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Home Plate: Tips for some classic ‘Thanksgivukkah’ desserts

  • Rugelach.<br/><br/>(Hillary Nelson/ For the Monitor)


    (Hillary Nelson/ For the Monitor)

  • Tipsy apple pie.<br/><br/>(Hillary Nelson/ For the Monitor)

    Tipsy apple pie.

    (Hillary Nelson/ For the Monitor)

  • Healthier candy.<br/><br/>(Hillary Nelson/ For the Monitor)

    Healthier candy.

    (Hillary Nelson/ For the Monitor)

  • Rugelach.<br/><br/>(Hillary Nelson/ For the Monitor)
  • Tipsy apple pie.<br/><br/>(Hillary Nelson/ For the Monitor)
  • Healthier candy.<br/><br/>(Hillary Nelson/ For the Monitor)

This year, Thanksgiving and the second night of Hanukkah fall on the same date, a festive coincidence that won’t happen again for another 70,000 years. All over America, cooks will be riffing on what has been dubbed Thansgivukkah, combining traditional Thanksgiving dishes with Hanukkah fare

Thanksgiving, of course, means pies. And it just so happens that my favorite recipe for left-over pie dough is the traditional Jewish pastry, rugelach, which translates from Yiddish as something like “little twist” or “little horn.”

These buttery nuggets, stuffed with jam, walnuts and currants, encrusted with cinnamon-sugar, are addictive. This year, I’ll be making extra pie dough (rather than relying on scraps) and bake a big batch of rugelach to serve alongside the pies. Below you’ll find two dough recipes, one gluten-free, the other made with wheat flour; either can be used to make rugelach.

When the gluten in wheat flour meets water, it gets stretchy, which can result in a tough dough. Replacing half the ice water with an 80-proof alcohol, such as vodka, (a trick I learned from Cook’s Illustrated) helps a lot – the alcohol doesn’t activate the gluten, but provides needed moisture. If your dietary restrictions preclude the use of alcohol in your home, simply use all water and handle the dough a little more carefully.

Another trick to a great pie is pre-baking the bottom crust and pre-cooking the filling. Yes, it takes some extra time, but the results are worth it for a special occasion. And as long as you’re taking a little extra time, why not gussy up an ordinary apple pie with currants soaked in rum and pecan praline? Again, it’s fine to skip the rum, if you don’t use alcohol – plump the currants with a little water instead.

Gluten-Free Pie Dough

21/2 cups gluten free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

2 sticks very cold unsalted butter (1 cup), cut into chunks

about 1/2 cup ice water

Put the flour, xanthan gum, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to combine. Add the chunks of butter and pulse again several times, until the largest chunks of butter are about pea-sized. Pour the mixture into a bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of cold water and toss gently with your fingers to combine. If the dough still seems too dry to come together in a ball, add a little more water. Press the dough together into 2 even balls without kneading (which will melt the butter), press them flat, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

Makes enough for for a 2-crust pie or about 4 dozen rugelach.

Spirited Pie Dough

21/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, very cold

about 1/4 cup ice water

about 1/4 cup iced vodka or other 80-proof alcohol (omit and use 1/2 cup ice water in total if you don’t want to use vodka)

Combine the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times. Add the chunks of butter and pulse several times, until the largest pieces of butter are about the size of peas. Pour the mixture into a large bowl.

Sprinkle about 2/3 of the ice water and iced vodka over the mixture and toss it lightly with the tips of your fingers (if you have warm hands, use two spoons). Add only as much more of the liquids as required to get the mixture to hold together in a ball when pressed – do not knead.

When the dough has come together, divide it into two equal balls, pat into disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling.

This dough is very “short,” which means it is not stretchy and breaks easily. Use plenty of gluten-free flour when rolling it out. To place it in the pie plate, roll it up on a rolling pin, then unroll it over the pie plate. If it breaks in places, just pinch it back together. When trimming the edges, save the extra dough for patching.

When blind baking, this shell may crack here and there. Smear a little raw dough over the cracks of the still warm shell to fill the cracks – no need to return to the oven as they will bake when the pie is filled and returned to the oven.

Makes enough for a 2-crust pie or about 4 dozen rugelach.

Spirited Apple Pie

1 recipe Gluten-free or Spirited Pie Dough

10 to 12 apples, about 5 pounds, mixed varieties, some sweet, some tart

juice of 1 lemon

up to 1 cup sugar, depending on how tart the apples are, divided (reserve 3 tablespoons for the walnuts)

4 tablespoons butter, divided (reserve 1 tablespoon for the pecans)

1/2 vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract

1/2 cup currants or golden raisins

1/4 cup dark rum (N.H.-made Sea Hagg rum, if you can get it), optional

1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Roll out one half of the dough and line a 9-inch glass pie plate with it, trimming the extra so the edge of the dough is even with the edge of the plate. Prick the bottom of the shell with a fork in several places, then place in the freezer to set.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the hardened pie shell with tinfoil or parchment paper, then fill it with dry rice or beans or other pie weights. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, turning once so it cooks evenly, until it is golden brown. Remove the pie weights and foil or paper for the last 5 minutes, so the bottom of the crust dries and browns, too. Set aside to cool completely.

Meanwhile, place the currants and rum in a microwaveable bowl and heat for about 30 seconds or so, until the liquor is very warm (if not using rum, plump the currants in a little water). Stir and set aside to macerate.

Put about 1/2 cup of sugar and the lemon juice in a large bowl. Peel and core the apples, then cut them into about 1/4-inch slices, tossing them with the sugar and lemon juice as you work to keep them from turning brown. When all the apples have been tossed with the sugar, taste a few slices. If they are too tart, add more sugar until they taste right.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy pot, don’t let it burn. If using the vanilla bean, split it and scrape the seeds into the butter, then add the pod. If using paste or extract, add with the apples. Stir in the apples and toss to coat with the butter. Put a lid on the pot and let the apples cook gently, until they begin to soften. Remove the lid and let most of the liquid evaporate. Stir to keep from scorching, but try not to break up the apples too much. Set aside to cool

While the apples are cooling, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a skillet. Add the pecans and sugar and stir. Cook over medium heat, being careful not to let the mixture burn, until the sugar coats the nuts and they are toasted. Pour the nuts onto a lightly buttered plate to cool.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (350 degrees if using a convection oven). Roll out the remaining dough into a circle about 11 inches across.

Sprinkle the bottom of the cooked shell with the pecans. Pour the apples over the pecans. Sprinkle the apples with the currants and any liquid remaining with them.

Roll the uncooked dough up on your rolling pin then unroll over the apples. Trim the edge of the uncooked dough and press down lightly so it sticks to the cooked shell. Sprinkle the top of the pie with a little sugar, and cut a few steam vents in it. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top crust is golden brown. Allow to cool before cutting.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.


1 recipe either gluten-free or spirited pie dough

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 cup seedless raspberry jam (you may substitute another flavor, such as apricot)

3/4 cup currants

1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 half-sheet trays with parchment paper.

Sprinkle a clean counter with about 1/4 of the cinnamon sugar. Shape one disk of the dough into a rectangle, sprinkle the top with more of the sugar and begin rolling it into a rectangular shape, about 9 inches by 12 inches. Sprinkle more sugar as needed to keep the dough from sticking.

When the dough has been shaped into a rectangle, Spread it with half the jam, then sprinkle it evenly with half the currants and half the walnuts.

Cut the dough in half the long way, into two rectangles about 41/2 inches by 12 inches. Roll the rectangles into 12-inch long logs, then cut each log into 12 even pieces. Place the rugelach on one of the prepared sheet trays and place in the top half of the oven. While the first batch is baking, repeat the above steps with the second disk of dough.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, turning once to make sure the rugelach cook evenly. Be careful not to let them burn as the jam leaks out of the dough. If your oven runs hot, you may want to lower the oven temperature or place the tray on a second tray. The rugelach are done when light brown on top and golden on the bottom and when cut open show no raw dough in the center. Allow to cool a bit before removing to cooling rack to cool completely. Makes 4 dozen.

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