Sometimes it just depends how you look at things. What might seem like a disaster at first is actually a gift of serendipity. I was trying to make s’mores rugelach for Chanukah, and I ended up with a shambles of flattened, messy, busted-up puddles. But… OMG THEY TASTED SO GOOD. I didn’t have the heart to throw them out, so I tossed them in a tupperware container to nibble on (because there weren’t enough other holiday cookies around or anything). The next day I had another one, and it sort of punched me in the face with deliciousness, not to mention a fabulous chewy texture. And then I looked at them again. They weren’t what I had intended– that is, neat rolled-up crescents– but they were lacy, swirly, and somehow artistic looking… also more or less cookie-shaped. One might call them “deconstructed” rugelach, if you will. (Did I really say that?? Ughhh.) And so, I decided to post them anyway, in case anyone else wanted to make S’mores Rugelach Smash Cookies. That can be a thing, right? Yes, I’ve decided it can be a thing– a very excellent and delicious thing.
So how did these messy little nuggets come to be? My original vision was to make a traditional cream cheese rugelach dough, but I would swap out graham cracker crumbs for some of the flour to give the dough some graham flavor. This would, in turn, be laden with schmears of marshmallow fluff and the chocolate paste from this recent babka that I made, and then sprinkled with crumbled bits of my favorite graham pie crust before getting rolled up into neat, little crescent bundles.
The dough was a bit of a gamble, as I didn’t know if it would hold together, or how much graham to substitute. I looked at some recipes for graham cakes, most of which seemed to have equal parts flour and crushed graham crackers, so I decided to go with that ratio and see what would happen. For the rest of the ingredients, I used Smitten Kitchen‘s rugelach dough recipe, because her stuff, quite frankly, generally turns out the best of anyone else out there when I make Jewish recipes. However, she says that there’s basically a “mother dough” for rugelach that most people use, and not to mess with it! I was exceedingly pleased that the dough came together great, and while soft and sticky, it ultimately rolled out just fine after chilling. (A pretzel version is now brewing in my mind…)
As for the fillings, I’m pretty much obsessing day and night over the babka cocoa paste from Ottolenghi’s book, Jerusalem, and I hypothesized that it would be perfect here. For the marshmallow fluff, you certainly can make your own, but a store-bought jar works fine as well. I pretty much have no use in my life for any other graham crust than the one in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, which contains milk powder as something of a secret ingredient for a milkier flavor, as well as heavy cream.
So this was all theoretical so far… What happened in reality is that the dough basically disintegrated due to too much filling that expanded and broke through the dough! I think that a trio of factors contributed to the rugelach explosions: 1) the marshmallow layer expanded a ton, 2) the butter in the cocoa filling overwhelmed the butter in the dough, and 3) they (possibly) should have been baked at 375°F.
I tested the baking temperature with some of my remaining dough and cocoa filling only, and they retained their shape much better and browned well. I’ll probably keep working on a proper, respectable s’mores rugelach, but for now I’m rather enamored with this happy accident and I’m pretty sad that I already stuffed them all in my face. So while they look like someone stepped on them, I highly encourage you to make these on purpose– I don’t know about you, but I might like to mess up cookies more often.
S’mores Rugelach Smash Cookies
Yields 36 cookies
For the dough (based on Smitten Kitchen):
- 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (130g) finely crushed graham cracker crumbs (as powdery as possible)
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ pound (8 ounces/225g) cream cheese, at cool room temperature, cubed
- 1 cup (225g/2 sticks/16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature, cubed
For the cocoa filling:
- ¾ cup (130 grams) good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
- ½ cup (1 stick/113g/8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- Scant ½ cup (50 grams) powdered sugar
- ⅓ cup (30 grams) black or dark cocoa powder
- 13 ounces marshmallow fluff, store-bought or homemade
- ½ recipe Graham Crust, cold and crumbled into small bits
- 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
- 2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
- 2 tablespoons cane sugar (only because it’s coarser than regular granulated sugar, but it’s okay to use regular)
To make the dough:
Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse a few times to combine them. Add the cream cheese cubes and run the machine until they are fully blended and the mixture looks wet and crumbly. Add the butter pieces and process until the dough starts to clump together. It is very thick at this point, and if it gets stuck in the machine, take out some of the mixture and run it in 2 batches. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and bring it together with your hands into a rough mass (it will be sticky), then divide it into 3 pieces. Shape them into disks and wrap them tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. (Yikes, I forgot to snap a photo of the finished dough!)
Roll out the dough:
Retrieve one dough disk from the fridge. Line a rimless sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper.
On a well-floured work surface with a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out in a circle (roughly, anyway) to a thickness of about ⅛”– it should be 10″ across or so. Carefully transfer it to the sheet pan and place it in the fridge. You can also roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper to facilitate this process. Repeat with the remaining dough disks, stacking them on top of each other on the sheet pan between sheets of parchment. Chill the dough for about 30 minutes or until firm. (You can also do this in the freezer for about 10 minutes if your pan fits.)
Make the cocoa filling:
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan filled about ⅓ with simmering water. (The bowl should not touch the water.) Stir it occasionally until the mixture is smooth and fully melted. Meanwhile, sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder together in a medium bowl. When the chocolate is melted, pour it into the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until the mixture forms a smooth, spreadable paste. Let it cool to room temperature before spreading on the dough.
Assemble the rugelach:
Heat an oven to 350°F and line 2 rimless baking sheets with parchment paper.
Warm the marshmallow fluff in the microwave for about 20 seconds, or until it is warm and easily spreadable. (Make sure to use a large bowl, since the fluff will puff up a lot!) Pull the graham crumbles and one sheet of dough out of the fridge.
Spread ⅓ of the chocolate paste over the dough with a small offset spatula, leaving a ¼” border all the way around. Spread a thin layer of marshmallow fluff over the chocolate as best you can– it’s fine if there are a few bare spots or the chocolate and marshmallow get a little swirled. Scatter ⅓ of the graham crumbs evenly over the marshmallow.
Using a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife, cut the dough in half across the circle. Cut it into quarters, then into 12 wedges. (If using a knife, press down in one motion rather than pulling the knife through the dough.) Separate one wedge and gently roll it up into a crescent starting with the wide end and placing the narrow tip on the bottom. Repeat with the remaining wedges and transfer them to one of the prepared baking sheets. Place the sheet in the fridge for 15 minutes or the freezer for 5 to firm up.
Bake the rugelach:
Combine the graham crackers and cane sugar in a small bowl. Brush the rugelach with the eggwash, then sprinkle them with the graham sugar.
Bake the rugelach for 15-20 minutes, until the dough is golden. The cookies will get very bubbly, the dough will flatten out and break apart, and they will look like mistakes. Transfer the pan to a wire cooling rack for 10 minutes, then slide the pan out from under the parchment and let the smash cookies cool completely on the rack.
Repeat the rolling out, filling, cutting, rolling up, chilling, garnishing, and baking with the remaining dough disks in the fridge.
Store the S’mores Rugelach Smash Cookies in an airtight container for up to 5 days– they’d probably keep longer, but I wouldn’t know.
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2017.