Hanukkah Sweets

For my Hanukkah party this year, I chose two desserts a little bit out of my realm: rugelach and a cranberry almond caramel tart. Both were so unusual for me because I had never made any kind of rugelach or a real tart before. Some people rely only on “tried and true” for company; I rise to the challenge of trying something and getting it right the first time. (Oh, and if you didn’t figure it out already, both desserts have something else very important in common: I borrowed them from the Smitten Kitchen. Take a look – I promise you’ll become infatuated too!)

These rugelach don’t look much like the ones typically found on a Jewish table, but I picked them for a couple reasons. One, they just looked so lovely when I first came across them. And two, because of their size and shape, there seems to be a greater filling to dough ratio – resulting in a lighter cookie with more sweet filling. I cut the recipe in half since I had several other dessert planned and didn’t feel I needed a whole batch. I found the dough very easy to make and roll out – always a plus! I modified the filling and used raspberry jam, mini chocolate chips, and chopped walnuts. I think that next time I’d try to make my pinwheels a little bigger in diameter and cut them a bit thicker – just to keep more of the filling inside. But, they were all gobbled up and well-enjoyed by my family.

I’d been saving this tart recipe for a while, waiting for an occasion to make it. The filling of tart cranberries, sweet caramel, and crunch almonds just sounded too wonderful to pass up, and I was still waiting for a chance to use my tart pan. After reading the reviews of all kinds of tart doughs, I decided to go with this recipe from Martha Stewart. It’s got several points going for it: you don’t have to worry about keeping your butter cold; in fact, you want it soft. It’s easy to work with and you don’t need to worry about overmixing. And, it has a great taste and texture: buttery and sweet, sturdy enough to hold the filling without being tough. I also must admit I was a bit scared of the phenomenon of shrinking tart dough that seems to be a problem for so many bakers. So I was pretty proud of myself when, on my first try, I managed to overcome this, and ended up with a tart dough that remained above the height of the pan. Here’s my secret: After rolling the dough, laying into the part pan, and pressing around bottom edge of the pan, I went ahead and trimmed the overhang with my rolling pin. Then, I placed the trimmings all around the bottom edge of the tart, using them to thicken the edge and push up a bit on the sides, so that the sides of the tart dough actually stood above the rim of the pan. I froze the dough for about 30 minutes, and after my blind-bake, the tart managed to stay perfectly intact. Success!

As for the filling, well, that was a bit more difficult. I had never made caramel before, and found it quite the challenge to get the sugar melted and combined with the cream and butter. I ended up heating the cream and butter to prevent the sugar from seizing. I still ended up with some hard rocks of sugar, but I suppose that’s why the recipe calls for straining. If it hadn’t worked out, I was ready to run out to the supermarket for a jar of prepared caramel. Good thing it’s right around the corner!

I really enjoyed that this tart was pretty enough to double as dessert and decoration. My family really enjoyed eating it, too: the tart cranberries really made this a nice option alongside the other, much-sweeter desserts. I would definitely make this again to bring to a holiday party, it’s just so festive and delicious.

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2 Responses to “Hanukkah Sweets”

  1. 1

    VeggieGirl — December 12, 2007 @ 12:10 am Reply

    wow, this was your first time making rugelach and that cranberry-almond-caramel tart?? everything looks quite beautiful!! nice execution on these festive desserts!! and happy Hanukkah!! :0)

  2. 2

    Sarah Parks — December 12, 2007 @ 7:04 pm Reply

    Cara, your tart looks awesome!!!!! I love your blog by the way!–MrsParks23 from the Nest

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