Every recipe came with a story.
There was Betsy Mateu’s first-place apricot and plum rugelach that arrived in America from Kiev, Russia, in 1905 with her great grandmother. Mateu has since started a side business baking fruit-filled pastry out of her own kitchen.
And Rochelle Ritter’s “Apple of My Eye” rugelach, made with apple butter and salted caramel, came about in honor of her grandma, Sarah Joseph. Her grandmother loved apples.
And the lone pickle recipe has been around in Eva Shvedova’s family for more than 100 years. Her recipe came with instructions on how to eat them — slice and eat with bread.
“The food was great, but I really liked all of the stories,” said one of the judges of the Miami Beach contest, Chef Josh Marcus of Josh’s Deli in Surfside.
Sunday’s “From My Family’s Kitchen” recipe contest by the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU — which challenged people to prepare pickles, gefilte fish and rugelach — came ahead of the High Holy Days, which begin sundown Wednesday with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
But the contest turned into a rugelach bake-off, when eight people entered the pastries and only Shvedova turned in pickles.
“I am a little disappointed there was no gefilte fish,” said judge Daniel Serfer, chef-owner of Miami restaurants Blue Collar and the recently opened Mignonette.
The lone pickle-maker went to a Russian market for perfect cucumbers, dill, currant, garlic and dill seeds. She shared her recipe with anyone who asked.
“In Russia you used what you had in your backyard,” Shvedova said.
When it came to the rugelach, competition was stiff. The winners, who scored memberships, restaurant gift certificates and kvelling rights, were selected based on flavor, appearance and originality. The lively judging panel, which also included Miami Herald food columnist Linda Gassenheimer, Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman and NBC 6 anchor Adam Kuperstein, sampled the rugelach one after another.
There was a savory option made with hummus and sun-dried tomatoes with a small salad by Sari Addicott. There was a version made with a mango filling by Meghan Perkins to blend “tradition and South Florida.” And Myrna Bramson’s rugelach was topped with powered sugar.
But Mateu’s rugelach stood out to the judges.
She said it’s because she makes the fruit filling by simmering and pureeing. She also makes the dough, which takes two days to prepare.
“Whenever I am make it, it makes me feel connected to my family,” she said.
Ritter said when she heard about the contest, she began formulating the recipe in honor of her grandmother. Her grandmother would call her The Apple of My Eye, which is why she gave her rugelach that name. She also skipped using nuts — a rugelach staple — because her grandmother was allergic.
In addition to the rugelach, Ritter wrote a poem to explain her treat.
“This recipe was created with her in my mind, Like this rugelach, she was one of a kind.”
The winning recipes
Betsy Mateu-Plum and Apricot Rugelach
Apricot or Dried Plum Lekvar
3 Cups Apricots or Prunes
1/4 cup sugar
2 T Fresh squeezed, lemon
Place all the ingredients in a sauce pan and cover with water. Bring the pot to a simmer and
slowly cook until the fruit breaks down. When cool, strain fruit and then puree using enough
water until it has the consistency of thick jelly. Cool and place in an airtight container in the
12 oz. cream cheese
12 oz. butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 t salt
3 cups flour
Blend the first four ingredients in a stand mixer. Incorporate flour and mix just until the dough
forms. Divide dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough overnight
1⁄2 cup chopped walnuts
1⁄2 cup chopped almonds
1⁄2 cup raisins
1/4 cup sugar mixed with 1/4 cup brown sugar
Roll one piece of dough into to a rectangular form on a well-floured cold surface. (Maintain
the other piece of dough in the fridge until ready to use.) Spread lekvar thickly. Sprinkle sugar
mixture followed by nuts and raisins on the surface on the lekvar. Starting with the long end,
fold the dough over and inch and press and seal: Repeat twice more. Refrigerate the logs for
several hours or overnight.
1 T Cinnamon & 3T sugar
1 egg for egg wash
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice rugelach into one-inch pieces. Paint each piece with egg
wash and then sprinkle cinnamon: and sugar on top. Lay seam side down and bake 25 minutes
turning the baking sheet at the midway point. Cool on rack.
Rochelle B. Ritter- "Apple of My Eye" Rugelach
2 1/4 all-purpose flour (King Arthur unbleached)
4 Tbsp vanilla sugar
Scant 1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter cut into about 1⁄4” pieces and chilled in freezer (about 1 0 minutes)
8 oz pckg cream cheese cut into 1/2" pieces and chilled in freezer (about 10 minutes)
2 rounded Tbsp 2 percent Greek Yogurt or sour cream
1 cup Apple Butter Spread
1 1/2 tsp Apple Pie Spice
4 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 cups Post Grape-Nuts cereal
1/3 rounded cup each of dried: currants, Craisins, apple (diced into size of a raisin)
12 Tbsp Smuckers "Simple Delight" Salted Carmel Topping
2-3 Tbsp of half and half
1/2 cup Sugar in the Raw
Procedure and Technique
1. Using a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar & salt- about 5 pulses
2. Add butter, cream cheese and yogurt. Pulse 30-40 times and stop when dough comes
together and looks like large peas. (Press a small amount between your fingers, it should hold
3. Place mixture onto large piece of plastic wrap; gather dough together; form into an 8 by 6'
4. Cut log into 4 equal pieces and place each piece on their own large piece of plastic wrap.
Loosely wrap and press each into a 5" round disk.
5. Refrigerate about 30 minutes. Remove one disk and let it come to almost room
6. Working with one disk at a time, place disk on large sheet of plastic wrap that has been
lightly dusted with powdered sugar (about 1 tsp.) Place second sheet of plastic wrap on top and
roll into a 9.5" circle.
1. Combine apple pie spice, light brown sugar and Grape-Nuts Cereal into small bowl and mix
2. Spread about 3-4 Tbsp of Apple Butter on rolled-out disk
3. Take 11. cup of dried fruit mixture and sprinkle over Apple Butter
4. Take Y, cup of Grape Nuts mixture and sprinkle over dried fruit. Gently pressure mixture
down with your fingers
5. Using 1 Tbsp at a time, take about 3Tbsp of Smuckers Carmel Topping and drizzle over
mixture (first lightly spray spoon with Pam).
6. Slide round (with plastic) onto cookie sheet and place into freezer for 2 to 3 minutes (no
7. Put round onto cutting board and cut into 4 equal wedges; then each wedge into 3 equal
wedges for a total of 12 wedges.
8. When dough is pliable, roll each wedge into a crescent shape.
9. Place the 12 crescents 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and re-
place in freezer for about 25 minutes.
10. While the crescents are chilling, adjust oven racks to upper middle and lower middle
positions and Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
1. Remove cookie sheet from freezer and lightly brush each crescent with half and half.
2. Place Sugar in the Raw on a plate. Take each crescent and gently press the top side into the
sugar.Replace on baking sheet.
3. Bake for about 25-26 minutes until golden brown. Rotate pan(s) half thru baking.
4. Transfer Rugelach to wire rack and cool for about 40 minutes before indulging.
Eva Svedova- Half Salty Pickles
Container to mix brine and one large jar
3lbs small cucumbers
1.5 qt. water
3 tablespoons kosher salt
Spices: fresh dill, dill seeds, fresh garlic, fresh horseradish root,
black currants (dry berries or leaves), coriander.
Prepare brine: Dissolve kosher salt into 1.5 quarts of warm (80° water) set aside. Add
spices to the bottom of jar, fresh dill, pieces of garlic, horseradish root, coriander, black
currants (for better scent). Add enough cucumbers to tightly fill the jar. Add more spices
to the top and pour the warm brine in the jar. Leave at room temperature for one day.
Skim the froth and enjoy the pickles.