Rugelach (not to be mistaken for arugula — but they’re pronounced very similarly) is a pastry with a murky history, but it is known as a Jewish pastry and among the most popular pastries (if not the most popular) in American-Jewish communities in Israel. It’s also a New York City bakery staple (though Zabar’s allegedly has the best in town). They’re not the prettiest of pastries, but they’re delicious. They’re bite-sized nuggets of chocolate and whatever else you want to put in them — they can be eaten in place of a cookie, but they’re a little more complicated to make. They take time and concentration, but they’re pretty simple in structure: dough+filling, rolled up and baked. What makes them unique is the flaky crust — typically it’s made with cream cheese and butter, but for those who follow strict Jewish dietary laws, they cannot be eaten alongside a meal made with meat (dairy and meat can’t be consumed together). I enjoy making rugelach, but I wanted to come up with both a pareve (doesn’t contain meat or dairy) and vegan version that still still tastes like rugelach.
Coincidentally, this week I was listening to an old episode of the Splendid Table in which a plant-based chef was interviewed about one of his newer ventures: Kite Hill. Initially, it was the name that stood out to me — Kite Hill is an open space here in San Francisco, but Kite Hill the company is a San Francisco-based company that produces plant-based dairy style products. Basically, they make cheese from almonds. What made it interesting to me is that they use the same cheese-making process as a dairy to create items as close to tasting like the inspiration as possible. They happen to make a cream cheese style spread — which I immediately ran out and bought with hopes that it would be the solution to my pareve/vegan rugelach.
Though I can’t recommend the yogurt (not so good), the cream cheese is pretty remarkable. It tastes almost exactly like the real thing — so if cream cheese was your reason for not going vegan, you now have the green light to give up dairy. But as a substitute in baking, since it’s made from nuts, there’s plenty of fat to make a hardy yet delicate dough. This is what I came up with:
- ½ cup Cream Cheese Style Spread
- ½ cup coconut oil (very cold)
- 1 cup All-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- (and coconut milk & granulated sugar for dusting)
- 1 TB cinnamon (I used Raw Spice Bar’s Gingerbread mix)
- 3 TB granulated sugar (a lot of sugar producers use bone-char filters; but there are a few that don’t)
- ½ cup pecans, chopped
- ½ cup dark chocolate, chopped (must not contain milk to be pareve or vegan)
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries, chopped
- 2 TB coconut oil, melted
Method for the dough:
In a food processor, pulse all the ingredients until it looks like couscous or quinoa. Dump it into a mixing bowl and bring it all together to make a ball. Cut it in half, make two squares, wrap them in plastic, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 400℉.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out one square into a rectangle that’s about 11”x 6” — it should fit comfortably inside a jelly roll pan. Because coconut oil’s melting point is low (about 75℉ compared to butter’s 90℉ melting point), you have to be careful to turn the dough each time you roll it out with as much flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to your work surface and rolling pin. If it gets too soft to work with, stick it in the freezer for a couple minutes.
Lay the the dough on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the the dough with the melted coconut oil. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together and sprinkle half of it on the dough, leaving one edge plain. Mix the chocolate, pecans and cranberries and sprinkle half of that on top of the cinnamon and sugar mixture.
Fold up the undressed edge of the dough to begin rolling it to make a long cylinder of dough. Place the dough (still on the pan) in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Slice the dough into about 1” pieces, but keep them in line with the cylinder so they don’t fall over while they’re baking.
Brush them with coconut milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for about 20 minutes and the edges are browned (the tops probably won’t brown much).
Repeat process for second square of dough.
These turned out way better than I expected. The dough was easy to work with and it came out flaky, crunchy and with an amazing flavor — exactly the way it’s supposed to taste. And they’re pareve and animal-cruelty-free! I may have to employ this dough in other recipes. It’s amazing.