As Good As Baking Your Own
For the past few years, we have been noticing how really average so many rugelach are—and like making a bad Toll House® cookie, there’s really no excuse for it. You take basic ingredients—flour, butter, sugar, cream cheese, and eggs, make a dough, and roll with a filling of filling of choice—apricot or raspberry preserves and chocolate bits, nuts and raisins seasoned with cinnamon are the most common. Slice, bake and eat. Sounds simple enough, no?
Yet, as anyone who has reached for a classic Toll House cookie and gotten something else can attest, what seems inordinately simple often returns mixed results. As those who have read other NIBBLE reviews know, we have tasted our way through the doughy, the salty, the bland, and the oh-my-god-what-did-they-do-to-that-poor-pastry! We have roamed the bakeries and specialty stores of our home town in search of a decent rugelach: a lot of roaming for not much return. (And we should point out that our home town is New York City, which is in turn home to the largest number of Jewish-style bakeries in the country.) Then we met Erica Kalick.
The first time we tasted Erica’s Rugelach, we liked it...but to be sure it was no mirage, we kept tasting it at successive trade shows until Erica may have suspected that we were no food writer, but a schnorrer* who had sneaked in for the free eats.† We have been nibbling at Erica’s Rugelach, macaroons and cookies for some time now, and are ready to share the wealth.
* Yiddish: a scrounger who takes advantage of the generosity of others.
† Let us take this moment to say that going to a food trade show is no picnic: it’s grueling work. After two hours of the tiniest nibbles, one is stuffed to the gills but must continue to taste, taste, taste for another six hours in search of the best products for one’s readers. If it’s a big trade show, you do this three days in a row until you turn into human foie gras.
Little Pastry Delights
Rugelach are often classified as cookies, but they are really miniature pastries: soft dough with filling. Fruit preserves, raisins, nuts, and chocolate are the most popular, and Erica’s Rugelach are available in apricot, chocolate and raspberry. Erica’s adds walnuts and currants to each of the flavors instead of keeping fruit preserves, chocolate, and nut or raisin/nut as separate entities. The flavor profile is thus different from other brands that keep the flavors pure, and results in a more complex, less sweet, and obviously nuttier pastry that picks up lemony nuances from the currants.
When flour is the third ingredient by weight on the label and walnuts are first, you know you’re in for something chock-full of goodness. Erica’s Rugelach uses only the ingredients any good home baker would use: butter, cream cheese, walnuts, currants, flour, sugar (white and brown), plus the raspberry or apricot preserves or chocolate bits. The surface of the rugelach is lightly dusted with cinnamon sugar—a nice touch that hits the spot.
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