I remember the first time I tried Rugelach as a kid – the rich and creamy pastry-like crust and the tasty mixture of cinnamon, sugar, dried fruit and nuts inside — thinking it was the greatest cookie ever.
And then there were Fig Newtons — that comforting and familiar cookie you had in your lunchbox, tasty but not anything particularly spectacular, despite advertising attempts to pass them off as “fruit and cake.”
Over the holidays, I realized the fig jam I made for gift baskets tasted a lot like the filling in Fig Newtons. Wouldn’t it be great paired with the delicious buttery dough of Rugelach for a more grown-up version of the Fig Newton — a Fig Newgelach or Rugelton, perhaps? Here’s how I made it happen.
First, I started with this Polish Rugelach recipe I’ve been using for years. Make sure you let the butter and cream cheese come to room temperature before you begin. There’s also some down-time while you let the dough rest, so this is the perfect treat to make while you do other things around the house.
Cream the butter and cream cheese in a mixer (hand mixer works too) until smooth.
Add the sugar, salt and flour.
Keep mixing until dough forms.
Transfer dough to counter, knead for a few seconds until smooth and divide into 8 equal pieces.
Wrap each piece in plastic, smoosh down like a pancake and let rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
While the dough rests, use this time to make your filling. If you don’t want to use fig jam, I’ve used store-bought apricot and raspberry. You can also follow the recipe to make the traditional filling.
For the fig jam, gently boil 1 pint of dried figs in water until soft (about 15 minutes). Drain, add 2 T sugar and 1 t of balsamic vinegar (optional) and puree in food processor until smooth. This won’t be too sweet, so add more sugar to your taste.
After about an hour, take out one piece of dough and roll on a floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick. Usually Rugelach are rolled up like crescent rolls, but I prefer to roll like a jelly roll, so I flatten my dough to a rectangle shape about 10×4 inches. Doesn’t have to be perfect.
Spread the fig jam (or other filling) along the middle.
Roll up length wise, trim edges and slice into 8 1-inch wide pieces. Repeat with two more pieces of dough.
Transfer to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. In a small bowl, beat one egg for an egg wash, then brush over the tops of the dough. Lightly sprinkle with sugar.
Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes until lightly golden. Cool and enjoy! Though they aren’t terribly sweet, I imagine they would be a wonderful accompaniment to vanilla ice cream.
Note: The quantity of fig jam above is enough for 24 cookies, but the total recipe will make 64 cookies. So, either make more jam to start or use another filling for the rest of the dough (it’ll keep in your fridge for a couple days).
Have you made Rugelach? What are your favorite fillings? Do you consider Fig Newtons a cookie or fruit and cake?