Rugelach With Membrillo, Almonds & Blue Cheese

November 15, 2022
0 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 2 hours
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • makes 24 pieces
Author Notes

Planning a holiday get together? Good news: a welcome respite from your go-to cheeses and boxed crackers is within reach. Rugelach are hand-held treats perfectly suited to cocktails and conversation. Add quince paste, Marcona almonds, tangy blue cheese, and pears to the mix, and the party has already started.

If quince paste, also known as membrillo, isn’t a regular guest at your wine and cheese spread, it should be. The deeply flavored Spanish sweet (similar in texture to the French pâte de fruit), is a natural with cheese, typically Manchego, a mild/nutty sheep’s milk cheese. But a visit to Global Cheese in Toronto’s Kensington Market broadened my membrillo pairing-induced tunnel vision. Accepting a sliver of blue cheese atop a cube of quince paste from a cheesemonger in a crisp white jacket, I wondered aloud, “not Manchego?” The creamy saltiness of the blue cheese paired with the sweet quince was a game changer. All that was missing was a glass of wine.

Hand rolling rugelach is truly a labor of love, but the whole wheat pastry can be prepared up to two days in advance, or wrapped and frozen up to four weeks ahead of your event. Poaching the pears is less fiddly than rumored, yielding blush red fruit and a flavorful reduction. Bosc pears are well suited to the task; firm enough to hold their shape without turning into mushy sauce. Though you might be tempted to overfill the rugelach, less is more in keeping the crescents snug.

Another rule to follow with rugelach is chilling. The filled rugelach must rest in the fridge for a minimum of an hour before baking; it’s non-negotiable. And after all of your efforts, protect the rugelach bottoms from getting too dark by double panning your baking sheets and rotating them halfway through the bake time. Enjoy the reserved pears on their own or embellish a fruit platter with thick slices of the rosy fruit. Then pour yourself a glass of your favorite red, reach for a rugelach, and ready yourself for some flavorful conversation.
Ellen Gray

What You'll Need
  • Dough
  • 1 cup (111g) whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup (128g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • Poached Pears
  • 3 firm Bosc pears (approx. 16-18 ounces), peeled, halved, and cored; with the stems intact
  • 1/2 lemon, plus six strips of fresh lemon peel
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 whole star anise
  • Filling
  • 5 ounces membrillo
  • 2 1/2 ounces bleu cheese, preferably Saint Agur or French Roquefort
  • 2 tablespoons (.2 oz) freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup salted Marcona almonds, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup poached pear, diced into ½” pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  1. Make the dough. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together both flours, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix on medium-low the butter and cream cheese until smooth and thoroughly blended, about 3 minutes. Add the dry ingredients in thirds, scraping down the sides and the bottom of the bowl and taking care not to overwork the dough. Transfer the dough onto a sheet of parchment paper, divide it in half and shape each half into a 4 ½-inch disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  2. Poach the pears. Select a pot that holds the pears without too much wiggle room. Cut a circle of parchment that will extend about 1-inch over the sides of the pot and cut a small vent hole in the center. Rub the pears with cut side of lemon half. Combine the lemon peels, wine, water, honey, peppercorns and anise in the pot; bring to a simmer on medium heat. Add the pear halves (the poaching liquid cover the pear halves by 1/4 - 1/2"). Place the parchment circle over the pears; press it down inside the pot so it rests directly on top of the poaching liquid. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, turning them occasionally, and checking for doneness after 10 minutes with a small paring knife. (The pears should still be slightly firm but can be easily pierced without resistance.) Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the poaching liquid and set aside to cool.
  3. Strain the poaching liquid. Return the liquid (about 1 ¼ cups) to the pot, cook over medium-high heat until the liquid is reduced by half and is syrupy, about 12 minutes. Remove poaching liquid from the heat and cool to room temperature.To prevent the pears from becoming too soft, refrigerate the pears and the poaching syrup separately.
  4. Assemble the rugelach. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside. Remove one disc of dough from the fridge and let it warm up a bit before rolling, about 10 minutes. Place the membrillo in a small, heavy bottomed pan with 4 tablespoons of the reserved poaching liquid and stir over very low heat, until spreadable, about 9 minutes. (Don’t walk away––it scorches easily). Remove from heat and let the membrillo cool.
  5. On a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, roll out one disc of dough into a circle about 12” in diameter. Using an offset spatula, spread half the membrillo over the dough, leaving a ½- inch border around the edge, reheating the membrillo if necessary for the second disc, adding more poaching liquid if necessary. In a bowl, combine the blue cheese, parmesan, salt, and almonds. Using a sharp knife, divide each circle in twelve even triangles. Place ½ teaspoon of the filling over the membrillo, pressing down lightly with the back of a spoon, then top with 2 pieces of diced poached pear. Starting with the edge closest to you, tightly roll each wedge, working toward the point of the triangle. Shape each into a crescent and pinch the outer edges (to keep the filling in place). Place them on the prepared baking sheet and refrigerate, covered loosely with plastic wrap, for at least one hour before baking.
  6. Bake the rugelach. Heat the oven to 375ºF. In a small bowl, crack the egg for the egg wash and beat with a fork until no streaks of unincorporated yolk remain. Lightly brush the tops of the rugelach with the egg wash. Place the baking sheet on top of a second baking sheet (the insulation protects the bottoms of the rugelach from getting too dark). Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 22-28 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container, layered between strips of parchment paper for up to two days. Beyond that, refrigerate or freeze.

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