Traditional rugelach are cut into wedges then rolled up like croissants, but here, to make the shaping less tedious, the dough is rolled in one giant log. Slices are then cut to reveal the inky, spiraled filling inside. The blonde ale in the filling both mimics the brightness in the blueberry jam and also plays up the pleasant bitterness in the poppy seeds. Ground poppy seeds, sold in specialty stores or online, make for a more smooth filling and texture here, but if you can’t find them, you can simply grind whole poppy seeds in a spice grinder for 10 seconds. If even that is a deterrent to making these cookies, simply use whole poppy seeds and the filling will still be fine.
For the dough:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the filling:
1 1/2 cups blonde ale (one 12-ounce bottle)
1/2 cup blueberry preserves or jam
1/3 cup ground poppy seeds (1 ounce)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Blue pearl sugar and silver dragées (or blue sanding sugar), to garnish
1. Make the dough: In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, butter, and sugar and beat on medium speed of a mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the sour cream and egg and beat until smooth. Add the flour and salt, and beat on low speed until just combined. Scrape the dough onto work surface and form into a ball. Flatten the ball into a 1/2-inch-thick, 7-by-9-inch rectangle and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.
2. Pour the beer into a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat (see *Note). Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the beer cool.
Note: Beer foams up wildly when it first starts to boil. Avoid stirring the beer until the foam subsides on its own, after about 4 minutes, or else you run the risk of the foam bubbling over the side of the pot. You can either skim off the foam from the bubbling beer or not; it doesn’t make a difference in the final taste of the beer in the cookie.
3. In a small saucepan, stir together 3 tablespoons of the reduced beer with the blueberry jam, poppy seeds, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until evenly combined. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring often, until thickened and glossy, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the filling from the heat and let cool completely.
4. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon reduced beer with the egg and a pinch of salt and mix with a fork until smooth; set the egg wash aside.
5. Unwrap the dough and transfer to a lightly-floured work surface. Using a floured rolling pin, flatten the dough into a 1/8-inch-thick, 18-by-12-inch rectangle*. Orient the rectangle so the long sides are running parallel to your body. Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise, so you have two 18-by-6-inch rectangles. Divide the filling between the dough rectangles and use an offset spatula or small rubber spatula to spread it evenly over each rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border along the long side at the top of each rectangle.
*Note: This dough can get soft and sticky if it heats up too much. If it starts getting tacky as you’re rolling it out, transfer it to a sheet of parchment and refrigerate it until it’s firm again, 20 to 30 minutes.
6. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush each border with some of the egg wash. Starting with the opposite side from the egg wash, roll up the rectangle closest to you into a tight log, letting it come to a rest on the egg washed seam. Repeat with the second rectangle. Slide a sheet of parchment paper under the dough logs then use it to lift them onto a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator and chill the logs until firm, at least 1 hour.
7. Heat the oven to 350°F. Transfer 1 log to a cutting board and use a sharp knife to trim the ends then cut the log crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices; you should get at least 20 slices, minus the trimmed ends. Arrange the slices, cut side down, on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, spacing them at least 1 inch apart. Lightly brush the spirals with some of the egg wash then sprinkle liberally with the pearl sugar.
8. Bake, rotating the baking sheet front to back halfway through cooking, until well browned and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven then use a metal spatula to transfer the rugelach to a rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough log to make more rugelach.
Makes about 36 cookies
Also, obviously, beer is bitter and cookies are sweet. To help counteract any imbalance of flavors in these cookies that can happen by adding such a highly concentrated dose of bitterness, I use finishing/decorating sugars for all these cookies. They not only make the final cookies look better, but add another layer of raw sugar sweetness that works with these pleasantly bitter cookies. Look for them at baking supply stores in your area or Amazon.com.
Photo by Liz Clayman.