Spotted: Giant Rugelach

A version of this was originally published in my blog for the Flavors of Rochester website on April 30, 2012.
The Rugelach at Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters
At the Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters in Pittsford Plaza, I spotted a promising croissant-like baked good on display in a large glass jar. When I looked closer, I could tell they weren’t croissants. Hmmm…

“Are those rugelach?” I asked the girl behind the corner. (There was not a sign on the jar.)

Yes, she replied.

“Wow, I don’t see those very often. Do you sell a lot of them?”

“Not as many as we should,” she said, “considering how they are filled with so much nutty, cinnamony goodness. I don’t think people know what they are.”

So please allow me to spread the word. Rugelach are Yiddish crescent-shaped cream cheese pastries, rolled up with a variety of yummy fillings. They are traditionally served as little thumb-sized cookies, so these bigger-than-a-hand pastries are like rugelach on steroids.

I’ve found them at two coffee shops thus far. My favorite is the one at the Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters mentioned above. Their pastry is rolled super thin, making it especially tender, and filled with a cinnamon and nut filling.

The Rugelach at Java's Cafe
I’ve also enjoyed the large rugelach at Java’s Cafe on Gibbs Street. Their pastry is thicker and filled with nuts, chocolate chips and apricot. (If you go there on a cold day, be sure to order some of their delicious hot chocolate, too.)

The one issue with ordering rugelach is pronouncing it. For awhile I was saying it like “arugula” without the first “a.” Then I looked it up and discovered it should be a short u, like rug-ah-lah. I think the authentic pronunciation may also have a back-of-the throat h-ish sound at the end but I always feel weird trying it, so I leave it out.

But don’t let my lack of a definitive pronunciation stop you from trying them. After all, Americans have been butchering “croissant” and “gyro” for years.

I've baked a few batches of rugelach to try to duplicate the Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters version and haven't nailed it, although the results were delicious. I'll publish a definitive recipe once I've worked it out.

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