Tis’ the season for all things indulgent and rugelach is my absolute favorite thing to bake during this time of year. It reminds me of my grandma’s rugelach when I was little. She would keep a few in the cookie jar and I remember sneaking in and very carefully, or what I thought was very carefully, stealing just one more bite. Then I would hear a voice from the skies (or really, the second floor) yelling down at me “no more cookies, Samantha!” I swear she had eyes in the back of her head.
Not only is rugelach my favorite thing to make but even the LA Times said I did a snazzy job. I love playing with flavors and twisting ideas and cuisines around. And even though I love baking sweets during the winter holiday season, I am always craving some savory flavors. For this reason I took inspiration from some of my favorite Italian flavor pairings: salty Parmesan with creamy ricotta and freshly chopped herbs makes for a beautiful and decadent savory cookie. I recommend sprinkling some fine sea salt for a glistening touch that will bring out the flavor even more.
So the next time you are thinking about making rugelach, ditch the sugar and add some cheese! I know you and your guests will mangia every last bite.
For the dough:
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 lb unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 Tbsp lemon zest
- 2 cups flour, sifted
For the filling:
- 12 ounces ricotta cheese, drained
- 2 heads of garlic, roasted
- 1 sprig of each: rosemary, oregano and thyme (or your favorite fresh herbs), removed from stems and chopped finely
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 egg, whisked
- Sea salt
To caramelize garlic, cut each head of garlic in half and wrap halves in tin foil. Roast garlic in the oven at 400 degrees F for about 30-40 minutes or until the garlic is tender and caramelized. When done, remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
To make the dough, use a stand mixer and beat together the cream cheese and butter until creamy on medium speed. Then add Parmesan cheese and lemon zest and continue to mix until incorporated.
With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in the sifted flour and mix just until combined. Use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is incorporated. Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and roll into a ball. Cut the ball in quarters and wrap each quarter in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or in the freezer for 15 minutes.
For the filling, mix together the ricotta cheese, chopped herbs and caramelized garlic. Make sure to remove the soft cloves by squeezing the bulb and adding the soft garlic cloves to the cheese mixture. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Take one dough-ball out of fridge (leaving others chilled until ready to use) and on a well-floured surface, roll it out using a floured rolling pin. Roll it out to about 9 inches in diameter. Use a round object (a cheesecake pan works well) and outline a circle then use a knife to cut a perfect circle. Save scraps to roll out later.
Spread 2 Tb of cheese mixture onto the dough in a thin layer, leaving a border. Then cut the circle into eighths.
Roll the rugelach by starting at the outer end of the triangle and roll in making a little crescent shape. Place all rugelach end side down on a lined baking sheet and brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle each rugelach with sea salt.
Bake at 350 degrees F for about 15-18 minutes until lightly golden brown.
When done, remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.