Cookies With a Twist

Chocolate and hazelnuts make for a sweet and salty filling for rugelach, a cookie traditionally enjoyed during Jewish holidays.



 

One of the things that used to drive my father crazy was that Mom was never satisfied to make the same thing twice in exactly the same way. Like a good jazz musician, she would improvise based on the time of year, availability of ingredients or sheer whimsy.

For restaurant chefs, the curse of success is that they must duplicate their signature dishes to look and taste exactly the same time after time. And so the creative spirit that guided them in the first place must take a back seat to the desires of their diners for repetitive perfection.

Of course, there is room for both in most kitchens. It's comforting to turn out family favorites time after time so that food traditions build up over the years. But as a cook, it's fun to experiment and nudge recipes in different directions to see just where they might go.

One of the cookies I like to experiment with during this season is the rugelach, a traditional Jewish dessert that originated in Eastern Europe and translates to "little twist" in Yiddish. The treat comprises flaky dough wrapped around a filling that can be made of fruit or nuts. Those who follow a kosher diet make rugelach without dairy so that the cookies can be served after a meal that includes meat. But I have to admit that my favorite recipe uses cookie dough enriched with butter and cream cheese. The simple combination of butter, cream cheese and flour is transformed in the oven to a light and flaky cookie that melts in the mouth.

Now, here's where the creativity comes in. You can fill this simple dough with just about anything you'd like. Jams, jellies, preserves, nuts of all kinds, cinnamon and sugar or even the classic combination of peanut butter and jelly. Try my recipe for rugelach filled with hazelnuts and chocolate.

See below for my recipe for zucchini latkes, a delicious variation on another holiday favorite.

Rugelach
Makes 4-dozen cookies
 

Ingredients:

Dough:
2 sticks butter or margarine (softened)
One 8-ounce package of cream cheese (softened)
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups flour

Filling:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup grated dark chocolate
1/2 cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts
1/2 cup melted butter

Topping:
1 beaten egg
1/4 cup sugar

Instructions:
Cream butter and cream cheese. Add sugar and mix. Add flour and form into two balls. Refrigerate at least 4 hours.

For the filling, mix together the sugar, grated chocolate and hazelnuts. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide each ball into 4 smaller balls. Roll each ball out onto a floured surface to about a 10-inch-diameter circle. Brush with the melted butter and sprinkle each with 1/4 cup of the chocolate/nut mixture.

Cut the circle into 6 pie-shaped pieces. Starting at the wide end, roll each up, tucking in the sides slightly as you go. Do the same with the other pieces and repeat with the three other balls.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the rolled tarts onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake about 15 minutes until golden-brown.

Zucchini Latkes
Makes 10 2-inch pancakes
 

Ingredients:

1 pound zucchini
1 medium yellow onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 to 3/4 cup vegetable oil, for frying
4 ounces sour cream to serve

Instructions:
Wash the zucchini and shred in the food processor or on a box grater. Shred the onion into the same bowl. Sprinkle with the teaspoon of kosher salt and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Use a strainer or ricer to extract as much liquid as possible. Return to the bowl and add the egg, flour, dill and black pepper. Mix well.

In a large frying pan, heat 1/8 inch of oil over medium-high heat. Line a clean plate with paper towels. Using about 1/4 cup of the mixture, form a small patty and place into the hot oil. Use a spatula to gently press down the pancake to compact and flatten it.

Fill the pan with pancakes, leaving enough room among them so they will fry without touching. Cook until the underside is very nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Do not cook too quickly or the insides will be raw. Lower the heat if the edges begin to burn.

Carefully flip the pancakes with a spatula without breaking them. Press them down gently again and fry for another 4 minutes or so until brown. Remove to the paper towels to drain. Serve immediately, topped with sour cream.



 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Lace up your sneakers or hiking boots and head outdoors for 10 great walks for spring.
412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

Local nonprofit organization 412 Food Rescue is taking food that otherwise would be tossed aside and connecting it with those in need through-of-the-moment technology.
Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Fashion is white haute this spring with the best looks from local stores.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Celebrating 75 Years: Connecting History with Community

Celebrating 75 Years: Connecting History with Community

The Heinz History Center’s World War II traveling exhibit focuses on western Pennsylvania’s ties to history.
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy's Meg Cheever To Step Down

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy's Meg Cheever To Step Down

The nonprofit's founding President and CEO will leave her position early next year.
Pittsburgh Pens' Spouse is ‘Hockey Wife’ On and Off Camera

Pittsburgh Pens' Spouse is ‘Hockey Wife’ On and Off Camera

After a Stanley Cup-winning season for the Pittsburgh Penguins, one player’s wife is working on her own claim to fame.
What to Do with Unused Churches in Pittsburgh

What to Do with Unused Churches in Pittsburgh

A Pittsburgh preservation group says there are approximately 30 unused churches in Allegheny County.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Lace up your sneakers or hiking boots and head outdoors for 10 great walks for spring.
412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

Local nonprofit organization 412 Food Rescue is taking food that otherwise would be tossed aside and connecting it with those in need through-of-the-moment technology.
Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Fashion is white haute this spring with the best looks from local stores.
Restaurant Review: Pork & Beans

Restaurant Review: Pork & Beans

The latest restaurant from the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group brings Texas-style smoked meats and more to Downtown.
Daytripping: Brave the Cave

Daytripping: Brave the Cave

Go subterranean at Laurel Caverns, the largest cave in Pennsylvania.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Celebrating 75 Years: Connecting History with Community

Celebrating 75 Years: Connecting History with Community

The Heinz History Center’s World War II traveling exhibit focuses on western Pennsylvania’s ties to history.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Kamayan Feast Coming To Kaya in the Strip District

Kamayan Feast Coming To Kaya in the Strip District

Executive Chef Ben Sloan will offer a festive, eat-with-your-hands spread on Tuesday nights.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


The (Very Good) Brewery You Should Be Patronizing in Homestead

The (Very Good) Brewery You Should Be Patronizing in Homestead

Voodoo Brewery is an enticing alternative to the many chains in and around the Waterfront.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Steelers’ Philosophy Back on Display After Hightower Flirtation

Steelers’ Philosophy Back on Display After Hightower Flirtation

Even as they entertained Dont’a Hightower for nearly seven hours during a free-agent recruiting trip to the South Side, the Steelers never lost sight of who they are or what they’re all about.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Turn Your Bath into a Spa with These Oils

Turn Your Bath into a Spa with These Oils

The miniature bath- and shower-oil collection from Aromatherapy Associates makes every shower a luxury experience.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The CMU Film Fest Opens with One of 2016's Best

The CMU Film Fest Opens with One of 2016's Best

Reviews of two films appearing at the 2017 Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival: "I, Daniel Blake," and "The Eagle Huntress." Plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
#Wedding: What’s Trending in the Wedding World

#Wedding: What’s Trending in the Wedding World

Married couples talk hashtags — and why they used them at their weddings.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Get the Scoop Behind One of Pittsburgh’s Most Unique Condos

Get the Scoop Behind One of Pittsburgh’s Most Unique Condos

The Carnegie Museum of Art’s new exhibit features the works of architect Arthur Lubetz and Front Studio, including the vibrant Glass Lofts Building in Garfield.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
New Club is a Hit at Thiel College

New Club is a Hit at Thiel College

The Outdoor Recreation Club becomes the newest student organization at the college.

Comments