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blog tour: anita chu’s field guide to cookies

Recipe: rugelach

As a scientist and as a lover of the outdoors, I own a lot of field guides because I always want to know what rocks, flowers, trees, bugs, birds, weather phenomena, and critters we encounter.


just a small sampler of my guides



Recently I added another field guide to my collection, but this one won’t help me too much in the backcountry. It’s not quite like the others…

well, hello there



Several weeks ago, my friend, fellow foodblogger, and *amazingly* talented baker, Anita Chu of Dessert First, asked if I would be interested in hosting her new book on a blog tour. Oh, absolutely! When the book arrived in the mail, it was smaller than I had expected. Upon flipping through the photographs, recipes, and the adorable icon key a lightbulb went off in my head, “it’s a field guide!” I get it now.

I am delighted to be the first stop on Anita’s blog tour. The line up is an incredible group of bakers – bloggers I admire and am humbled to be in the company of. Here is the star-studded line up:

    November 11thuse real butter
    November 12thBaking and Books
    November 13thMs. Adventures in Italy
    November 14thCream Puffs in Venice
    November 17thTartelette
    November 18thVeronica’s Test Kitchen
    November 19thCannelle et Vanille
    November 20thLa Tartine Gourmande
    November 21stCulinary Concoctions by Peabody

So let’s kick off the party by introducing our brilliant and lovely guest, Anita Chu, author of the very soon to be released Field Guide to Cookies.


anita! (nice shoes, hon)



Anita was gracious enough to take some time from her busy schedule to answer some questions for the first stop on her blog tour:

urb: I remember I started baking around age 9. There was no baking tradition in my family, so I did things like use a liquid measure cup for measuring flour and sugar = disaster. It wasn’t until college when I really began to explore my interest in baking. I’m curious to know if you can identify when your interest in baking began and perhaps describe how it came about?

anita: I didn’t have a baking tradition in my family either! I remember when I was little my mother had a Betty Crocker cookbook, and I would go through it staring at all the photos and wondering what all the dishes tasted like. I was the most fascinated by the desserts chapter, and I’d read all the cake recipes obsessively, trying to decide which one was my favorite. But oddly, although I did try to make a cake or two, I didn’t actually bake that much during that time – I was just content to fantasize. I think the interest never really went away though, and when I got to college and had my own apartment with kitchen, that was when I really started experimenting. So I’m a little bit of a late bloomer. I think that Betty Crocker cookbook is still at my family home – I should go back and try to make something from there again!

urb: Admittedly, I had a lot of trouble deciding on one recipe to blog from your book because I literally had a list of two dozen that I wanted to bake right away. Which cookie in the book is your favorite to make?

anita: Wow, I’m glad you found so many to interest you! :) Hmm, I think my cookie tastes vary from day to day, but I really do enjoy the linzer cookies – they’re so pretty, and I love using different fillings for the cookies. I also have a weakness for palmiers. I have to admit I get lazy sometimes and make them with blitz puff/rough puff, but it’s amazing to me that you can throw that dough together so fast and it can bake into something so delicious. (Sorry I know that’s two! :) )

urb: Sometimes the baking process is more rewarding for a baker than the consumption. Sometimes it is the other way around. Which cookie in the book is your favorite to eat?

anita: Great distinction! I was wondering if I should move palmiers here, but no, I think because I actually really like making them, they belong with the previous question :) Well, I’ll never turn down a good chocolate chip cookie, but shortbread has to one of my absolute favorites. Good shortbread, made with the best butter I can find, not overly sweet, with that perfect tenderness that just sort of disintegrates in the mouth, is on my list of top 10 food experiences.

urb: There are days when I barely have the time and energy to blog. You blog AND you wrote a book! How long did you spend on researching and developing the field guide to cookies and did you enjoy the process?

anita: Ha! Why do I feel the same way about you! I’m always amazed how you manage to post so often and every one is beautifully, wittily written and all the photos are works of art. Sometimes I feel like just aiming my camera at the food and thinking, screw it, if it looks like crap I don’t care anymore! Anyway, to answer your question, I was really quite fortunate with the Field Guide to Cookies. Quirk Books actually approached me and asked if I would be interested to doing a book on cookies, and I said yes! So the topic was already defined for me, which made it easier to organize my research. I had a lot of leeway in choosing which cookies to include, so one of the the hardest parts was deciding which to include and which to cut!

I really enjoyed doing the research. Because of the field guide nature of the book, I had to do a lot more research into cookies and their history than with most other cookbooks. It was difficult to split the time between going to the library, writing the entries, and also testing out recipes! I enlisted some very able recipe testers to help me out, since I unfortunately didn’t have enough time to test everything myself multiple times. I really would have loved several more months to refine the book even more, but you know that’s how the publishing industry works! Doing the book was one of the hardest challenges of my life, but also one of the most rewarding. I know it sounds cheesy but it’s true. Being published was a dream I’ve had since I was little and I guess like baking, it was something I originally just shelved as a faraway fantasy. To have it become a reality is so amazing, and gratifying.

urb: Okay, here is my cheeky question: does your hunky partner help in the baking? ;)

anita: Haha, I think you may be his favorite blogger, with all the ego-boosting he gets from you :) Mike is a very able prep cook – he’ll do things like chop up nuts or juice fruit while I’m doing More Important Things like checking the oven temperature :) He’s been a lifesaver more than once when I discover there aren’t enough eggs or I forgot to buy cream and he’ll make an emergency run to the store for me. He also always eats all the desserts I make, which, you might know, is pretty awesome since most guys don’t have very big sweet tooths. He especially likes it when I do desserts with fruit because he loves berries!

And most of all, he’s been incredibly supportive of my baking and the role it’s taken in my (and his) life. When I decided to leave engineering to pursue pastry, when I filled the kitchen with mixers and pans and all my baking tools, when I had to stay up late at night and work weekends to finish writing the book, he was always there to cheer me on. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have him around :)

urb: On your blog, you occasionally marry Asian flavors with western pastries, which I think is brilliant. While I grew up with and enjoy Chinese-style desserts, I find I swoon over desserts from several other cultures far more often. Do you have a favorite cultural influence in your baking and why?

anita: Thanks! I’d have to say that traditional French pastries influence me the most, because that was what I learned in pastry school and I think all those classic French techniques form the basis for so many beautiful desserts. I love opera cake, fruit and pastry tarts, macarons, all those French desserts. But as you mentioned, I am really fascinated with introducing new ingredients into classic recipes. I think this cross-pollination is much more common in Asia, where local flavors like mango, green tea, and red bean are used in Western-style cakes, puddings, and other sweets. I’m always really inspired after I go to Asia by how well they’ve adapted pastry to appeal to the local tastes, yet retain the qualities of the original recipe. That’s what I try to do on my blog – continue experimenting with different flavors and techniques on classic recipes to keep things interesting and new, so you might look at a familiar dessert in an entirely new way.

urb: Thank you so much, Anita. I wish you and your book every success!


*****

Like I said in the interview, I had far too many cookie recipes that I wanted to try. Eventually I did limit myself to one recipe for this post. You can just imagine the smirk on my face when I saw the Tuesdays with Dorie group had done rugelach recently. No matter… it was a learning experience for me and a treat for all of the recipients on my cookie distribution list.

a cream cheese dough

flattened for chilling



I started with a double batch of the recipe as my intention was to try several different fillings. The traditional filling of raisins, pecans, cinnamon, and sugar sounded great except Jeremy has that fear of raisins thing going on. So I omitted the raisins.

filling #1

sprinkled across the dough



The other fillings included chocolate (chocolate + sugar), apricot jam, and raspberry jam. I made all of them in the cut format, that is, I rolled the fillings and dough into a log and cut slices to bake.

rolling it up

set on their sides for baking



It’s a messy process because it seems as if more filling spills out than stays in. That might have something to do with my omission of raisins which probably helps the filling stick together. Oh, and Anita’s recipe rightly suggests setting the rugelach on parchment paper for baking, which I lazily didn’t do. There is a reason for her suggestion as I discovered caramelized jam had oozed all over my baking sheet. Yay for me.

but aren’t they lovely? (raspberry, apricot, cinnamon-pecan, chocolate)



On my second go around, I realized that the second set of instructions in the book were intended for the jam-filled rugelach. These were rolled into crescents. Hey, sometimes I’m slow on the uptake…

roll the dough into a circle and sprinkle with filling (this time, chocolate)

slice like a pie and roll



While the crescent shapes hold more filling than the sliced shapes, expect the jam to ooze and bubble all over the place. It’s important to remove them to the cooling rack immediately lest the caramelized jam foot becomes a permanent appendage to your rugelach, which isn’t so sightly. The final results were not only adorable, but tender, delicious, and not too sweet. I can’t wait to try the other recipes in the book. I am so happy to add it to my cookbook collection. You should consider adding it to yours!

brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with sugar

these held up nicely



Rugelach (rolled and crescent)
[print recipe]
from Field Guide to Cookies by Anita Chu

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup dark or golden raisins (I omitted)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 egg, for egg wash

[chocolate filling: 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate (ground in food processor) plus 4 tbsps sugar]

Rolled: Beat butter and cream cheese together for several minutes until smooth and fluffy. Add flour, sugar, salt, and mix on low speed until incorporated. Turn dough out onto a clean surface and divide into two portions. Flatten each one out to about 1 inch thick, wrap in plastic, and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. In a bowl, combine pecans, raisins, cinnamon, and sugar. Remove one of the portions of dough from refrigerator and roll out on floured surface to a rough rectangle about 7×14 inches. Cover the dough with the filling, leaving about 1 inch clear on one long side. Roll the rectangle of dough up like a jelly roll, ending with the side that is clear of filling. Press the seam together to seal the roll. Place the roll of dough in refrigerator, covered in plastic wrap, to chill for about 15 minutes before baking. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350°F. Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Beat the egg with 1 tsp of water to make an egg wash. Brush lifhtly over the top of th roll and sprinkle with sugar. Using a sharp knife, slice the log into 1 inch thick slices and place cut side up on cookie sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake for 16-18 minutes (20 at 8500 feet elevation), rotating cookie sheets halfway through. The cookies should puff up and turn golden brown. Cool cookie sheets on wire racks before transferring cookies with a metal spatula to wire racks to continue cooling. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Crescent: Replace the filling with apricot or other jam. Instead of rolling the dough out to a rectangle, roll each disc of dough into a circle about 10 inches in diameter. Cover with the filling. Use a pizza cutter or knife to cut the dough into 16 wedges. Roll each slice up from the bottom and curve the tips slightly to form a crescent. Place crescents on cookie sheets lined with parchment or silicone mats, brush with a little egg wash, and sprinkle with sugar before baking as indicated for the rolled versions. Remove from baking sheets quickly to cool the cookies when done baking.

45 nibbles at “blog tour: anita chu’s field guide to cookies”

  1. Rosa says:

    That’s ever so great! Thanks for the interesting interview…

    Those Rugelach cookies look very tempting!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. peabody says:

    Well done! Though you never know, it may help you in the wilderness…you might meet up with a rabid chocolate chip cookie. ;)

  3. Kitt says:

    Those cookies look (and are) delicious! What a fun interview. I’d go crazy trying to narrow down cookie choices to put in a field guide. I’ll have pick up a copy just to see how it’s organized.

  4. joanne at frutto della passione says:

    What a great idea. I can’t wait to see what the other bloggers choose and I would love to get a copy of the book – can I get it through Amazon?

  5. Maja says:

    On raisins: i hate them, waaay to sweet and chewy and bleah … unless they’re soaked in rum overnight and then used in pastry, then i adore them! So maybe you should try to sell them to Jeremy this way. I’m curious if he’d like it. I loved the Field Guide to Cookies interview, btw :). I totally identified with reading dessert recipes obsessively when a kid in a non-baking family, only i started baking with success when i was 9, becasue, you see, we have this wonderful thing in my country called the metric system … :P How many people hate me now for this comment? :) Enjoy your day!!

  6. Line Cook says:

    I Liked the Rugelach recipe, it looks so delicious. I hope the book has got very good recipies.

    Thank for introducing this book.

    Alice

  7. Aran says:

    great interview jen and the rugelach looks scrumptious!

  8. Patricia Scarpin says:

    These look so good! Love the filling choices, Jen. And Anita is such a dear. Can’t wait to buy her book!

  9. Jenny says:

    I got the book a couple weeks ago – when I got it – I was disappointed by the size – at first it appeared to be hard to read and hard to flatten down – but then I read it – and loved it – so while I understand the “field guide” concept – I would have preferred a bigger format – but the contents make up for it! Apparently, to me, size doesn’t matter with regard to this book!

  10. Mollie says:

    What a great idea for a cookbook! Love it. And the rugelach look so tasty… I love me a cream cheese dough!

  11. Bridget says:

    My mom still measures dry ingredients in a liquid measuring cup – it drives me up the wall!

    Your rugelach are lovely. I’ve never cut them in slices because I was concerned that the knife would get caught on a big chunk of nut or chocolate and the whole log would get squished.

  12. Amy says:

    Great interview, Jen – I was so excited when I heard that Anita was writing this book, and I love the fact that it’s titled as a field guide. We have our share of field guides on our bookshelves, too. :)

    Can’t wait to pick up this book and add it to the collection (the rugelach look so tasty and adorable!)

  13. Caitlin says:

    Those crescent rugelach have to be the most adorable things I’m going to see all day. I cheated with TWD and went pinwheel style :) Thanks for the glowing review of Anita’s book – I think I need to pick it up asap.

  14. Our Food Recipes says:

    Hi..you have a great and informative blog. Just added and faved you. Hope you can join Our Food Recipes. Thank you.

  15. Margie says:

    I loved the article; it allows us an upfront look at the author and helps us connect through our mutual love of baking. I look forward to reading all the bloggers efforts on this challenge. The book is on my wish list too. I can NEVER have to many cookie books. :)

    Thanks, Jen! As ever, I LOVE your efforts.

  16. Jamie in Las Vegas says:

    Jen,

    What a fantastic blog entry. As I was reading this, it dawned on me that my favorite posts of yours combine talking about food and introducing great people into the mix, such as Anita, or your family. You bring such an interesting perspective to everything. Great work, Jen.

    On a related note…. am I NOT supposed to use the same measuring cup for dry and liquid ingredients? D’oh! Who knew!?!

    Jamie in Vegas

  17. Holly says:

    As you said, we recently did the rugelach for TWD, but I had never had them. I really loved them and can’t wait to make them again. I will definitely try this version next though because Dorie used a food processor and mine was too tiny to handle it. I think this method would work a whole lot better for me. Thanks for sharing it! I can’t wait to get Anita’s book and follow the rest of the tour.

  18. Anita says:

    Jen,

    I couldn’t wait to see your amazing post! I’m so glad you enjoyed the book, and wow, did you make the rugelach look yummy! Thank you so so much! You’re the best! I’m glad it can join the rest of your impressive field guide collection:)

    P.S. To all of Jen’s readers that might be asking, yes, the book can be found at Amazon and should also be available at most major bookstores in the US by now. Happy baking!

  19. Veron says:

    What an amazing interview! And gorgeous photgraphs too!

  20. Tartelette says:

    Loved what you did with the rugelach Jen! I am finally back in town and catching up….and now I want some of those beautiful little crescents!

  21. busybaker says:

    Anita’s recipe is exactly half of Lora Brody’s Rugelach Recipe, save for 1/2 teaspoon sugar, published in Rose’s Christmas Cookies, by Rose Levy Beranbaum, William Morrow and Company Inc., New York, 1990

  22. sharon says:

    Thanks for the great intro! The rugelach looks heavenly & something I’d love to make for the holidays.

  23. bea at La tartine gourmande says:

    Great write-up! The rugelach look lovely and tasty!

  24. cindy says:

    So pretty in all those different colors.

    When my husband first heard me discussing rugalach with someone he thought we were going on about arugula and couldn’t figure out why. What a dork.

  25. Ivonne says:

    Jen,

    You did an amazing job with those cookies! And I love your interview with Anita … I’m so happy for her. And you’ve given her book a wonderful first stop for the blog tour!

  26. Louise says:

    You’ve probably answered this question many times… but… how can you take pictures while you cook? LOL! Especially the shot where both of your hands are in it? Just curious…

  27. Mrs Ergül says:

    What a variety! They all look so lovely!

    thanks for the questions you posted to Anita! Now we all know a tad more about her :)

  28. Manggy says:

    Hee, I can imagine MORE than the smirk when you saw the last round of TWD. Ha ha ha :) The pic of them lined up like miniature cinnamon rolls is just too adorable! I can’t even definitively decide which one is my favorite! :)

  29. smorgasbroad says:

    Those look so perfect! I love making one thing with several “flavors” to choose from.

    And that book sounds so awesome…what a clever idea. Is it really organized like a field guide? Too cute.

  30. Ashley says:

    Yum gorgeous rugelach! I love that last photo. I didn’t know (or think of) that you can roll the dough and cut them. I made rugelach once and while delicious they were a huge pain in the butt because I didn’t chop the chocolate fine enough and it aggravated me how much filling came out when I rolled them.

  31. Maria says:

    Anita is such a doll! I can’t wait to get her book. The cookies you made look fabulous! Great post!!

  32. Cynthia says:

    This looks like a really fun book. Rugelach is one of my favs, next to the Suazo Family Bizcochitos.

  33. Pomme says:

    Wow, these are so cute, can’t wait to try making them (no raisins for me either though!)

  34. courtney says:

    These have to be one of my favorite cookies. Great interview.I have to give her recipe a twirl.

  35. Asianmommy says:

    Very nice–they look so cute!

  36. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy says:

    Very nice interview and I love the close-ups on your rolling (how do you get so close?) :) I haven’t made Rugelach before, so I’ll definitely have to try them (and I have the book) :)

  37. Vera says:

    Great interview and thank you for sharing the recipe! I am convinced more and more to hunt down this book if it ever comes to the Philippines! :)

  38. Sunshinemom says:

    A very well done interview, and a great recipe – thanks for sharing! I am trying this out soon and will let both of you know what the kids and the neighbour said:)

  39. jenyu says:

    Rosa – thanks!

    Peabody – ha ha! wouldn’t that be great? I’d know *exactly* what to do if I met a wild chocolate chip cookie in the backcountry :)

    Kitt – it’s totally cute.

    Joanne – yes yes! It should be on Amazon now!

    Maja – raisins don’t bother me the way they do Jeremy. In fact, I love oatmeal raisin cookies! But yes, rum-soaked is quite another beast.

    Line Cook – you can follow the tour, the other bloggers have made BEAUTIFUL cookies from the book!

    Aran – thank you, sweetie!

    Patricia – isn’t she great? Her book is too!

    Jenny – I felt the same way. I thought it was so small! But I like it enough that I’ll keep baking from it :)

    Mollie – very rich, no? That’s why I give it away (still part of my ass reduction plan).

    Bridget – ha ha! I did a fair bit of squishing, but in the end it all puffs up and looks fine :)

    Amy – thanks, love!

    Caitlin – oh, I didn’t even think to do pinwheel. How cute!

    Margie – I could probably do with a few more cookie books, but this one is definitely the cutest.

    Jamie – oh hon :) I made the same mistake. No one ever explicitly explains that, do they?

    Holly – thanks! I hope you like this version!

    Anita – Awww, you’re the best. I am honored to host your blog tour and so very happy to have a book that means more to me than just another recipe book – it’s one that was written by someone really special and awesome. xxoo

    Veron – thanks!

    Tartelette – ah ha ha, how come you always have an appetite? :) Just kidding. You’re still thinner than I am, love. Welcome home. I’m coming over to your blog when I’m done noodling around here. xxoo

    Busybaker – your point is?

    Sharon – thank you :)

    Bea – thanks! Can’t wait to see your post!

    Cindy – you crack me up.

    Ivonne – awww, you’re too sweet. Thanks :)

    Louise – Oh, tripod! :) and self-timer on the camera.

    Mrs. E – you’re so welcome, sweetie.

    Mark – ha ha ;) You know me so well! I like the raspberry jam ones. Jeremy liked the chocolate – go figure.

    Smorgasbroad – me too! Yup, it’s just like a field guide. Adorable!

    Ashley – I know what you mean. It stressed me out too.

    Maria – thanks! Anita is WONDERFUL.

    Cynthia – she’s got biscochitos too.

    Pomme – thanks!

    Courtney – yes, definitely give it a try and buy the book if you like it!

    Asianmommy – thank you :)

    Sara – zoom lens, hee hee!

    Vera – well, if you can’t find it, I’m sure someone could order it and ship one to you.

    Sunshinemom – yay!

  40. Ruthie says:

    Mmmyum. This made me crave rugelach so much that I’m making it tomorrow. I usually roll up the dough as a log, pinch the ends closed, then make deep (but not all the way through) slices where I’ll cut the cookies later. Takes care of some of the mess.
    I’ve never done the crescents though, so I’m super excited to try!

  41. White On Rice Couple says:

    LOL, I love the name already! Where would I put it? In the cookbook shelf or my field guide shelf? Girl, I forgot to show you my field guide collection the last time you were here. Come back for a tour, ok?

    Anita, you’re such a cutie ! wow, that book looks fantastic. We will get one for SURE! With a title like that, how can we not? Good luck to you on your book!

  42. Y says:

    Dang, those are pretty. I love the different fillings.

  43. jenyu says:

    Ruthie – awesome!

    WoRC – isn’t it so cute? Anita is awesome. Yes, I will be sure to ask about your field guide shelf. I’ll bet it is extensive and awesome :)

    Y – thanks!

  44. abi says:

    as amazing as the rugelach looks (i’ll be making it when it gets colder, definitely), i can’t stop staring at anita’s shoes!!!

  45. jenyu says:

    Abi – hee hee. Anita has great taste in shoes AND cookies!

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