The Five-Dozen Fingers of Martha Stewart- Rugelach Fingers! – 109 eggs, 86 3/4 cups of sugar, 86 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 97 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 111 recipes to go!

September 20, 2010


Martha's Rugelach Fingers

André's Rugelach Fingers

“All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. “

-Dylan Thomas – “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”

Rugelach is a wonderful pastry that comes from the Jewish settlements of Eastern Europe. Most Rugelach are made from a sour cream or, more commonly in America, a cream cheese dough. Traditionally rugelach is filled with nuts, fruit preserves, chocolate, marzipan or some other equally sweet filling. The filling is spread onto the dough which is then rolled into little crescent shaped bites. The name, rugelach, is a Yiddish derivative probably meaning something like little sweet bits although experts have not come to a definitive conclusion on that one. My first experience with rugelach came in the late eighties when I was living in New York City. I had a friend who lived outside of a section of Brooklyn called DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). This neighborhood was a bit run down and was populated mostly by Polish and other Eastern European immigrants. There was a small Polish café that served strong and sweet coffees and teas as well as several different types of Rugelach. Each one was dense yet flakey and quite sweet and delicious.

Martha’s recipe for Rugelach Fingers is quite simple to make although a little time-consuming. A cream cheese based sweet dough is first made and divided in half. Each half is refrigerated while you make the filling consisting of melted chocolate, walnuts, cinnamon, coconut, and currants. While the filling is set aside to cool you take one half of the sweet dough and roll it out into a thin sheet. The sheet is then placed in a parchment-lined baking pan and baked until lightly golden. The filling is then spread on top of the lightly baked bottom crust and covered with another thinly rolled sheet of sweet dough. The top layer of crust is given an egg wash and sprinkled with sanding sugar so that the fingers have a beautiful glossy and golden brown crust that shimmers with sparkly sugar bits.

Once all the layers are baked together and allowed to cool, you remove the uncut rugelach sheet from the pan and let it rest on a wire rack. I was worried that the sheet would disintegrate when I tried to cut it into thin finger-like bars but it was actually quite dense and cut beautifully. The smell while they baked was simply amazing. My kitchen was filled with the aroma of fresh brownies and buttery pastry. Simply wonderful. I have a dear friend who recently has been down on her luck and, in addition to the inordinate amount of crap in her life right now, she had to have surgery to remove a tumor from the side of her face. While she was home recovering from this ordeal, I surprised her with a box filled with these tasty treats. I also brought in a batch of these to my coworkers and they were devoured within minutes. The recipe is cooked in a standard rectangular cake pan but yields five dozen fingers so anyone looking to satisfy a large group with really impressive baked goods should consider this recipe.

Back in November of 1999 I directed, composed and arranged the music for a production of  A Child’s Christmas in Wales.  The story is a famed piece of literature by the Welsh poet and writer, Dylan Thomas. I can best describe our holiday production as being a bit like A Christmas Carol where Scrooge (Dylan Thomas) is visited by ghostly memories from his past. However, instead of learning the meaning of Christmas, Scrooge dies of alcohol poisoning. Holiday fun for the entire family.  Despite my misgivings of producing a holiday show that was ultimately a real downer, I still believed it was a really terrific piece of theatre. The holidays are a tough time for a lot of people. They can be stressful, particularly for lonely people. The entire world around you is singing about love and family and friends, unity, peace, comfort and joy, and yet for many these words sting like Dicken’s proverbial stake of holly through the heart.

The artistic director’s wife, Leticia, adapted the script. She was also serving as the director for the production. Leticia was an accomplished actress and playwright with large, brown, questioning eyes and flowing chestnut hair that framed her porcelain-white skin. She had written several of the plays which we performed at Swine Palace. This particular story held special meaning for her. She was in a dark place dealing with post-partem depression after the birth of her first child. She was British and far from her family and friends and as a result of her isolation, her writing tended to lean towards a fascination with tormented souls. When asked to create a holiday piece she naturally gravitated to Dylan Thomas and his awkward and sad memories of A Child’s Christmas in Wales.

To promote this bleak bit of theatre, I was asked to give an interview at a local television station just a block or two away from my home in downtown Baton Rouge. I was to give the interview with one of the lead actors from the show, James. I’ve written about James a few times in previous posts. He was and still is a bit of a local celebrity in Baton Rouge performing one-man comedies to packed houses across Southern Louisiana. The media loved him and if anyone could sell tickets to the bleakest Christmas show ever, it would be James.

It was 6:00 A.M. on a fairly cold and foggy Monday morning. I arrived at the back entrance to the station as instructed since the front lobby didn’t open until 9:00. I had done several interviews with this station over the years working with the local theatres and schools so I knew the routine fairly well. We’d wait in the break room until the producer fetched us for our segment. They’d have about a minute to get us seated and our microphones clipped. We’d answer a few ridiculous questions from the host who would enthusiastically feign interest in what we had to say. They’d announce the next segment while we sat there smiling like idiots and then we’d get unclipped and go home.

This day was different, though. We weren’t the only ones being interviewed during the show. The other guest must be someone important because when we arrived at the back door, two gentlemen in dark suits greeted us. Neither of these gentlemen smiled. They asked our names and held us at the entrance while the producer confirmed we were on the list to be interviewed. I asked what was going on, they ignored my question and directed me to the break room to wait for our segment.

I excused myself to run down the hall to use the facilities. While attending to my needs, I was interrupted by a deep baritone voice. It echoed through the tiled room. It came from the gentleman standing two urinals down.

“You here for the morning show, too?”- he spoke keeping his eyes staring at the tiled wall before him. There is an unspoken protocol when peeing next to another dude. Never let your eyes move away from the eye-level tile before you lest you be deemed sexually suspect. Of course, part of that protocol is not to speak to the guy next to you but it’s a rule that’s too often broken.

“Yep. We’re on in about thirty minutes.” – I said making sure I didn’t glance in his direction.

We both flushed about the same time and made our way to the sinks to wash our hands. I was able to get a good glimpse at the gentleman. He was a fairly distinguished looking fellow in his mid-fifties with neatly slicked, grey hair and a large clef in his chin. He was a bit jowly and in his dark blue suit and maroon tie, there was no mistaking he was a politician.

As we washed our hands he asked me if I was registered to vote. I told him I was a registered democrat. He winced and asked me if I knew anything about the Reform Party. I jokingly told him I knew it was a party I wasn’t likely to be invited to.

The gentleman raised an eyebrow and reached into his pocket. He took my hand and gave it a firm shake and as he left the restroom he told me to give the Reform Party some thought. I looked down in my hand where the gentleman slipped me a campaign pin. The name on the pin practically burned my eyes- Pat Buchanan. THAT was PAT BUCHANAN! I just shook Pat Buchanan’s hand. I just spoke with Pat Buchanan. I just PEED NEXT TO PAT BUCHANAN!

The rightest right-winger that ever righted a right. The man that makes Bill O’Reilly seem almost liberal. The man who puts the CON in CONservative just chatted me up in the men’s room.

Like a frantic Lady Macbeth I washed and rewashed my hands. I had missed a real opportunity. I could have destroyed the entire Reform movement if I had only realized who he was a moment sooner. Well, that and if I had absolutely no personal moral code.

I could have come running out of the men’s room screaming “OH, MY GOD! He touched me. That crazy old man in the bathroom touched me!”  I could have done my entire TV interview talking about how Pat Buchanan tried cop a feel in the Channel 9 Newstation men’s room. I could have had countless interviews with newspapers, TV shows, and political Radio programs talking about Pat’s busy hands. I could have been Mr. Buchanan’s Waterloo!

But, alas, I’m just not that sneaky, that low, that dishonest, and that quick of a thinker.

Besides, Pat’s done a pretty good job burning his own bridges.

Still I can’t help but wonder, what if…

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2 Responses to “The Five-Dozen Fingers of Martha Stewart- Rugelach Fingers! – 109 eggs, 86 3/4 cups of sugar, 86 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 97 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 111 recipes to go!”

  1. Rachael Says:

    Oh, if only, Andre! This reminds me of how my best friend and I were visiting my dad when he worked in the LA State Capitol building. We were in 5th grade, riding down in the capitol elevators. On walked David Duke. He’d been in the press a lot around then. We thought we were on the elevator with the actual devil. We thought we should at least spit at him or something. Instead we just stood there, exchanging desperate glances until we heard that “ding!” and the doors opened.


    • Rachael, I remember I was living in Florida during the whole David Duke debacle. I was parked at a grocery store and someone saw my Louisiana plates and left me a short essay explaining why David Duke was Satan.


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