I just learned that at 38 I’m middle-aged. Someone had to tell me. I guess I thought that middle age was 50 (we’re all going to live to at least 100, right?). Inside, though, I must be 12 because I can’t help but giggle at a recipe titled nuts in a blanket.
Nuts in a blanket is an adorable riff on pigs in a blanket. They are ricotta cheese pastries filled with an orange walnut log. They remind me very much of rugelach, but in a fun, different shape – and I’ve never had orange in a rugelach filling (now I want to!). I love the idea of serving nuts in a blanket as a passed dessert at a cocktail party.
Nuts in a Blanket
Ricotta Cheese Pastry Ingredients
- 1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour spooned in and leveled (this yields a smaller amount of flour than scooping)
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 tablespoon superfine sugar
- 1 egg yolk save the egg white for use with the filling
Walnut Filling Ingredients
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- egg white from above
- 1/2 cup sugar for garnish
Ricotta Cheese Pastry Instructions
- On the kitchen counter, arrange two linen or pure cotton dish towels (do not use terry cloth) on top of each other.
- Spread the ricotta lengthwise on the towels, shaping it into a thin rectangle.
- Roll the cheese tightly in the towels and twist over the sink to remove excess liquid.
- Let sit for 30 minutes and repeat with fresh towels, waiting for another thirty minutes before using the cheese.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl and set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter on medium-low speed until smooth.
- Add the drained ricotta and mix well.
- Pour in the sugar and then blend in the egg yolk until just combined.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low and add half of the dry ingredients.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the remaining dry ingredients by hand, mixing until just incorporated.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead four or five times, until smooth.
- Shape into a 3" x 6" rectangle. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, 2-3 hours or up to three days.
Walnut Filling Instructions
- Place the walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until the nuts are finely chopped.
- Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
- Add the chopped nut mixture and milk.
- Cook over low heat for 8-10 minutes or until the mixture is very thick, like thick oatmeal.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the orange zest and vanilla.
- Refrigerate until cold.
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Roll out the pastry dough to just under 1/4" thick.
- Use a knife or a pastry wheel to cut dough into 1 1/2" x 3" strips.
- Make heaping teaspoon-sized balls of nut filling and roll them into log shapes just slightly longer than than the short side of the dough strips.
- Place the nut logs on the short side of the pastry strips and roll the pastry around the logs.
- Brush on a little egg white at the end of each strip to glue it closed.
- Transfer unbaked nuts in a blanket seam-side down onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. If any of the nut log is falling off (this can happen), just push it back into the blanket.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the pastry just begins to brown.
- Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with sugar.
- Set on cooling rack to cool.
- Store in an airtight container layered between strips of wax paper for up to three weeks.