One of the biggest draws of Christmas is time with family steeped in traditions. We are all creatures of habit and anticipation of something familiar is both exciting and comforting. You are probably expecting me to break into a charming little story from my childhood memories about celebrating Christmas in Russia. The truth is I didn’t start celebrating Christmas until my late teens. Among numerous holidays celebrated in Soviet Russia the birth of Christ was not one be acknowledged for 70 years! Many wonderful traditions were lost or got transferred to New Year’s Day, which became the biggest holiday of the year.
When Brad and I got married we moved away from both of our families and were very anxious to establish holiday traditions of our own to pass onto our children. Special festive food is, of course, a major part of any traditions and Christmas baking became something I dove right into! Some recipes came from Brad’s family, some from glossy foodie magazines and the one I am sharing with you today came from the Russian cookbook that was in my family for years. I was leafing through it one day when I stumbled on it. I marked it with * and jotted “Christmas” next to it. That’s how Rogalik became our family’s Christmas Tradition.
I’ve been making it ever since. For the last 12 Christmases we’ve enjoyed the taste of cinnamony walnuts drenched in honey and wrapped in flaky pastry. A cookie that has truly Russian roots but also became popular in North America through the Jewish immigrants from various Eastern European countries and known as Rugalach. Can you hear the similarity from Rogalik to Rugalach? I was also happy to learn that “rugal” in Yiddish means “royal”. Rogalik is so lovely, it’s truly fit for the King of Kings.
There are literally hundreds of recipes of Rugalach that are floating around the internet. The biggest difference between them and mine is that most of them use cream cheese to make the dough, which is not authentic at all and is rumoured to be developed by Philadelphia to help with the sale of their brand. My recipe uses sour cream and after trying all the other ones I always come back to mine. I might be partial but I believe my recipe is superior :-).
Ingredients for the dough:
Flour – 3 cups plus extra for rolling
Sour Cream (full fat)-1 cup
Butter- 3/4 cup/150gr
Egg (beaten)-1 for brushing
Ingredients for the filling:
Preheat your oven to 350F/180C and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whip your softened butter together with sour cream in a large bowl. Add flour in small portions and continue mixing. Empty the contents of the bowl on floured surface and continue kneading until you have smooth and pliable dough adding a bit more flour if sticky. Cover and let sit for 10 min.
While your dough is resting chop the walnuts finely or process them in a food processor, mix with sugar and cinnamon and set aside. Make sure your honey is spreadable, heat if needed to achieve the right consistency.
Divide your dough into 4 parts and rolls out each individually into a circle. The dough shouldn’t be thicker than 1 cm. Brush honey on it and divide into 16 even triangles.
Now sprinkle 1/4 of the nut/cinnamon mixture on your circle. My son came to help me with this important business but got bored quickly and left me to my own devices.
The next step is the funnest of them all. That’s where the famous rogalik takes it’s shape. Roll up each triangle starting from the wide end towards the centre of the circle.
Arrange the cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet, brush them with the egg wash and bake them for 25-30 minutes. I strongly recommend using the parchment paper because the delicious and gooey filling will leak out a bit and turn into caramel. If you don’t use parchment paper your rogalik will get glued to the baking sheet and will make it stressful to remove.
Once baked remove them from the baking sheet to the wire rack while still warm.
These little beauties take a bit of work but I get a profound sense of satisfaction and pride when they are done and put away in lovely Christmas tins. I am even happier when I get to sit down and enjoy one with my tea.
My little girl loved them as well this year! Bonus!