Elaine and Julia Greenstein, daughters of George Greenstein
Our early childhood memories are of our parents spending more time in the bakery than they did at home. After school and on weekends, we often played in the back of the bakery, drawing pictures, reading books, folding and assembling cake boxes, or running small errands. In fact, before we were even tolerated at the bakery, we folded cake boxes while parked in front of the TV set at home!
When we were tall enough to look over the counter, we started waiting on customers and helping with various jobs in the production areas. We were most often assigned jobs forming dough into pastries such as crumb buns and rugelach. We longed to get our hands on the icing and finishing equipment or to mix the batters, but the answer was always, “no.” Sometimes we felt like elves in a production line: standing on milk crates, assembling one tray after another of pastries from enormous batches of dough.
Even though we could eat anything we wanted in the bakery, as young girls we had a secret pleasure. We collected the glass bottles left by the workers in the bakery and returned them for their deposit to the deli next door. Instead of taking the cash, we traded it for a factory-produced, plastic-wrapped, squishy chocolate cupcake or pink coconut mound. We always made sure to eat the evidence before returning to our parents in the bakery. The brothers who ran the deli must have had many a chuckle after the baker’s daughters left the deli.
It was not until college and graduate school, well away from our childhood bakery responsibilities, that we started to appreciate the bakery treats and welcomed the care packages sent from home. Our circle of friends really appreciated them, too! One of us, Julia, remembers her PhD advisor claiming that she added the benefits of these care packages to her recommendation letters. Who knows how much of her career was based on the contents of the packages?
Once we moved away from home, we began to become bakers in our own right, finally allowed to take on mixing and decorating duties outside of the bakery. Our dad showed great joy and pride seeing our results. When dividing jobs for our annual Thanksgiving family meal, there was always a negotiation because everyone wanted to make the desserts. Even though our father was always ready with specific comments on the quality of the results, it did not stop the competitive baking, which has continued with the next generation of bakers in our family.
George began this book about 15 years ago, after Secrets of a Jewish Baker
was published. He worked on it off and on, but for one reason or another, it never made it to publication. George passed away on July 20, 2012. The next day, our family gathered at our mother’s house. We all kept busy in our own ways to deal with our grief. Some of us cooked, while others started going through papers. When Paul, Julia’s husband, found this manuscript, we, Julia and Elaine, and his grandson, Isaac, made a pact to get the book published. The three of us are the ones who always plan the meals and get excited over food. (It is a good thing we each have our own kitchen. We all inherited being the boss from our dad.) Julia has an amazing ability to create spectacular dinners for large numbers of guests, and Elaine dallied with being a pastry chef. Isaac caught the bug early, astounding us all with his amazing bread and pastries.
Finishing our dad’s project has been a way to honor and mourn him. Sometimes as Elaine tested recipes, the image of him dressed in his white pants and apron, his big, floury hands gripping a huge rolling pin, rolling massive lumps of dough, kept her company in her kitchen. For Julia, going through the recipes and trying to see his vision brought back the hours Dad spent in his consistent search for the perfect baked goods, both at his own bakery and in our family travels. Isaac remembered standing on a high stool to see above the counter, watching his grandfather teach him how to roll rugelach, a family favorite. We hope this recipe, as well as the others in the book, bring as much joy and sweetness to your life as our dad did to ours. Apricot Rugelach
The rugelach we made in the bakery does not fit in any of the chapters. But we love it so much we are including it. The last project our dad did every Sunday would be to roll out a huge sheet of the dough, and we would roll up each pastry. It seemed like it took forever to complete. Don’t worry—the recipe below does not make the amount we made in the bakery. Rugelach Dough
12 ounces (340 grams) cream cheese,
at room temperature
2 cups (8.5 ounces / 241 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (8 ounces / 227 grams) cake flour
1 1⁄2 cups (12 ounces / 340 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄2-inch dice
1⁄3 cup (2.3 ounces / 65 grams) sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (10.5 ounces / 298 grams)
Apricot Butter (page 33)
1 1⁄2 cups (9 ounces / 255 grams) raisins, preferably golden
2 cups (8 ounces / 227 grams) walnuts, chopped, preferably toasted (page 31)
1 1⁄2 cups (5.4 ounces / 120 grams) cake crumbs (see page 42) or bread crumbs, preferably fresh
1 cup (7.2 ounces / 200 grams) Cinnamon Sugar (page 40), half reserved for topping
1⁄4 cup (2 ounces / 57 grams) unsalted butter, melted
Line a 12 by 18-inch sheet pan with parchment paper or greased waxed paper. Flour a second 12 x 18-inch baking pan.
To make the dough, in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a flat paddle, combine the cream cheese, all-purpose and cake flours, butter, sugar, baking powder, salt, eggs, and vanilla. Pulse with the on/off switch until blended, making sure that the flour does not fly out of the bowl. Mix at low speed until the dough becomes smooth. It’s okay if small lumps of butter remain; they will be absorbed into the dough as it is rolled out.
Tip the dough out onto the floured baking pan and press out or roll until the dough is level and fills the entire pan. Cover with parchment paper or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight, until well chilled. Rugelach are best rolled while partially chilled.
Cut the dough in half and work with one part at a time, keeping the other half refrigerated or frozen until ready to use. (This dough freezes well, tightly wrapped, for up to several months. It is best when thawed slowly in the refrigerator overnight.) Allow the dough to rest until soft enough to roll: fingertips pressed into the dough will leave an indentation.
Roll the dough out on a heavily floured surface into a 1⁄2-inch-thick rectangle measuring about 20 by 12 inches. Lift the dough and dust with additional flour underneath. This dough tends to stick to the surface when fully rolled out. Brush away any excess flour from the top.
Spread a generous layer of apricot butter over the entire dough, from edge to edge. Cover heavily with layers of half of the raisins, half of the walnuts, half of the cake crumbs, and half of the cinnamon sugar. Press down with your hands or roll lightly to make the filling adhere. Roll the pastry in both length and width until it is about 1⁄8-inch-thick measuring about 36 by 20 inches. The filling will be compressed right into the dough; it will be almost translucent.
Trim the edges with a 4-inch wheel or pizza cutter, or a sharp knife. Using a thumb or a ruler as a gauge, cut strips along the short side of the rectangle about 1 inch wide. This should yield 30 or more strips. Beginning at the bottom left, roll the strip until it is about 1 inch high, like a snail shell. Tear the pastry free and roll over a half turn so the seam is centered on the bottom. Repeat with the remainder of the first strip, lining up the finished rugelach on the work surface in rows, letting them touch each other. Scrape or brush any crumbs aside with a bench knife, or brush as you work. When you arrive at the end of a strip, attach it to the bottom of the next row by pressing a 1⁄2-inch edge onto the strip. Continue rolling as if it is all one piece.
Continue rolling until all of the dough has been used. Brush the tops with melted butter. Place in even rows, spaced a finger width apart, on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling ingredients. Brush the tops with butter. (At this point the rugelach can be frozen for use another time or refrigerated to be baked later or the following day. Frozen rugelach can be baked—directly from the freezer to oven—without thawing.)
Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C with a rack in the center of the oven.
Bake for about 35 minutes, or until lightly and evenly browned. Carefully lift an edge to see if the bottoms have begun to brown.
Remove from the oven and immediately brush the tops with butter. Drizzle a thin line of cinnamon sugar down the length of the rows. Cool on the pan on a wire rack. Serve when completely cool. Rugelach keeps well tightly covered or wrapped at room temperature for about a week.They can be frozen for several months wrapped tightly in plastic.
Yield: About 3 pounds (about 75 pieces)
Copyright © 2015 by George Greenstein, with Elaine Greenstein, Julia Greenstein, and Isaac Bleicher. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.