As a child, I was raised Catholic. It always puzzled me. Church, that is. I didn’t quite understand the little vessels of water at each doorway, didn’t really get the moral of the story they were trying to tell through the stained glass windows, why the holy communion tasted like newspaper, or why everything seemed so damn scary. Plus, it was annoying to worry about whether we might have to go to church at midnight on Christmas Eve. Screw that! My mom even nudged my brother and me into being altar servers. For those who were raised in some Protestant denomination of Christianity, I won’t bother to explain all this in psychoanalytical detail, for various reasons. Just read Angela’s Ashes. That about covers it, even if you’re not Irish.
In spite of this upbringing (or perhaps because of it), I not only deviated from Catholicism, I eventually found myself somewhat attracted to Jewish culture. Lolz. But hey, it’s not my fault my family always went for bagels after church… And living in South Florida, it is inevitable that you will, at some point, find yourself surrounded by Jewish retirees from the motherland: New York.
In short, I’m secular now. But I do know a bit of Yiddish (mostly impolite phrases). I fall for just about any guy with a nice schnoz. And my best friend, Rachel, is Jewish (though to my liking, she’s very un-kosher, in various senses). So there’s always a place in my heart for Jewish cuisine. Back in middle school, Rachel was at my house one time, and we found a random box of matzoh in the pantry. I don’t think I had ever heard of chocolate-covered matzoh before we tried a piece with some chocolate frosting… chocolate always brings us together.
And during my twelve days of dessert madness, I’d hate to neglect Chanukah (I like the phlegmy pronunciation of the “ch”). And Kwanzaa… that starts the day after Christmas, so we’ll see about that… Pfft, who am I kidding, I’m not doing a Kwanzaa recipe.
So for this year’s dreidel fest, I wanted to go back to rugelach, which I’ve only made on two other occasions, ever. It’s not that typical of a Chanukah food, but it is super Jewish, and who’s not gonna eat one of these lovely little rolled up treats on any holiday? Usually, the dough is made with cream cheese (though there are variations to accommodate the cookies to a kosher meal). But I had the idea to use goat cheese. Because duh, goat cheese is awesome. I thought that maybe I was onto something unique, until I Googled it and found a recipe that not only uses goat cheese, but goat BUTTER as well. Somebody had me beat… Damnit! I hate when that happens. But on the bright side, at least I had a recipe to work straight from, so that’s convenient. Delectable Desserts posted the recipe from a book called Goat: Meat*Milk*Cheese, by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough.
I really just used the recipe for the dough. When it comes to rugelach, you can fill it with pretty much anything– various jams, nuts and nut butters, dried fruit, chocolate, spices, etc. As long as the filling is spreadable, or chopped finely enough to be rolled.
Capricious Rugelach (if you look up “capricious” enough, you’ll get it)
8 oz goat’s milk butter (I found it at Whole Foods. The brand was Meyenberg, which also produces other goat milk products nationwide)
8 oz soft goat cheese (chevre)
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour (I stuck to the recipe. Whole wheat pastry flour should work, but regular whole wheat will probably result in a tough cookie)
1/4 tsp salt
I want to note that, although the goat butter was a splurge ($5 for 8 oz), it was totally worth it, just to discover how amazingly tasty it is. Creamy, tangy, and slightly sweet. I am now thoroughly convinced that I one day need to have my own dairy goats.
1) Cut the butter into 1 or 2 inch pieces and throw into a large bowl. (Another benefit to goat butter is that while cow butter needs a prolonged period of time to soften, this stuff needs just a few minutes). Toss in the goat cheese and start your electric mixer. Beat until smooth and luscious, kinda like cream cheese frosting.
2) Add the flour and salt, and mix on low speed until just about all the flour is incorporated. Then take a rubber or silicone spatula and mix by hand until the dough is homogenous.
3) Then, using your spatula, gather it all together. Divide the dough evenly into three and place each third onto a piece of wax paper. Form each piece of dough into a 1-inch thick round disk, wrap, and chill, for at least three hours or up to three days. (I’m sure you could freeze this dough for a longer period of time.)
4) When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take out only one disc of dough at a time (they soften quickly). Sprinkle flour on the counter and a little around the dough. Roll into a 12-inch circle. Remember, work from the center outward, not back and forth all the way across the circle.
5) Now for your fillings. For this one, I used some fig jam, a mix of ground almonds and walnuts, and finely chopped bittersweet chocolate.
Looks like pizza…
6) Then cut the round into twelve triangles. This is easiest by first cutting it into fourths, and then cut each fourth into three. Carefully roll each piece, starting from the widest part of the triangle, and place onto the cookie sheet.
And yes, they will be naturally messy.
7) Once your baking sheet is full (the cookies should be an inch apart, by the way), bake 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Your kitchen will smell deliciously of warm goat cheese.
And if Rachel doesn’t like these tender, flaky, sweet and savory little packages, she can kiss my toches! With love…