I recently returned from 10 days presenting at the 26th annual Christmas in November at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge - an event unlike any other I do any other time of year. It's a gathering of old and new friends at a stunning lakeside setting for a weekend (or 4 day midweek package) of eating, drinking and merry-making along with cooking and decorating sessions, champagne tasting and trips to the spa. This year there were more Food Network chefs on hand than ever, with chefs Lynn Crawford, Michael and Anna Olson, Corbin Tomaszeski and Bob Blumer, along with John, Connie and Jessica of CharCut, two of the three Tres Carnales, Blair and Caitlin of Rge Rd and Top Chef Canada winner Dale MacKay.
As we sat in a sunny room overlooking Lac Beauvert, we made and decorated hundreds of gingerbread men, and nibbled on rugelach they had made during their morning session. A simple dough made with cream cheese and spread with jam and sprinkled with chocolate, almonds, sugar and cinnamon, then rolled and baked. A classic, and pretty enough that you don't have to decorate.
Best of all, you can make the rolls ahead of time and freeze them, or keep them in the fridge until party time - or when unexpected guests arrive, which seems to happen during the holidays - at which point you can slice and bake them. Because there's nothing more welcoming on a cold winter's day than arriving at a warm house, filled with the aroma of cookies baking.
Raspberry Rugelach Pinwheels
from Elizabeth Baird and Emily Richards
1 pkg. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup raspberry jam
Preheat the oven to 350F and line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until blended. Beat in the sugar, salt and almond extract. Stir in the flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Shape into four 3-inch squares; wrap and chill until firm.
Working with one square at a time, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into an 8×10-inch rectangle.
In a bowl, stir together the chocolate, almonds, sugar and cinnamon. Spread 3 Tbsp. of the jam over the rectangle, leaving a half inch border along one long edge.
Sprinkle a quarter of the chocolate mixture over the jam. Starting at a long edge opposite the un-jammed border, roll up firmly. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Chill rolls until firm, about 2 hours. (Logs can be wrapped at this point and frozen for up to 6 months.)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut into 1/2 inch slices and arrange 1 inch apart on the prepared sheets. Bake until light golden on the bottom and the filling bubbles, about 18 minutes.
Let the cookies firm up for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool.
Makes about 75 rugelach.