Thanksgivingukkah. Hanukkahgiving. Call it what you will, this boils down to being the greatest mash-up of food-related holidays of all time, and I could not BE more excited about it.
Loads of folks all over the internet have already blogged about the potential glories of said holiday menu, and I was particularly intrigued by the idea of pecan pie rugelach. I tackled traditional rugelach, with its cream cheese dough & hearty dried fruit filling last December, so I decided to take that dough recipe and combine it with a scaled-down version of my tried-and-true pecan pie filling.
Final verdict? They’re freaking delicious. Even Jill wanted seconds, and she never does that with sweet stuff. She doesn’t even like pecan pie! And several of my Jewish colleagues at work gave me their blessing after the entire container of leftovers disappeared in a matter of minutes. I’ll be making them again next week fo sho. (Check out last year’s Thanksgiving post for more recipes.)
I’ve a tremendous amount to be thankful for this year, and I hope the same is true for each of you. Wishing you all a holiday filled with joy and connection!
PECAN PIE RUGELACH RECIPE
Like so many delicious things that come our way this time of year, these are not simple, quick, or healthy. They are decadent, delicious, a little bit of a project, and totally worth it.
for the dough:
2 ½ sticks (1 ¼ cups) unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
scant ¼ cup sugar
2 ½ cups flour
½ tsp. salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, butter, and salt together at medium speed until smooth. Turning the mixer down to medium-low, add the sugar and continue beating for a few minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour, mixing until the dough just comes together.
With floured hands, divide the dough up into two balls, wrap with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days.
for the filling:
2 cups pecans, finely chopped
¼ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup corn syrup
¼ cup sorghum (substitute molasses for deeper flavor, maple syrup for lighter)
splash of bourbon
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. vanilla
3 T butter, divided
Place the pecans in a large, sturdy mixing bowl. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, sorghum, bourbon, and salt in a nonstick saucepan. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Allow the mixture to cool slightly before thoroughly beating in the egg, then pouring the entire mixture over the chopped pecans.
Remove dough from the refrigerator approximately 20-30 minutes before you’d like to roll it out. Check in on it as it’s softening; there’s a sweet spot to be on the lookout for. Too cold, and the dough will crack when you try to roll it; too soft, and it will fall apart when you roll your rugelach.
Preheat your oven to 350° and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat 1 egg with a bit of water and set it aside, along with a pastry brush. Fill a small bowl with a few tablespoons of raw/Demerara sugar and another small bowl with a few teaspoons of flaky sea salt.
Flour your work surface heavily and roll the first dough half out into a rough circle (it does not have to be perfect, I promise!) around ¼ inch thick. If it’s warmed up too much at this point, you can move it back into the fridge—or even the freezer—for a few minutes, but I didn’t find this necessary. Just work quickly to get these babies rolled up and in the oven!
Gently spread half the pecan pie filling out onto the dough with a spatula. It’s probably going to seem like there isn’t enough filling but there is, I promise; you don’t want a lot. Thinly spread is good. You can even use your fingers to make distributing the filling easier.
Using a pizza cutter or bench scraper, cut the covered dough into long, thin, triangle-shaped wedges, as if you were cutting a pizza. Once you’ve cut all the way around, roll up each rugelach, starting with the widest, outer end and working toward the inner, narrow point. Place onto the parchment-covered cookie sheets, and when they’re all rolled up, brush each one with a little egg wash. Sprinkle generously with sugar, then go back and sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of sea salt. Trust me, the sea salt makes alllll the difference.
Bake for ~20 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire racks and serve, or store in an airtight container for a few days, or until you eat them all.
Last Saturday, I threw my seventh Diwali party.
Actually, it would be completely inaccurate for me to say that I threw this party and imply that I did it by myself. Hardly. One of the things I have finally learned is that not only can I not do everything by myself, it’s much more fun to let incredible people in my life help.
And so, friend-of-a-friend Laura designed the most perfect invitations, out-of-town friend Rebecca not only drove with her husband from San Antonio for the party, but also brought custom-made food labels that matched the invitations perfectly, Megan & Maconda made the house and backyard tables look exquisite with vintage glass, floating candles, and the loveliest arrangements of pink flowers, Greg & Sharon handled plates and napkins, finding the loveliest designs, and tied sparklers into bundles for the gift bags, and continued the tradition of being the deliverers of my last-minute “Oh crap I forgot this!” items.
My mom cooked a full half of the food served, wowing everyone with her chicken tikka masala and stuffed eggplant (yes, I promise to blog about those soon!), looked like a million bucks in the deep purple sari she wore, and charmed everyone who met her for the first time. Diwali marks the one-year anniversary of her living here in Texas, just 1.96 miles away from our house, and I couldn’t be more grateful to be able to say that. Jill, loving spouse of shocking efficiency, rendered the back yard a twinkling retreat, perfect for the day’s fall temperatures, helped clean the house, wrangle our child, and served as always-gracious host to the almost-forty people who walked through our door.
For his part, Shiv romped, flirted, played ball (pictured here with Rebecca’s husband, Aaron), and pointed up at airplanes passing overhead (his latest thing). He had a blast, and I hope everyone else did, too.
When I threw my first Diwali party, I didn’t think too much about why I was doing it or what I was hoping to get out of it; I had just lost my dad, and throwing the party seemed a way to honor him and the rituals of my youth, plus it gave me a project, something to do, which is helpful when you are grieving. Since then, though, I’ve thought (along with Jill) more deliberately about the intention behind the tradition we’ve created.
Our hope is to create something magical, to render our home a sacred space, one in which strangers can meet and connect, feel and share joy, and leave well fed not just in stomach but in soul. To me, Diwali is, in its essence, an affirmation of the belief that love is the strongest force in the universe; that, no matter how hopeless things seem, human goodness will always triumph. And each year, the people who we are lucky enough to have in our lives show up at our house and serve as living proof of that belief.
We billed this year’s gathering as an open house/happy hour, so we had plenty of beer, wine, & cocktails on hand. The two cocktails I served—Lucky Dogs & Cider Sidecars—proved to be incredibly popular and were easy to prep ahead of time.
For food, we had: the aforementioned chicken tikka masala & stuffed eggplants from my mom, a sev puri station that included sprouted mung beans (also a hit, also done by mom), some tamarind-glazed lamb meatballs that I made, roasted chickpeas, a cucumber/onion/tomato salad, carrot achar (pickle), onion pakoras (fried by—you guessed it! my amazing mother) served with tomato chutney, and saag paneer pizza, which was the hands-down runaway hit of the night.
Here’s how I did them, step by step (I was able to fit 3 “pizzas” per baking sheet & work in batches):
1. Garlic naan (Storebought from Whole Foods—I’m not THAT crazy!)
2. Homemade saag slathered on top (I made mine in the slow cooker overnight, which helped it thicken, keeping it from being too watery.)
3. Generous handfuls of pre-shredded mozzarella (don’t use fresh mozz, it’s too watery)
4. Cubes of homemade paneer sprinkled on top.
5. Into a very hot oven–500°–to get the cheese all melty, and then a few minutes under the broiler to brown everything.
6. A good slather of homemade cilantro chutney after the pizzas came out of the oven.
7. Cool slightly, cut into wedges, & serve hot.
(No pictures, they disappeared too quickly!)