Post Grandbaby Day, Rugelach to the Rescue for Easter

For those who celebrate Passover or Easter, this is a special weekend. Passover begins Sundown tonight and lasts through April 13, and Easter is Sunday.

I usually bake my favorite sour cream coffee cake for Easter, but I hate to be so predictable.

Besides, I have some rugelach dough in the freezer. This recipe comes courtesy of friend Belinda Sanda’s dearly departed mother, Phyliss Zerg, a great woman I spent an afternoon with five years ago at Belinda’s house when I wrote a story about her mother’s special rugelach.

What is rugelach? They’re small Jewish pastries that resemble tiny butterhorns. They can be filled with so many things, like fruit or just cinnamon and sugar. To make the rugelach for Easter, all I’d have to do is thaw the dough, roll it out, top it and form it into little flakey little delicasies. Many recipes call for sour cream or cream cheese, but Phyllis swore by her yeast dough rugelach.

Because I had the rugelach dough made, it would require far less energy to finish these, and that’s important right now. I spent a day with Super Grandbaby Austin, and that little guy absolutely wore me out.

Although I often take Austin for stroller rides around the Garden Tract, and it’s not unusual for me to take Austin for a quick trip to the grocery store where he sits like a tiny king in his cloth-lined basket seat (surely you don’t think I’d let his little hands touch the grocery cart handle), I’ve not ventured much beyond those kinds of “safe” outings with him.

But I had to run to the bank, and after that I needed to buy some more diapers for Austin, because I only had one left.

Bank first, where I put Austin in his stroller and got in line with my deposit that was already filled out so we could just dash in and dash out.

My dash stalled when the teller pointed out that my last name on the check and my last name on my bank account didn’t match. All I had to do to correct that was see one of the bank women over in the carpeted area. Should take just one sec. OK, sure.

I looked down at Austin, who was beginning to arch his back in his stroller and yank on the little seat belt like it was a parachute rip cord.

I raised three kids, so I’m an old hand at distracting babies. I opened my Noni Doni Mary Poppins bag and handed Austin one of his favorite little books, the one with  brightly colored pictures on every shiny cardboard page: Tractor, ball, butterfly, apple, etc.

He gave me a bored expression and dropped it on the floor and undid his Velcro sneakers and let both shoes drop and started to work on pulling off his socks. I handed him my closed wallet, which he quickly unsnapped with the speed of a safe-cracker. He tipped it upside down and let a pile of my business cards flutter to the floor.

I reached for my last resort: Goldfish crackers (little piece of trivia: When I interviewed Julia Child – yes, I’m name-dropping – she confessed that Goldfish crackers were among her favorite processed foods).

As an aside, dark blue bank carpets show Goldfish cracker crumbs like dandruff on  black velvet jackets.

One saving grace about North Valley Bank is that it has stars on the wall, so I whispered “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to Austin, complete with hand motions –  open/shut splayed fingers and forefingers and thumbs making diamonds in the sky- which, from across the lobby, surely looked to strangers as if it I’d missed my deadline for a crucial medication.

The young woman we were waiting for – Katie – looked over every so often and earnestly mouthed words like “Sorry, it’ll just be a just another minute,” and perhaps, “What kind of an idiot brings a tired, hungry 16-month old to a bank at noon?”

I’m just kidding about that last line, but she might have been thinking it. I wouldn’t have blamed her.

By the time it was our turn to see Katie for the name change, Austin was resorting to sign language (new generation) to tell me he was totally “done” with our bank trip. He wanted out of his stroller STAT. I could tell that I had about 15 seconds to comply with his demands or he would abandon sign language and start in with a full force yell to get my attention. I removed him from the stroller and paced with him as Katie typed like the wind.

We finally escaped the bank before Austin lost his composure.

One more stop. Rite Aid for diapers. By now the sweet baby in my backseat carseat was giving me a steely, quiet look, which mellowed some when we got to Rite Aid where I put him in the shopping cart’s seat. That basket was missing a seat belt, so I had to transfer Austin to another basket, but not before I installed my cloth lining and tied up all the stupid little strings and snapped all the dumb little snaps.

Austin looked around the store and immediately started pointing at things with the same raised inflection that sounds slightly like Scooby Doo saying “hmm?”


The thing about a 16-month-old is they don’t just point as if to say, “My, isn’t that interesting,” or, “Golly, look at that,” but rather, they point to indicate they want something. Now.

He wanted it all: balloons, greeting cards with pictures of Golden Retrievers (like his dog at home, Jericho), big bags of Cheetos —  but I kept going, now practically sprinting to find the correct size diapers without slowing the cart down long enough for Austin to spot some new object of his desire.

His irritation was growing, so I extracted from my bag a cute little plastic monkey container filled with Cheerios. The Cheerios would buy some time while we waited in line. With impressive dexterity he gingerly picked out single Cheerios and ate each one, which made me feel pretty darn smug to have found such an ideal solution. I hadn’t lost my touch, after all.

I was paying for the diapers when I heard the sound behind me,  a sound I thought I’d forgotten from so many years ago – of about 1,000 Cheerios hitting the floor. A few people in line behind me chuckled, which seemed to please Austin.

There’s no ladylike way to bend over pick up so many Cheerios, and I did the best I could, but was aware I was now holding up the lunchtime-crowd line. So I confessed to the clerk that I had a few Cheerios on the floor, and apologized as I gathered up Austin to just get the heck out of there.

She left her register, came around in front of the counter and proceeded to pick up the Cheerios one by one, which made me feel like a real jerk, like one of those people who bring a baby to a restaurant and then leave it looking like an aerial view of a tornado site.

I fled  Rite Aid with Austin, took him home, fed him, changed his diaper and we both took a nap. I’m still tired.

That’s why I’m making rugelach for Easter. Not only does the coffee cake take longer, but it needs sour cream, which I’d need to buy at the store. With Austin.

Never mind.

Instead,  on behalf of everyone at A News Cafe I’ll extend my wishes for a happy Easter and happy Passover to you all.

Printer-friendly recipe here.

Phyllis Zerg’s Rugelach

1 envelope dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, separated
Cinnamon and sugar mixture (for sprinkling on the dough)

Stir together the yeast, warm water and sugar and set aside to rise. Either by hand with a pastry blender (or the  tips of your fingers) or in a food processor, blend together the flour, salt and butter. Add egg yolks and the yeast mixture to the dry mixture and blend well, forming gently into a soft dough.

Divide the dough into four pieces.

Beat egg whites until they are white and foamy, but not stiff. Set aside.

Meanwhile, on a lightly floured board, gently roll out each ball of dough into a circle, as if for a pie crust.

Spread the beaten egg whites on the rolled-out dough circle, reserving enough to spread on the other three remaining dough discs.

Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over the egg whites.

Cut the dough into pie-shaped wedges, first in half, then in quarters, then in thirds. Roll up each triangle like butter horns. Repeat with the remaing balls of dough.

Place on cookie sheet, and if you want, brush the tops lightly with the beaten egg whites (to make for nice browning). Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

Optional: Make fillings from pureed fruit, such as apricots or prunes, as well as nuts and chocolate chips.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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14 Responses

  1. Avatar Judy Smith says:

    Thanks for the rugelach recipe. I don't have any sour cream either, or any weekend guests, Gentile or Jew, sad to say. Everyone busy and traveling this year. Will miss egg hunts and Easter Beer hunts (a feature since college kids came home for Easter). Your sortie with Austin took me back and made me giggle though. I think clerks are more tolerant of grandparents' blunders; they're not expected to have much control. I think you did GOOD, Doni Noni. Hoppy Easter!

    • Hi praise coming from Nonni Judy. Next time I know to only hand out one Goldfish or Cheerio at a time, and most of all, try errands when Austin's rested.

      Ah, Jude, I hate to think of you and Randy sans little ones for Easter (love the idea of an Easter Beer hunt for older hunters). I send you and everyone 'hoppy' thoughts this Easter.

      xo 🙂

  2. Avatar EasternShastaCounty says:

    You wrote: Meanwhile, on a lightly floured board, gently roll out each ball of dough into a circle, as if for a pie crust.

    How many balls of dough did you make?

  3. Avatar Canda says:

    These little gems are absolutely scrumptious-almost as yummy as Austin, but not quite! Seriously, when you look at the photo of Rugelach, then the one of Austin, which one do you want to just devour? (hugs and kisses of course. I don't eat children-just wanted to clarify that) Happy Easter everyone!

  4. Lincoln Lincoln says:

    Rugelach sounds great (although not kosher l'pesachkosher l'pesach), but even more useful for us at the moment are your recipes for grandchild-care. Voice of experience: it doesn't necessarily get easier after they learn to talk. Austin's pic is adorable, but he does look like a handful. Allbest.

  5. Avatar Jan Gandy says:

    Happy Easter, Noni Doni!

    How great it is to hear you telling stories about your grandchild. Love it.

    The usual gang will be at our house for Easter Brunch and the egg hunt. Due to severe egg allergies in two of our grandkids, our eggs are plastic and filled with candy, balloons, money, etc. I, too, used to stand by my sour cream coffee cake recipe, but now, it's cinnamon rolls made with Pilsbury Crescent roll dough and soy butter (no eggs, no dairy.)

    Much love,


  6. Avatar shelly shively says:

    Knowing you…and knowing Austin….your Noni-errand-day gave me serious, dare I say, "LOL"…with tears, even. Love you both, and love your flare for vivid descriptions…felt like I was there, minus the humiliation….thanks for sharing! XO

  7. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Doni, That little Austin is a cutie. I know you're a proud grammie. Those rugelaches sound delish too.

  8. Avatar AJ says:

    How to laugh and get hungry at the same time: read one of Doni's pieces!!!

    Reading your column made me realize how much I missed in that my grandchildren never lived closer than 6000 miles away (Japan and Italy). . . . ahhh, but a gramma's love has long arms!!

  9. Avatar Cheri Davis says:

    Doni, do you have a book written yet? You are an amazing writer(among other things)…and your stories should be in a book….Illustrative and fun for readers to pull us in and have us be right there with you in your adventures of life.

    Thank you again for another wonderfully written flow!


    • Avatar Terry says:

      I felt exactly the same way, Cheri. Doni writes so well that I was right there with her and Austin. Wouldn't it be great to have a book of Adventures with Austin? It was an enjoyable uplift to my day. Thank you, Doni!

  10. Avatar Sally says:

    Doni – as many talents you have, I never realized you could tell such a comic story. It brought laughter to my afternoon. One suggestion, make your recipes printer friendly. As much as I loved your entire column, I just wanted to print the recipe. I know – that's what paper and pen are for! Enjoy that little guy with every minute you can muster up – he will be in school before you know it!

    • Joe Domke Joe Domke says:

      Hi Sally,

      I just added a link to the printer-friendly recipe (you can find it here, too).

      Just follow the link to the recipe and click "Print this recipe" for a stripped-down version.