ham and cheese pastries
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These little pastries are enormously moreish, originally meant for breakfast or brunch but I see them disappear from the tray at all times of day.
But I have some excuses to make. The pastry is Rugelach – a Jewish pastry of Ashkenazy origin, made from just three ingredients and traditionally filled with spices, marzipan, raisins, nuts, jam or preserves, chocolate or poppy seed filling. Absolutely adorable dough – fiendishly easy to make, keeps in the fridge for a few days if you can’t get round to filling it immediately, can be frozen, and tastes like a cross between puff and shortcrust.
I fell in love with it at first rolling out and did initially fill it comme-il-faut, with sweet stuff. But since it’s not itself sweetened, I decided to hijack it for savoury bites. It will be most often cheese biscuits, beloved in my house – pastry rolled out and covered with grated cheese and then rolled into little twisty cigars, hotchpotch manner as it’s not important to hold the cheese in but the opposite – house it only for as long as hot oven will allow and then give up and let rip, lace of cheese around the biscuits scorching beautifully.
And now I’ve made a step further – in the wrong direction, as many will say – and filled the pastry with ham and cheese. Typical shiksa. I do hope to be forgiven. It’s all because the dough is so gorgeous and versatile.
- For the pastry:
- 225g softened butter
- 225g cream cheese
- 400g plain flour
- ½ tsp salt
- For the filling:
- cooked ham slices, cut into bite sized pieces
- Gruyere cheese, sliced and cut into similar pieces
- a few olives, halved
- a few sundried tomatoes in oil, drained
- For the topping:
- 1 egg
- chopped almond flakes
- chopped pistachios
- poppy seeds
- sesame seeds
- grated parmesan
For the pastry, mix all the ingredients in a food processor or by hand until a smooth dough ball forms. Wrap in cling film and chill for half an hour.
Make sure you have all the filling and topping ingredients at hand. Beat the egg with a tablespoon of water for the egg wash.
Take the dough out of the fridge and roll out quite thin – it’s easier to divide it into three or four pieces and roll them out one by one. Aim to have a rectangle about 18cm high and 40cm wide. Cut it into triangles using a knife or a pastry cutter – I marked the rectangle every 10cm at the bottom and every 5cm at the top, then ran the cutter from top to bottom in a zigzag fashion, like in the picture.
Martha Stewart’s croissant cutting video was very educational.
Place pieces of ham, cheese and olives or tomatoes at the bottom of each triangle and roll up tightly to form a crescent. Place the pastries on a baking sheet lined with parchment, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with toppings. If the pastry got quite warm and soft while working with it, chill the tray in the fridge for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Bake the pastries for 15 minutes until golden – some cheese will unavoidably leak out.