jammy, nutty, chocolate rolls of personal expression. So what did I do? As I looked at a disc of gingerbread dough, I realized I’ve probably come upon one of my proudest (and most delicious) culinary creations.  Not to say it was an easy journey, by no means.

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Gingerbread

This is my new favourite gingerbread recipe. I can’t give an exact yield since I made a few dozen cut out cookies then realized it’d make a fantastic rugelach vessel. I’ve given directions for both cutout and rugelach assembly.

Dough

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 1/2 pound) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup molasses

Filling

  • 9 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cups raspberry jam
  • 1 cup finely chopped, toasted almonds (or anyother nut you have on hand)
  • 1/2 cup dark or semisweet chocolate, chopped, or chocolate chips

Royal Icing

  • 1 egg whites
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1-3 tablespoons milk (I used eggnog as it was festively hiding in the fridge, not much flavour to lend, but a tasty hint nonetheless!)

For the dough: Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt in a large bowl and set aside. Beat butter and brown sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Mix in eggs and molasses. Add flour mixture, mixing on low until just combined. Divide dough into thirds and wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until cold and firm, about one hour or up to two days. If you’re planning ahead, pop it in the freezer and thaw in the fridge overnight to on the counter for a few hours.

Cut-outs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-1/8 inch thick. Cut into shapes of your choice.Spread 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake cookies until crisp but not dark, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool before icing

For the Icing: With electric beaters, whip eggwhite until foamy, about a soft-medium peak. Gradually add sugar, thinning out with milk as needed until a fluid but not running consistency. You can drizzle, or put into a piping bag with a thin writing-like tip for detailed (and hand cramping) designs. Or just spread the icing and dunk them in some sprinkles if you’re pressed for time and/or lazy. I actually smeared some on top of the rugelach, which I’d highly recommend.

Rugelach

For the filling: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pop nuts on baking tray and throw into preheating oven. Keep and eye on them, moving every 5 minutes or so. It should take about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Mix cinnamon and sugar together int separate bowl. Set aside. Finely chop chocolate and cooled nuts; put into separate bowl and set aside.

Assembly: Roll out dough into a rough 10” rectangle on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-1/8” thick. As long as its a rectangle the size won’t make or break the cookies. Spread 3T jam in a thin layer to edges of dough using an offset spatula. Sprinkle 3T of cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over dough. Sprinkle 3 T of nut + chocolate mixture over dough, pressing down to make sure they adhere.

From the long end, roll the dough into a log away from you, pinching the sides. Gingerbread dough doesn’t like to roll as well as you’d like it to, but if you keep pinching and roll slowly, it should be ok.

Cut the dough in half, then half again, until you have 16 little bundles. Arrange on a parchment lined baking tray. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them, depending on the thickness of your dough, they may take longer or shorter. Let cool.

getting ready to eat, er share

as you can see, they goo sets nicely

So I thought this was shortbread dough. Being the overachiever I am, I couldn’t bear to make PLAIN shortbread. So I thought, why not top it with butter, pecans and syrup? Turns out it was rugelach, which has no sugar in it. It ended up working perfectly with the topping of molten hot (essentially) pecan pie filling, which is cloyingly sweet. I must remind you, there is ALOT of butter here. It oozes a bit actually. Do feel free to use a normal-person shortbread recipe in replacement so this doesn’t happen. I’m not one for adding zest, but this sweet square needs the help of orange and lemon to cut it; with the almost savoury rugelach dough balanced the otherwise untouchable pecans, it all works, making it much easier to eat two, or three….

Pecan Squares

Adapted from: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2006/12/aww-yeah-1017-grams-of-butter/

Dough

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature melted/browned
  • 8 oz (1 package) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups flour

Topping

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted/browned
  • 1/2 cup Lyles or other syrup (maple, corn syrup)
  • 1 1/3 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or bourbon
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound (2 cups) pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

For the dough: Whisk together flour and salt in separate bowl. With stand-up mixer or egg beaters, cream butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add dry ingredients until just incorporated. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold and firm, about one hour or up to two days or for up to 2 months in the freezer. Defrost in the fridge over night or on the counter over a few hours. DO NOT MICROWAVE!!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll into rectangle about 11×16” (it sounds huge, but it has to fit into a 9×13” pan with a border to go up on the sides). Dock with fork so it doesn’t puff up. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until almost cooked, slightly brown, but not crisp. When done, cool before adding topping. Leave oven on.

For the topping: Place nuts onto baking tray, put into preheated oven and toast 10-15 minutes, until toasted. Remove and set aside. Place butter into large heavy bottomed sauce pan on medium heat. Cook until brown, about 5-8 minutes. Add Lyles, (I spray my measuring cup with cooking spray so it comes out easier) brown sugar and bring to boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cream, using a long whisk (watch out for steam!) until smooth. Add zests, vanilla and nuts. Pour onto cooled crust and bake for 20-30 minutes. Until the top is bubbly and the bottom is golden.

Let cool at least an hour before attempting to cut. You’ll notice a biiiiiit of butter bubbles, feel free to dab it with a paper towel (or use less, I haven’t tried it yet). You can cut them as small or as big as you like to serve.

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