mindy segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel
Rugelach isn't exactly the sexiest cookie. It doesn't have the sultry, rumpled-bed-sheet-look of babka. It's babka's surly little sister. And croissant's runt baby cousin. I know there are rugelach diehards out there; I don't know whether rugelach is A Thing right now, per se. And I could care less. What I do know is that Bread Bakery's Uri Scheft makes a gorgeous yeasted version using babka dough and HotChocolate's Mindy Segal has an extraordinary chapter devoted to rugelach and kolachkes in her cookbook Cookie Love. "This is my epic chapter," she writes." I am enamored with rugelach and kolachkes. They reflect my soul, my family, my Eastern European Jewish heritage."
No kidding. Mindy is an absolute beast with these cookies. She fills them with hot fudge and cinnamon brickle, honeycomb and orange blossom, ginger pear and black pepper. And before you roll your eyes and say that sounds pretentious, I'm here to tell you, it's not. Her flavors and textures are thoughtful and considered, balanced and intelligent. Mindy makes these cookies definitively sexy, but she keeps them humble at heart. They're a labor of love, and they're more than the sum of their parts.
Which brings me to the most important part of all: the dough. Mindy uses a classic Jewish-American dough with cream cheese and no yeast. Deb Perelman points out that this kind of recipe is always the same, and she's essentially right. It's: 1/2 pound butter, 1/2 pound cream cheese, approximately 1/2 pound (2 cups) flour, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. But in her recipe, Mindy uses four times as much salt, and half of that salt is flaky sea salt. She does this in most of her cookie recipes, and you would think it wouldn't be a big deal, but it is. Here's why: the kosher salt makes for a well-rounded cookie (sure, we all know this; this is definitely A Thing; also Christina Tosi thinks she invented this thing). The sea salt packs a second punch—the pockets of crystals become little salt mines, irregular explosions hidden in an otherwise creamy dough. Mindy also adds vanilla. And sugar, which most other recipes include too. But the sugar is controversial. Deb, for one, would disapprove, and while I generally agree with her, in this case I just can't. Because the balance in Mindy's rugelach isn't in the dough versus filling; it's considered in every component. It works, and I like it, and I'm not going to mess with that.
This particular recipe from her rugelach chapter is one of my favorites. It's like a strawberry rhubarb streusel pie in convenient rugelach form. Here's how it works: strawberries and rhubarb are first macerated and then transformed into tart preserves that get slathered onto cream cheese dough. The dough is topped with a generous amount of vanilla-laced oatmeal streusel before being rolled up into crescents and sprinkled with vanilla sugar and more streusel. In the oven, the preserves ooze out and caramelize, and the streusel gets crunchy and golden. This is rugelach as it should be—claiming her turf, letting her hair down, wild and free.
Mindy segal’s STRAWBERRY RHUBARB RUGELACH WITH OATMEAL STREUSEl
Adapted from Cookie Love by Mindy Segal and Kate Leahy.
I'm not going to lie, this recipe—in its entirety—is long. There are four components and while none of them is difficult, they require time. My edits are small changes to streamline the process, but no one will think less of you if you want to cut corners with store-bought preserves and plain sugar in place of vanilla sugar. And, of course, you can always go rogue with the filling. Otherwise, heads-up about chilling times; I recommend making everything (dough, preserves, streusel, and vanilla sugar) at least one day ahead and then assembling and baking the cookies another day. A few other notes: Try not to overhandle the dough. Mindy cuts her cookies from a rectangle to maximize cookie yield; I like this method and think it's worth it. If possible, start with more than a pound of strawberries to get what's needed for the recipe, but don't if that's too cumbersome. This recipe makes more streusel and preserves than you need, but both are excellent in breakfast yogurt. Just saying.
Makes 48 rugelach.
CREAM CHEESE DOUGH
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
3/4 cup (6 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds only
2 cups finely diced rhubarb (approximately 2 large stalks)
1 pound washed, hulled, and dried strawberries, finely diced
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 extra-large egg white, lightly beaten
MAKE THE CREAM CHEESE DOUGH:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter on medium speed for 5 to 10 seconds. Add the cream cheese and mix on medium speed to combine, 10 to 15 seconds. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed until aerated, approximately 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. On medium speed, add the vanilla, mixing briefly until incorporated, and scrape down the bowl again.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salts. Add the flour mixture all at once and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together but still looks shaggy, approximately 30 seconds. Do not overmix. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. With a plastic bench scraper, bring the dough completely together by hand.
Stretch two sheets of plastic wrap on a work surface. Divide the dough in half (each half will weigh around 14 1⁄2 ounces) and place a half on each piece of plastic. Pat the dough into rectangles, wrap tightly, and refrigerate until chilled throughout, at least 2 hours or up to 1 week.
MAKE THE OATMEAL STREUSEL:
In a food processor, pulse together the butter, sugar, flour, oats, salt, and vanilla bean seeds until it forms a fine meal, and the butter is evenly incorporated. Do not overprocess. Transfer to a storage container and chill completely, approximately 1 hour. Or freeze and use within 1 month.
MAKE THE PRESERVES:
Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, granulated sugar, and orange juice in a bowl and let macerate for at least 4 hours at room temperature or cover and refrigerate overnight.
In a high-sided, heavy pot, heat the fruit mixture over medium-high heat until the juices start to boil and foam. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the rhubarb has broken down completely, approximately 30 minutes. This will yield about 2 cups. Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2 hours.
MAKE THE VANILLA SUGAR:
Scrape the seeds out from the vanilla pod and rub them into the granulated sugar. Add the pod to the sugar. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Let sit at least overnight (the flavor improves with time and you can store it pretty much indefinitely). Leave the pod behind when using.
ASSEMBLE AND BAKE THE COOKIES:
Cut out two pieces of parchment paper the same size as a half sheet (13- by 18-inch) pan. Unwrap one dough half, lightly flour the dough and the parchment paper, and begin to roll out the dough between both sheets. Roll the dough into a rectangle just shy of 1/4 inch thick, leaving a 1-inch border from the edge of the paper. While rolling, periodically peel the parchment paper back and dust with more flour as needed, and flip the entire sandwiched dough over once to prevent from sticking to one side. If the edges become uneven, push a bench scraper against the sides to straighten them. Repeat with the second dough half. Stack both sheets of dough on top of each other and refrigerate until chilled, approximately 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 350°F. Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper.
Take out one sheet of dough and peel off the top sheet of parchment paper. Spread 3⁄4 cup of preserves in a thin, even layer. Sprinkle approximately 1⁄2 cup of streusel over the preserves. Trim the edges. Use a dough cutter or a pizza cutter to divide the sheet in half lengthwise into two long strips. Working with one strip at a time and moving crosswise, cut out triangles with flat tips, with each base approximately 1 1⁄2 inches wide and each tip approximately 1⁄4 inch wide. Shoot for 12 triangles per strip. Separate triangles using an offset spatula. Starting from the base, roll each triangle up like a crescent roll.
Place cookies tip-side down 1-inch apart on the prepared sheet pans. Brush the tops with the egg white and sprinkle with the vanilla sugar. Sprinkle generously with 1/2 cup streusel. Repeat cookie assembly with the second sheet of dough while you bake off the first batch.
To bake: bake one sheet at a time for 23-25 minutes, or until the streusel is golden brown, rotating the pan once after the first 15 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheet pan for 1 to 2 minutes (do not wait too long or the preserves will stick to the parchment paper). Use an offset spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Rugelach can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. Rolled, unbaked rugelach can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.