Thursday, May 30, 2019

Hazelnut Rugelach #FoodieReads

I really did buy this book for its cover: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin*. And then it sat on my nightstand for months. I picked it up a few times; each time I loved the opening scene, but didn't get much further than that. This time, I read it all in two days. Even still, I can't say that I really enjoyed it.

On the Page

As I was trying to explain this book to my family at the breakfast table, I realized it wasn't an easy answer. It's a story about four siblings - Varya, Daniel, Klara, and Simon Gold - who visited a gypsy fortune teller when they were children. She supposedly had the power to predict your death. The book follows the siblings as they live, spiraling towards the day of their predicted demise.

It's an interesting premise with an underlying question: How would knowing the date of your own death affect how you lived? Would you choose to live cautiously or recklessly? Would you embrace every adventure, or would you retreat, determined to change the future?

While I did find the prose beautiful, the story was uneven, abrupt, and ultimately depressing. And I found the sex scenes in Simon's narrative and the animal cruelty in Varya's section gratuitous and unsettling. Both of those elements detracted from those pieces, in my mind.

In the end, I would say that I liked the book, but I didn't love it. However, given that I appreciated Benjamin's writing style, I would pick up another book by her. I'll have to look up whether she has any other books yet...or if this was a debut novel.

On the Plate

Though this, admittedly, wasn't a foodie read per se, there was food and cooking mentioned. When the siblings reconvene at their mother's house, they cook together. When Daniel meets his niece, they share a Thanksgiving feast.

Kugel appeared in the story a few times during the Jewish High Holy Days. Varya and Klara chopped the apples while their mom cooked the noodles. So, I considered making that. But, in the end, my trio were asking for cookies. And my Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf agreed to help me. So, we made rugelach instead.

This tasty variation on a Jewish favorite combines hazelnuts and sugar instead of the traditional walnuts or raisins. I used what I had in the cupboard and two of my boys don't really care for walnuts anyway.

Ingredients makes approximately 4 dozen

  • 1 C butter, room temperature
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 C flour


  • 1 1/2 C hazelnuts
  • 3/4 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ground cardamom
  • 1/2 t ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 t ground allspice
  • splash of pure vanilla extract
  • 4 T butter, melted and cooled


  • 1/4 C organic granulated sugar
  • ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg white, beaten

To make the dough combine the butter and cream cheese in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth. Add the flour and, with a spatula, mix until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface.

Using floured hands, cut into 4 equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a disk and wrap separately in waxed paper. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or as long as overnight.

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Let the dough warm a bit to make it easier to roll out.

To make the filling, finely chop your hazelnuts. Mix in the sugar, spices, and vanilla.

Flour 1 dough disk and place between 2 sheets of parchment paper. With a rolling pin, press into a round 10 inches in diameter. Remove the top sheet, cut the round into 12 wedges, brush the dough with the melted butter, then sprinkle with the nut mixture. 

Starting at the wide end, roll up each wedge. Place on a prepared baking sheet or baking stone, arranging the cookies point-side down and about 1 inch apart.

To make the topping, in a small bowl, mix together the granulated sugar and cinnamon. Brush the cookies with the beaten egg whites, then sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar topping.

Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough - filling, topping, and baking.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. 

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Click to see what everyone else read in May 2019: here.

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