Chicago: Rugelach now online

When the going gets hard, mortgage bankers turn to baking rugelach – and sell them online – according to a story in the Chicago Tribune (see below).

If you don’t know what rugelach are, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Google tells us that this Ashkenazi pastry is made with a cream cheese dough and different fillings, of fruits and nuts. There are recipes using hazelnuts, sour cherries, chocolate, raisins, toffee, walnuts, apricots and anything a cook can think to add or combine. My favorite is chocolate.

In America, the dough has butter and cream cheese and is cut into triangles and then wrapped around the filling to make crescents that should melt in your mouth. Food historians claim that the cream cheese is an American addition and that back in Europe only butter was used, meaning observant Jews cannot eat these delights with meat meals.

A parve (no dairy) rugelach isn’t worth the trouble it takes to make, in my humble opinion.

In Yiddish, it is spelled רוגלך and is a diminutive of the Hebrew רוגלית (roglit). Genealogists are used to spelling variations, so choose your favorite from among rugelach, rugulach, rugalach, ruggalach, rogelach, rugalah, rugala. According to Wikipedia (always taken with a salt shaker) it means “creeping vine,” perhaps because it is rolled up. Others say it means “little twist.” What’s in a name? In my dictionary, the definition is “delicious.”

Even the Chicago Tribune is kvelling (happy praise, Yiddish) about this nostalgic product marketed in a very contemporary way – just in time for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, which begins September 18.

There are still some old fashioned Jewish bakeries in New York and other major cities, but their ranks are thinning. If customers can’t come to the few bakeries, then the bakeries will go to their customers – via the Internet.

Old-style Jewish bakeries are a dwindling lot, but one Chicago Web site entrepreneur has taken up the call for rugelach, the cream cheese- and butter-rich pastries that reside in the food memories of many Jewish people — old and young alike.

Leon Greenberg, a former mortgage banker, turned his passion for cooking into a catering and online rugelach business. Greenberg comes from a large rugelach-loving family. He once brought 500 pieces to a family reunion in the Bahamas. But it really wasn’t a burden.

Leon’s father had been hocking (encouraging strenuously, Yiddish) him for two years to create a Web site to sell his rugelach. He finally gave in to his father and is shocked at the response.

He launched his Internet business just after July 4, and the “Rugelach Man” already has more than 600 Facebookfans. Most of his orders are from Chicago, but the former New Yorker is proud that New York — where rugelach fans can be rather uncompromising — has the second-highest number of customers.

He bakes out of a professional kitchen and plans to hire helpers for the holiday rush. Currently, his flavor list includes apricot, chocolate, cinnamon sugar, macaroon and raspberry, at a cost of $19 per pound.

I wonder if he ships to Israel? There is a place in the Jerusalem Bus Station that does make excellent chocolate ones, but still nothing like those in the Bronx or Brooklyn from long ago.

For more information, visit Rugelach Man.

Thanks for this item to my good friend Chicago-based Thomas MacEntee of who knows what good rugelach taste like! He grew up with good Jewish bakeries and delis in upstate New York (e.g., Kaplan’s in Monticello). You don’t have to be Jewish to love rugelach. Yum!

Click here for the famous Joan Nathan’s great recipe for either chocolate or apricot rugelach.


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