I only discovered rhubarb a couple of years ago and didn’t get a chance to work with it last spring, so I wanted to make something special with it this year. I tried my hand at this Rhubarb Mousse Cake, which came out okay, but I wasn’t blown away by it, mostly because I’m a beginner with gelatin. So I moved on and continued to hunt for the perfect recipe. Then along came this Mindy Segal recipe for Strawberry-Rhubarb Rugelach with Oatmeal Streusel somewhere in my Twitter feed, and I knew that I had found the one. (I didn’t even realize at the time that this recipe is also in her new and fabulous book Cookie Love.) It’s like love– you know it when you see it. My personal life philosophy is heavy on rugelach, so it’s rather a tragedy that I don’t have any other rugelach recipes on this blog, but hey, I always strive to be a better human being, so here’s me trying to rectify that mistake. These buttery Jewish cookies are traditionally filled with things like chocolate, apricot, or nuts, but I love this fun twist– I have never encountered a strawberry-rhubarb variety before. Oh, and so much streusel! What’s more, they are positively laced throughout with vanilla, which might seem like an insignificant feature, but as bakers we know that vanilla is one of the secrets to elevating baked goods to their best possible selves.
I think I’ve gushed enough… so here’s the bad news: These are fairly involved and take a good while to prepare, at least for a rugelach recipe. Now, I’m exceptionally slow and perfectionistic in the kitchen, so my experience should not be judged as any sort of standard in that regard, but there are 4 elements to these rugelach, so do give yourself plenty of time, or make them over the span of a few days like I did. You will make a delightful vanilla sugar, the oatmeal streusel, strawberry-rhubarb preserves, and a classic rugelach cream cheese dough, all of which will be more than the sum of their parts once you roll them up into sweet little crescents!
A few notes from Mindy Segal:
- She prefers field rhubarb for its grassy, earthy flavor (rather than hothouse rhubarb), which can be found in farmers’ markets and organic/natural grocery stores. You can spot it by its streaky pinkish-green color, whereas greenhouse rhubarb is a brighter red. Make sure to rinse and wipe the rhubarb stalks clean.
- Wash and dry the strawberries before cooking them. Start with about 18 ounces of strawberries for this recipe, as you need 1 pound hulled.
- To make the preserves, dice the rhubarb and strawberries into ¼-inch cubes so they break down evenly into a smooth, spreadable jam.
A few notes from my experience:
- The dough is VERY sticky—you really do need a bench scraper to gather the dough into a ball when it comes out of the mixer bowl and to help move it around when rolling it out; make sure to give it enough time to firm up in the fridge. (The recipe says it only needs a couple of hours, but mine was still soft at that point, so I let it rest overnight.) Keep it as cool as possible when rolling it out– this will make it easier to work with. However, it should be pliable when rolling; try not to let the dough crack while rolling up the rugelach– the cracks will get worse in the oven.
- The instruction to “roll the dough into a rectangle” is the bane of my existence– I cannot seem to accomplish this ever, and this recipe is no exception. (This might be partly responsible for my low yield.) But no matter, I trimmed the dough edges and baked off the scraps. They were equally delicious. 🙂
- I made two batches of strawberry-rhubarb preserves, the first macerated overnight in the fridge with 2-day old strawberries, and the second macerated for exactly 4 hours on the countertop with fresher berries. The first batch was much stronger in strawberry flavor than rhubarb, while the second retained more of the tartness from the rhubarb– I would recommend the shorter maceration time. The jam is thinner/runnier than I expected, so I let it cook for about 40 minutes, but both batches had the same consistency, so I presume it’s supposed to be that way. (It will get firmer when baked.) I cooled the jam quickly over an ice bath the second time.
- I found that the quantities were a little off:
- There is about double the jam that you actually need, so you can either halve the amount of jam or double the dough.
- There is about twice as much oatmeal streusel as you need, but it freezes well.
- The dough yielded about 36 rugelach, less than the expected 48, which might have to do with my less-than-stellar dough rectangle, and I think I also rolled the dough a little thick.
- There is a full cup of vanilla sugar, and you only need a few tablespoons, but don’t be shy when you sprinkle it on– it is HEAVEN!
- The rugelach flatten while baking, presumably because the butter in the streusel (rolled up inside) melts and the jam bubbles out, so they’re not the prettiest rugelach around town, but so very delicious. The baked fruit looks like lace framing the cookie!
- Bake 22 minutes for lighter rugelach or 25-26 for more golden ones.
- Chill the sheet pan in the fridge for 10 minutes before applying the egg white, vanilla sugar, and oatmeal streusel.
These are phenomenal– I may never make another rugelach dough! The jam is perfectly sweet-tart, the dough is uber buttery, the vanilla sugar is insane, and the oats are awesome too. The combination of “parts” is perfect and well worth the effort– every component contributes flavor, texture, and depth. BRILLIANT. I can’t *wait* to dive further into Mindy Segal’s book this summer! 🙂
For the vanilla sugar:
- 1 vanilla bean, both seeds and pod
- 1 cup granulated sugar
For the oatmeal streusel (makes 4 cups):
- ¾ cup (6 ounces/1½ sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
- ¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup old-fashioned oats
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Seeds of 1 vanilla bean
For the strawberry-rhubarb preserves:
- 2 cups ¼-inch diced rhubarb (approximately 4 large stalks)
- 1 pound washed, hulled, and dried strawberries, ¼-inch diced
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
For the cream cheese dough (makes 2 sheets of dough):
- 1 cup (8 ounces/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, cut into large chunks
- ⅓ 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, such as Maldon
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
Make the vanilla sugar:
Place the sugar in a bowl big enough to fit your hands. Split the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape the seeds out. Add them to the bowl and rub them into the sugar by hand. Cover the bowl and set aside. Let the vanilla pod dry out overnight. The following day, grind the seeds, pod, and sugar together in a food processor. Sift the mixture before using and store in an airtight container.
Make the oatmeal streusel:
Place the butter, sugar, flour, oats, salt, and vanilla bean seeds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until it forms a fine meal with a few larger crumbs; the butter should be evenly blended, but do not over-process.
Transfer the streusel to a bowl or storage container, cover, and chill completely, about 1 hour. (It can also be frozen for up to 1 month.)
Make the strawberry-rhubarb preserves:
Stir together the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, and orange juice in a medium bowl. Cover and let macerate for a minimum of 4 hours at room temperature or refrigerate overnight. Macerate longer for a sweeter, less tart jam.
Pour the fruit mixture with all the accumulated juices into a 4-quart heavy-bottomed pot and heat on medium-high until the juices start to boil and foam. Reduce the heat to medium-low and keep cooking; stir occasionally to prevent the bottom from sticking or scorching. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and all the fruit pieces have broken down completely, approximately 30-40 minutes. (I let mine go a little longer than the prescribed 30 minutes because it looked very thin at 30 minutes.) There will be about 2 cups of jam. Transfer to a storage container and let cool for 15 minutes before covering; refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2 hours. Alternatively, transfer the jam to a metal bowl and place it in a larger bowl filled with ice water to cool the jam quickly before storing in the fridge.
Make the cream cheese dough:
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on medium speed for 5-10 seconds to smooth out the cubes. Add the cream cheese and beat on medium to combine, 10-15 seconds. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed until the mixture is fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the vanilla and mix briefly on medium speed until incorporated. Scrape the bowl again to bring the batter into the center.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and both salts. Add this all at once to the butter/sugar and mix on low until the dough barely comes together, about 30 seconds; don’t overmix– it should still look shaggy. Dump the dough out onto a clean work surface. Gather the bits into the center, and using a bench scraper, bring the dough together into a rough ball by hand. It will be very soft and sticky!
Divide the dough in half and pat the pieces into rough rectangles. Wrap each one tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until thoroughly cold, several hours, overnight, or up to 1 week.
Assemble the cookies:
Retrieve one piece of dough from the fridge and allow to thaw at room temperature for 5-10 minutes, or until slightly softened. Place a sheet of parchment paper about the size of a half sheet pan (13″ x 18″) on the work surface and lightly dust it with flour.
Roll the dough out into a rectangle a little less than ¼-inch thick, leaving a small border of parchment paper all the way around. Straighten out uneven edges with a bench scraper. (I’m hopelessly inept at this.) The dough is very sticky; lightly flour as needed to reduce sticking. If it sticks badly to the paper, dust the top of the dough lightly with flour, place a second sheet of parchment on top (dough in the middle), and flip the dough and paper over. Peel off the top layer of paper, dust with flour, and keep rolling it out. Transfer the dough and parchment to a cookie sheet and place it in the fridge to chill. Repeat this process with the second dough disk and stack it on top of the first one. Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes to firm it up.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and keep them close by.
Remove one dough sheet from the fridge, peel off the top sheet of paper, and place it on the work surface. Spread about ¾ cup of the strawberry-rhubarb jam in a thin, even layer over the dough. Sprinkle about ½ cup of streusel on top of the preserves. Trim the edges of the dough all the way around with a sharp knife or pizza wheel. Cut the sheet in half lengthwise into two long strips. Cut out triangles all the way across, wasting as little dough as possible on the edges. They should measure about 1½ – 2″ on the wide edge, and each tip about ¼-inch wide. This is of course subject to your personal preference; I made mine slightly larger, which resulted in fewer cookies. You should have between 6-12 triangles per strip.
Gently separate a triangle away from the rest of the dough using a knife or offset spatula. Starting from the wide end, carefully roll the dough up like a croissant. Place the rugelach with their tips on the bottom (tucked underneath) on a sheet pan, spaced about 1″ apart. Brush the tops with the egg white and sprinkle generously with vanilla sugar. Scatter the remaining streusel on top– you may have lots left over. Chill the pan in the fridge for 10-15 minutes. Repeat with the second sheet pan and second piece of dough.
Bake one pan at a time for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 8-10 minutes, or until the dough and streusel are golden brown. Let the cookies cool on the sheet pan set on top of a wire cooling rack for just a few minutes, then transfer the whole parchment sheet directly to the rack; loosen the rugelach with an offset spatula to prevent sticking and allow them to cool completely.
The rugelach can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days at room temperature. Rolled, unbaked rugelach can be refrigerated for up to 1 week, and the unrolled dough freezes well.
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2015.