Monday, August 1, 2016

August ABC challenge: Croûte d’abricots (apricot and almond tart)

 

I have access to the BEST apricots ever, but the season is short and early here, so I knew I had to get on this recipe.  (And my lavender was in bloom.) Nonetheless, when I went to my favorite apricot vendor to buy the fruit, he was already out for the season.  But his peaches were in, so I bought several yellow and white peaches.  They looked a little green still, but he said they were ready.  I was skeptical.  Unfortunately, they did not fair well on the way home, and the riper ones became so bruised I barely had enough to get some decent slices.  (The unripe fruit was still perfect.)  Not only that, but they didn't taste good.  This was not a good year for stone fruits.  I was so disappointed.  But I salvaged what I could, dipping the slices in sugar to try to sweeten them up a little.

I've noticed that, so far in this challenge source, the consistency of my doughs never match that of the originator.  For example, she says to "pour" the batter into the pan -- I had a thick, sticky mass that I had to carefully pat down.  She must be using giant eggs.  I also noticed that my honey was rather stiff, so maybe that was the problem.  By the way, although there are dramatic differences in the flavor of various honeys, I've never been able to distinguish lavender honey from clover honey from any other variety.  I used sage honey.

I didn't have a small tart pan, so I used a pie pan from Marie Callendar's, which measured 7 inches across the bottom.  Other than the honey, the only other change to the recipe I made was to increase the salt.

Here's what I used:

50 g beurre noisette
120 g almond flour
50 g (lavender) honey
1 3 pinches of salt (using a pinch measuring spoon)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon dried, organic lavender
icing sugar to prepare the tart pan
4 to 6 fresh apricots, stoned and quartered
Preheat the oven to 350º F.  Brush an 8-inch shallow tart pan with butter and dust with icing sugar.

Make the beurre noisette by slowly melting the butter over a low flame until nut brown and the milk solids have toasted. (No need to strain.)  Set aside and leave to cool. In a bowl (or the butter pan), stir together the almond flour, honey, egg, salt, and lavender flowers.  Add the brown butter and whisk until smooth.  Pour into the tart pan and spread evenly. Press the apricot quarters in the mixture, arranging them the way you like best.  Bake for about 35 minutes.  Keep an eye on the crust and make sure it does not brown too fast, otherwise turn the oven down to about 320º F from the point of perfect crust color.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool and firm up slightly before releasing it. When cooled completely, dust with icing sugar and serve.
 

I checked this at 30 minutes and it looked a little dark on the edges, but not quite done in the center, so I turned the temperature down and left it another 5 minutes.  It was still hard to tell if it was done because it gets rather juicy.  For appearances sake, I would have preferred it be less dark on the edges.  I didn't try it until the next day, and by then the peach juice had soaked into the base, so it wasn't dry.  I don't know if it would have been dry if I'd had it right away.  Whipped cream was a great addition.

Conclusion: This was good, and surprisingly light.  It's not very sweet either, so it could be eaten plain for breakfast, or dressed up with whipped cream as a dessert.  I think it would have been much better with the apricots -- they have more flavor and that bit of tartness that would contrast nicely with the somewhat bland almond base.  There was only a hint of lavender, which was just the right amount.  A little lemon zest would also be a nice addition to the base.

Recipe:  Croûte d’abricots with lavender & honey via Weekend Bakery.

Friday, June 3, 2016

June ABC challenge: cheesy cookies


Cheddar shortbread -- that's what we're dealing with here. You really want to use a sharp or at least medium cheddar for optimum flavor.  And since I used salted butter, I omitted any added salt.  I also reduced the recipe to 1/4 of the original.

Despite having a large collection of cookie cutters, I never seem to have what I want.  I was looking for something cheese-themed (a mouse?) or June-themed (a flower?), but didn't have either.  I opted for the mushroom because... when else am I going to use it?  The original recipe made 40 cookies; my cutter was a little smaller than called for, so I got 15 cookies and a small, leftover blob.

Here's what I used, with my changes in italics and strikeout (yield 10-15 cookies):

25g flour (about half whole wheat)
25g cold salted butter, in cubes
25g good quality, mild cheddar cheese, finely grated
1/4 egg yolk (about 1/2 teaspoon)
a pinch of salt if cheese is mild
mashed garlic, about 3 pea-sized balls, optional 

Rub the butter with the flour; add the cheese and garlic and mix. (I got a dough with just the butter and flour, so cheese had to be kneaded in.)  Add egg yolk and quickly form a dough. If it feels too sticky just add a little extra flour. Rap in cling film, shape into a flat disc and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven 355ºF to 390ºF conventional setting.  (This equals 309 to 340 convection.)  Roll dough out thinly, to about 1/10 inch thick, between two sheets of cling film and cut with a 1.5-inch cookie cutter.  Arrange the cookies on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes (I baked mine only 15), adjusting the temperature if necessary, until golden brown and crisp.  Cool on a rack.

I used a small convection/toaster oven and started with it set at 325. But 6 minutes in, they were already starting to brown, so I reduced the temperature to 300. (The thermometer continued to read 325, and even went up slightly after a while, but that could have been because it was against the side of the oven rather than sitting on a rack.)

Conclusion:  These were a little too salty, so unsalted butter is definitely in order (unless you're making them very spicy, in which case extra salt is a good thing.)  They had a light and delicate texture, and were nicely flavored. (Not as cheesy as Cheez-Its, but still noticeable.  The garlic was very mild.)  You definitely don't want to over-brown them, because that toasted flavor would overpower any other flavor.  These would be nice served with a cool, mild sour cream dip.  They're also good spread with just the tiniest amount of jam.

Recipe:   Easy Peasy Cheesy Cookies via Weekend Bakery


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

May ABC Challenge: No Knead Brioche


I've never had brioche -- at least not that I'm aware -- so I really didn't know what I was going for.  Which can be challenging, but at the same time good because I don't know whether I failed or not.  I suspect I did fail, technically, as someone said brioche should be light and airy, and this loaf definitely isn't.  But it tastes really good, so as far as I'm concerned it was a success.

I cut the recipe in half, but otherwise made it as directed.  I did not weigh my egg, though, and it looked a little on the small side.  Nonetheless, my "dough" was EXTREMELY wet, more like batter, so I added another two tablespoons of flour.  (That would be the equivalent of an additional 1/4 cup in the whole recipe.)  The end result was workable, but just barely, and only straight out of the refrigerator.  It didn't shape up smoothly as hers does in the video -- more like sticky lumps.  The second "rise", which wasn't so much a rise as a melt, with the dough just oozing together, the individual balls were barely discernible.  (This dough never rose until it was baked, but others made a similar comment.)

During baking, only the center rose.  I was having a little trouble with my oven temperature, which might have been the problem.  It produced some lovely mini volcano shapes, though, when toasted.



For a small loaf, here's what I used:

125g all purpose flour
50g unsalted Kerrygold (European style) butter, melted
35 g water at room temperature
1 egg (medium, about 110 g)
25g (1¼ tablespoons) runny honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

In a bowl, combine egg, honey, water, salt, and melted butter and whisk, somewhat vigorously, for about 30 seconds.  Add the instant yeast to the flour and sift it into the mixture. Again, with enthusiasm, whisk for 30 seconds until your dough looks smooth and homogeneous. Cover your bowl and let the dough rest for two hours at room temperature.  Place the dough on a floured work surface and do one or two stretch and folds.  If your dough is very "elastic" and cooperative, do a few; if it starts to resist you can stop.  (Mine was not resisting at all, so I did about 4 or 5.)  Return the dough to the bowl, cover it with clingfilm and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours. (Mine rested 48 hours.)  

To shape, divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll them into balls.  Place the balls two by two in a baking tin, well buttered or lined with baking paper.  Cover and leave to proof for 2 to 3 hours, depending on the temperature of the dough and of the room. (Perhaps I should have just let mine sit until it was fully risen, but the dough was so heavy I don't know that it ever would have.  It didn't seem to be moving at all.)

Preheat your oven to 375ºF.  (If desired, brush the brioche with egg wash before baking, and/or brush it with melted butter directly after baking.)  Bake at 375ºF for about 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to 320ºF and bake for another 15 minutes. If the top browns too quickly or gets too dark, cover it with aluminum foil to protect it.  Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes in the pan; cool completely on a cooling rack before slicing.

Conclusion:  This was delicious, very buttery, but I'm sure I did it wrong.  The video shows soft, plump balls of dough after the second rise, just like regular bread.  Mine didn't rise at all until I baked it, and then only in the center.  The final texture was closer to pound cake, or even shortbread.   Or maybe I made a giant Madeleine.  But I'm not complaining.

Recipe:   Brioche:  The no knead version via Weekend Bakery.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

April ABC Challenge: Kersenvlaai (Dutch cherry pastry)


This is an interesting change on cherry pie -- the filling is baked into a casing of enriched bread dough instead of pie crust.  It's apparently very popular in the Netherlands.

I had to make a lot of changes to the original recipe in order to work with what I had.  For starters, I didn't have a vlaai pan, which is just a large, round pan about 1" deep.  I had an 11" pan that was 2" deep, so I worked with that.  The instructions I gave in the recipe are how I would do it next time.  What I actually did was roll out a large circle of dough and then let it relax for 10 minutes as instructed, then cut it into a 13" circle.  But when I loosened it from the board, it shrank dramatically and thickened.  I should have loosened it and THEN cut it.  I tried rolling it back out again, but the dough was very springy and wouldn't cooperate.  I globbed the whole mess back together and rolled it out again, and I'm afraid all that handling might have caused the bread to be tough.  Anyway, I think what I described below would be a better method.

The recipe called for a jar of dark sweet cherries in light syrup, which I couldn't find.  However, I had cherries in the freezer and sour cherry juice on hand, so I improvised.  It took a little doing, getting the right quantity, the right consistency, and the right sweetness.  The first go, it must have cooked down because I didn't end up with nearly enough.  I made a second batch, and while it was cooking I noticed an unfinished bottle of red wine on the counter that was too old to drink.  I thought that might be a tasty addition, so in it went.  I had also added cloves because I always wanted to try that with cherries.  (My hunch was right -- it's a good combination.)  I had a little leftover cream cheese, so of course I had to use that.  Then on half the pie I sprinkled chocolate chips to see how that would work out. 

Because the cherry juice was fairly sour (no sugar added), I skipped the lemon juice in the original recipe, but I had to guess at how much sugar to add.  (I erred on the side of less.)  I also had to use a lot more corn starch than I had expected.  In the future I would try to use a different thickener, like tapioca that might have given a lighter results, but the corn starch work okay. 

The recipe for the filling is so drastically changed from the original that I haven't shown my changes.  Here's what I used:

For the filling
2 cups unsweetened sour cherry juice
1 cup red wine
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cup corn starch*
1/8 teaspoon cloves
350 grams (about 2 cups) previously frozen cherries, halved
3-4 ounces cream cheese or mascarpone
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the dough
300 grams flour
6 grams instant yeast
120 grams lukewarm milk
20 grams sugar
3 grams salt
30 grams unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
coarse sugar for sprinkling pie lattice

In a small dish, whisk together the corn starch with about 1/2 cup of the juice until thoroughly mixed.  Pour the remaining juice, the cornstarch mixture, and sugar into a pan and heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Lower heat and boil gently for 2 minutes.  Check consistency by cooling a small amount in a dish.  It should be about the consistency of semi-firm gelatin, or a loose jelly, thick enough to hold some shape, but not firm.  If it's still too thin, cool some of the mixture and add a teaspoon more cornstarch to it, whisk thoroughly, and add to the mixture in the pan.  (Never add cornstarch to a hot liquid or it will clump.)  Stir to fully incorporate and repeat the process of boiling for 2 minutes, then checking consistency.  Repeat until the right consistency is achieved.  Add the cloves and the cherries and stir to combine.  Set aside.  (This can be done in advance, and the mixture kept refrigerated.)

For the dough, dissolve the yeast in the milk and let prove. Whisk together the salt, sugar, and flour, then add the milk and egg and bring it together. When it starts forming a ball, add the butter.  Knead for 8 to 10 minutes by hand. Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover and let it rest for 1 hour in a warm place.

Preheat oven to 425ºF.  Lightly butter an 11 x 2-inch round pan.  Roll the dough into a large circle about 3 mm/0.12-inch thick, about 15 inches in diameter, and fit it into the prepared pan.  Cover it and let relax for 10 minutes.  Carefully trim the side of the dough so that it is only 1" high all around; set the extra dough aside.  Spread the bottom of the pie with the cream cheese, then add the cherry filling and distribute evenly.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Make a lattice with the leftover dough and cover the pie decoratively; sprinkle the lattice with course sugar.  Bake in the preheated oven for 22-25 minutes. (Check after 15 minutes -- if it's browning too quickly, reduce the oven temperature to 350.  I turned my oven down after 10 minutes.)  Leave to cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then carefully lift it out with the help of a spatula or pie server. (The curved spatula that's used for woks worked well.)  Cool completely on a cooling rack.  This is typically served with a dollop of whipped cream.

Conclusion:  I'm not sure what I think of this.  I'm having a hard time envisioning it as a dessert -- it seems more like a breakfast food or snack to me.  Partially it's the bread, and partially it's that I didn't make mine very sweet.  Also, this is not a rich dessert -- there's nearly no fat.  (And yet I didn't much like adding whipped cream.)  And I can't imagine how one could eat this with a fork because the bread is too firm.  It just makes sense to pick it up and eat it like pizza.  The dish seems too casual for a real sit-down dessert.  

Do I like this better than traditional cherry pie?  No, I don't think so, although I'd really like to try a"real" one, by someone who knows what he or she is doing.  I might think differently.  My bread was slightly overcooked, probably due to the dark pan I used, so it was a bit tough.  (It got much tougher after a day or so -- this is not a recipe that keeps well.)  Besides, it's so much easier and faster to make pie crust than bread dough.  I'd also like to try macerating the cherries in wine, kirsch, or cherry brandy before using.

I liked the addition of the red wine, and the cloves, but I did not like the chocolate.  I don't know why -- it seems like a no-brainer.  Also, I wish I'd had more cream cheese -- what I'd put in wasn't detectable for flavor or creaminess as far as I could tell.  I'd double the amount next time, though I'd have to cut down on the cherry filling or make the pie higher.  And I think I'd like this much better if the bread had been a little more crumbly; perhaps adding more butter would help. 

Original recipe:  ‘Kersenvlaai’: A Very Cherry Pie with Bread Dough via Weekend Bakery

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

February ABC challenge: Custard Rum-raisin Cinnamon Rolls


I'm always up for a good cinnamon roll.  This recipe sounded interesting because they're filled with a custard instead of a butter/sugar mixture.  (Although you do sprinkle the filling with brown sugar.  Why not just mix that into the custard???)  I thought they might be something like pain aux raisin, but no, not nearly that rich and sweet and buttery.

I reduced the recipe to a quarter the quantity (yield 4), rum soaked the raisins, and made a few other minor tweaks, mostly to accommodate the reduced recipe.  My changes are noted in strikeout and italics.  Here's what I used:

Crème Pâtissière
64g (2.25 oz) full fat milk
2.5g sugar
quarter piece vanilla pod
5g (scant 2 teaspoons) cornstarch
12g (1 tablespoon) sugar
13g egg yolk (close to one whole)
5g (1 teaspoon) butter
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the milk gently in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch, sugar and the egg yolk until well blended. Slowly whisk 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg mixture, then add the mixture back to the milk in the saucepan and whisk again. Whisk slowly while bringing the milk mixture to a boil, picking up speed as the mixture thickens.  Boil and whisk the mixture for one minute.  Remove from the heat, add the butter, cinnamon, and vanilla and whisk until smooth.  Place the saucepan on a cool surface and leave it to stand for a minute, then transfer the crème to a bowl and cover with clingfilm. When cool, refrigerate until needed. 

Dough
225g (1.8 c) AP flour (or pastry flour)
4g (¾ teaspoon) salt 
3g (1 teaspoon) instant yeast (or 1.4 teaspoon active dry)
75g (2.6 oz) milk at room temperature
57g (2 oz) water
13g (2¾ teaspoon) salted butter, softened 
12g (1 tablespoon) sugar
ground seeds from 2 cardamom pods (scant 1/8 teaspoon of seeds)

25g (2 tablespoons) golden raisins, macerated in dark rum until plump
12g (1 tablespoon) soft brown sugar
25g (3 teaspoons) icing sugar plus water for glaze (and salt)

In a bowl, combine the dough ingredients and knead for about 15 minutes, until the dough is silky and bouncy. Cover and leave for 1 hour at room temperature. 
 
Roll the dough into a long rope about 18 inches, then roll out the rope into a thin rectangle about 6 x 20 inches.  Loosen the prepared cinnamon pastry cream by whisking briefly.  Spread an even layer onto the dough rectangle, then sprinkle the brown sugar and raisins on top. Roll up the dough starting at the short end.  Cut into 4 equal slices (about 1.5 inches thick) and place the slices, cut side up, in a nonstick or greased baking pan. Leave to proof for 60 to 75 minutes.

Preheat your oven  to 392ºF. Bake the proofed buns in the oven for 22 to 25 minutes. Leave to cool slightly. Prepare the glaze by mixing icing sugar and water to form a smooth paste and brush on top of the buns. 




My dough seemed a bit stiff right off, so I added about another 0.5 ounce of water.  Perhaps it was supposed to be stiff, as the dough became difficult to manage once it was rolled up.  The log was soft and flattened out, then squished terribly when I cut the slices.  Raisins and custard were popping out everywhere, but I just reformed the rolls.

Conclusion:  These were nice, but nothing special.  The custard disappeared into the bread and wasn't noticeable other than adding a taste of vanilla, and it did add a nice moistness.  (I would double the custard.  Since I used a different method of adding vanilla, I don't know how strong the original recipe would have been.)  They were only mildly sweet (which tends to make you eat more!), the cinnamon was barely detectable, and the cardamom not at all.  In fact, they were a little bland and uninteresting.

Recipe:  Sunday morning cinnamon buns… deluxe via Weekend Bakery

Sunday, January 3, 2016

January ABC challenge: Rondos (Dutch almond pastries)

 
The new year starts the Avid Baker's Challenge with a new challenge source:  The Weekend Bakery.  This blog is created by two folks from the Netherlands, so their recipes are originally in Dutch but also posted in English.  They are primarily artisan bread bakers, but do a lot of other baked items as well. 

So we're off on our first Dutch pastry, and just like Brittany, oops, I did it again:  I made the frangipane for this recipe, but didn't measure out what was called for when assembling the rondos. (I'm so used to recipes giving exact amounts, not leaving you with extra.)  So, I don't know if my final rondos have too much or not enough.  I used about 2/3 of the quantity made, and thought I was putting in a generous dollop.  (I mean, my rondos ended up domed instead of flat.)  I really need to pay better attention.  I'm getting cocky.

I made one quarter the recipe called for, but otherwise stuck pretty much to the directions.  The only significant change was that I considerably reduced the quantity of sugar in the dough to less than half the amount called for.

Here's what I used (yield 2):

For frangipane filling:
13g butter
13g (1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
¼ egg (13-14g)
zest of 1/8 a lemon
17.5g finely ground almonds

For the pastry:
50g pastry flour (of which 1 teaspoon was corn starch)
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
37.5g cold salted butter, in cubes
25 g 9g (2 teaspoons) soft white or light brown granulated sugar 

For assemply:
35g to 50g frangipane
2 almonds
egg wash for brushing tops (beaten with some water or cream)
  
Slowly melt the butter over low heat and then let it cool. In a small bowl, beat together with a whisk the sugar, egg, and lemon zest until creamy. Slowly add the melted butter while continuing to beat. Add the almond flour and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the butter cubes and rub it into the flour. Add the sugar and quickly combine to form a smooth dough. Divide the dough into four equal balls and pat down to make a slight disc. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to firm slightly.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Roll out each of the dough discs to a small circle, about 1/8th inch thick, or to the approximate diameter of whatever baking ring or tin you're using.  (I used 2.75" and 3" round cookie cutters.)  Cut the dough to fit, two for each tin.  Place the rings (I lightly greased the inside of them) on parchment paper on a baking sheet, and fit one round of dough in the bottom of each.  Dab a generous blob of the frangipane on top of the dough rounds inside the rings (you will not likely use all of it), then carefully top with the second rounds. Softly press the tops and bottoms together, keeping the tops flat.  Brush each rondo with the egg wash. Place an almond in the middle of each rondo and press in lightly. Give the tops a second brush with the egg wash.  Bake the rondos for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and immediately remove the baking rings.  Leave to cool on the tray for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack. 


The original recipe contains an option for filling with almond paste.  These could also be made in a muffin tin or tart tins.  Here is a video that shows how that would work.

I found the original directions for these rather tedious and in that sense difficult to follow.  She goes so far as to tell us to remove the frangipane from the refrigerator before using.  I like to be able to skim a recipe and quickly and easily see what I need to do next without having to read through a lot of text like it's a novel.  These really aren't difficult at all, but they seemed so while making them.

One concern I had was that the frangipane might stick to the rings and the pastries would then be difficult to remove.  That's why I greased the rings, and also pressed the top dough down along the edges to try to prevent any leakage.  It probably wasn't necessary -- no one seemed to have a problem with that, though when making these in a muffin tin, one is directed to fully encase and seal in the filling.


Conclusion:  These were extremely tasty, like a good shortbread, and very rich (over 2 tablespoons of butter each.)  I expected them to be more cake-like, based on the original photos, and considerably less dense.  I would have liked a stronger almond flavor and less lemon.  It seems these often have almond extract added to the filling, which I would do in the future, and perhaps eliminate the zest (just for my own taste preference.)  Cardamom would also be a nice addition.

Original recipe:  Homemade Rondos via Weekend Bakery

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Prune and Chocolate Rugelach



I messed up.  I was in a hurry, doing 3 things at once, and I mixed the ingredients wrong.  Instead of measuring out the required portion of the fudge sauce, I dumped the whole lot in, which was about a cup.  I wondered why there was so much filling!  Obviously these would have been much tangier and less chocolaty had I done it properly.  You would have gotten more of the rich pastry relative to the filling, and I might have been able to squeeze in more chocolate nibs if I'd had less filling (though I'm not so sure that would have been a good idea.)

For starters, I'd say the original recipe was sloppy.  Who are these people on paid sites would are such poor recipe writers???  Anyway, I made only half the recipe, and I changed the shape.  Rugelach, in my experience, are not sliced logs -- they're rolled crescents.  So that's what I made.  The instructions also called to mix cold butter and cold cream cheese into a chunky mass.  I didn't see why I would want chunks of either in the dough.  All other recipes I looked at called for both to be soft so they would mixed together homogeneously, so that's what I did.  Another change I would make for a future version would be to macerate the fruit overnight in the booze, or just leave the booze out entirely and use water.  It wasn't noticeable.  (You certainly don't need Slivovitz.)  I've written the recipe here as it should be, not as I did it.

Here's what I used, with my changes in strikeout and italics (yield 2 dozen cookies):

For the fudge sauce (makes about 1 cup):
3 ounces (3/8 cup) water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the dough, prune jam, and assembly:
1 cup prunes
1/8 cup Slivovitz [Food 52's note: We substituted brandy]
1 stick butter, cut in chunks and kept cold room temperature 
4.5 ounces cream cheese, cut in chunks and kept cold room temperature
Generous pinch kosher fine salt
1 3/8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/6 cup water
1/6 cup fudge sauce (from above)
4 ounces cocoa nibs (or less) or chopped nuts
Melted, cooled butter, for coating cookies
Granulated sugar, for coating rolling cookies

The night before, place the prunes in a small bowl and pour over the Slivovitz, brandy, or whatever liquid you are using.  Mix to coat, cover, and leave to plump.  

In a small pot, bring water, sugar, and heavy cream to a boil. Reduce to simmer and whisk in cocoa powder. Simmer on low until sauce has a fudge consistency, which may take 10 to 20 minutes. (Mine got thick quickly and I had to add quite a bit of water to thin it out to a fudge sauce consistency.) 

For the dough, combine butter and cream cheese in stand mixer. In a separate bowl, sift salt and flour. Add to the butter and cream cheese mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Divide dough into two equal rounds, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour. Meanwhile, in a small pot, combine the macerated prunes and water. Bring to a boil, then cook on low heat for several minutes, stirring often, until prunes are soft. Place in food processor and blend until paste-like. Add the chocolate fudge sauce and combine. 

Preheat the oven to 350° F. On a sugared surface, roll out one chilled dough round into a 9-10" circle about 1/8-inch thick. Spread half of the chocolate-prune jam over it, then sprinkle with half the cocoa nibs (or your desired amount). Cut the circle into 12 equal wedges.  Roll up each wedge, starting from the wide end, making sure the sugar is coating the pastry.  Place on a greased sheet tray, tip down, about 2 inches apart. Repeat with the second dough round. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.  (Watch that the bottoms don't get too dark.)  Remove cookies from the baking sheet promptly and cool on a wire rack.




I rolled these out on granulated sugar so I didn't have to fuss with brushing them with melted butter and dipping in sugar after they were rolled.  It worked fine, but the sugar browned a lot on the bottom.  It could easily burn.  Using an insulated cookie sheet would prevent that problem.

On an aside, for some reason my chocolate nibs, bought specially for this recipe from a bulk supplier, tasted of banana, and this was detectable in the cookies.  It didn't "go" with the other flavors.  I love the texture of the nibs, but I'll reserve the remainder of this purchase for something more banana friendly.  Nuts would work fine here.

Conclusion:  These needed something. Or maybe less of something.  I'm not sure if less filling would make the difference needed, or if mixing it to the proper ratio would help, or if they just needed a little more salt.  As rugelach go, I've had better.  The filling was tasty, just seemed a little flat.  The prunes could be changed out with another tart fruit, such as apricots or tart cherries.  I think they would also benefit from some lemon zest.  But it's unfair to judge when I didn't make it right.

Recipe:  Prune and Chocolate Rugelach via Food 52.