Russian tea biscuits are a favorite everyday treat from Cleveland, OH. Locals eat them for breakfast, for an afternoon nosh, at home and out at their favorite bakeries. If you aren’t from Cleveland, a quick glance at a Russian tea biscuit will make you think they’re rugelach. But don’t be fooled. At four to five times the size of rugelach, Russian tea biscuits are made with a different dough that makes them more like a pastry than a cookie.
This recipe is based on careful research of baking techniques and, of course, taste tests. That said, Clevelanders are quite opinionated about the style of their Russian tea biscuit dough. Some prefer a dough that is crumblier, while others lean towards a flakier dough. You will find this dough is delightfully flaky. Make sure you use full-fat sour cream or, for a slightly denser but still flaky dough, crème fraiche.
For the dough:
- 2 cups flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 2 sticks room temperature butter
- 1 cup full-fat sour cream or crème fraiche
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 egg yolks (reserve the whites to glaze the pastries)
For the filling:
- 18 oz raspberry jam
- 1 ½ cups golden raisins
- 1 cup chopped walnuts (or shredded coconut)
- splash of orange juice
- grated rind of ½ orange
- dash of cinnamon
- In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients for the dough.
- Cut the butter into 12 pieces (or more). Then cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter pieces are the size of pecan halves.
- In another bowl, mix the vanilla, egg yolks and sour cream. Gradually stir into the dry ingredients until they just come together.
- Form the dough into two balls, flatten into discs, then use your fingers to smear the small pieces of butter to create streaks through the dough. Turn the dough over several times, smearing the butter each time.
- Form the dough back into two balls, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 3-4 hours, or overnight.
- For the filling, mix all ingredients in a bowl. Use enough raisins and nuts (or coconut) to achieve a mortar-like texture to prevent the filling from oozing in the baking process.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Flour a surface and roll each ball out into ¼ inch thick rectangles. Slice each rectangle into four equal pieces. Spread filling evenly on each piece, leaving ¼ inch of room on the edges. Roll up, then brush egg white generously on top. Bake for 30 minutes.