Tuesday, November 29, 2011


My sister taught me how to tie a bow. It’s the bow that starts out with two loops that get twisted around each other--the one that’s easier to tie. My sister always tried to make things easier for me. She also taught me how to spell “circus.” That was a toughie in the first grade.
There is an eight-year difference between the two of us, with no one else in between, so my sister has also been somewhat of a mother figure to me as well. We grew up in a home of Holocaust survivors--not always a fun place to be--and very often we served as refuges for each other. I was a welcome diversion. I’m sure it was not pleasant for her--I was the tag-along, the baby, the charge. (Come to think of it, she might have gotten some sadistic pleasure out of threatening to suffocate me with a pillow when she babysat me.) But I can’t remember her protesting too often about dragging me to the movies or on shopping trips. I think my mother so often placed her in that maternal role because it gave her a break--she was too busy dealing with the realities of her life, and her past--but she claimed she was merely trying to make us best friends. And she succeeded. My sister was my role model. I turned to her for advice on just about everything--friends, clothing, makeup, boys. And when we grew older she was my go-to person for advice on marriage and motherhood. She’s a great mom to my nephew and niece, but we like to joke that I am her first child. I did a lot of my growing up right alongside them. And as in all mother-daughter relationships, there have been clashes. There was many a time where I wanted to be treated like a sister, an equal--not a child. Ultimately our relationship had to evolve and I had to learn how to establish my independence and claim my role of adult. It hasn’t always been easy, or successful, but we’ve managed to work things out. And sometimes, not too often, I even take the role of “big sister.” 
I think my mother knew exactly what she doing when she chose my sister as her stand-in. She was the stalwart who always did what she was told. The word "rebellion" was not part of her vocabulary. What I don’t think Mom realized was that my sister, by being my “mother,” was giving up her status as “daughter” and “child.” Her childhood was very different from mine--I actually had one.
Did I mention she is a great teacher--a FANTASTIC teacher. Parents fight for spots in her classroom. I can understand why. She is also a great cook and baker. I don’t do those things with her very often. (I probably shouldn’t say this, but she is VERY territorial in her kitchen. It’s safer if I don’t do, but just watch.) She never attends a social engagement without bringing her famous Rugelach. The recipe below is not quite hers, but it’s pretty close, and my filling is a tad different. I do think of her whenever I make them, regardless. Cream cheese dough pastries always class up the place whenever they are served. They are higher on the dessert scale than a cookie or a piece of cake. The dough is rich and not too sweet, as the sweetness comes from the filling. A slather of the jam of your choice, a smattering of chopped nuts or chocolate chips, and they are good to go. Chopped dried fruit can also be a nice addition--raisins, cranberries, apricots. They can be assembled and frozen, or baked and then frozen. 
I never sent my sister a birthday card this year. I didn’t forget--I called and emailed. My cards always get there late anyway. But I know birthdays mean a lot to her. I hope this will make up for it.


for dough:
2c. all-purpose flour
8 oz. cream cheese, cut into small pieces
8 oz. cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

for filling:
1c. chocolate cake crumbs
1c. chopped walnuts
1c. raspberry preserves
chocolate chips (opt.)
raisins (opt.)

cinnamon/sugar for sprinkling
beaten egg

Pulse the flour, salt, and sugar in the work bowl of a food processor. Add the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract and pulse just until mixture comes together into a mass. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly until smooth. Divide dough into 3 portions. Wrap each portion well and chill for an hour.

 Line two sheet pans with parchment paper and set aside.

Roll one portion of chilled dough into a 9-inch circle. Using a pastry brush, spread one-third of the jam over the entire circle. Sprinkle with one-third of the chocolate cake crumbs, and top with one-third of the chopped nuts (or chocolate chips or raisins, if using).

Cut the dough (a pizza cutter works well here) into 12 wedges. Roll up each wedge, starting from the wider edge, to form small crescents. Place the rugelach on the baking sheet. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Chill rugelach in the fridge for 30 minutes. Repeat this process with the remaining dough and your preferred fillings.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bake chilled rugelach until lightly browned--25 to 35 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.

No comments :

Post a Comment