When I lived in Indiana and traveled to the East Coast during the holidays, I was required to fulfill a rugelach mission for my Indiana friends who were transplanted New Yorkers.
This involved a trip to the Babka Bakery (now defunct) on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where I would pick up a big batch of rugelach to bring home with me.
These tiny, rich pastries with fruit, nut, and chocolate filling were a revelation to me, and so it became my personal mission to recreate them, without the plane trip.
WHAT ARE RUGELACH COOKIES?
Rugelach’s origins are Jewish—the name is Yiddish for “little twists” and pronounced “RUE-geh-loch”.
The little rolled cookies — which are sometimes shaped as crescents and sometimes simply rolled — are commonly found in Israeli cafes. Their popularity in the U.S. has grown considerably and they are featured in many city bakeries here.
WHAT ARE SOME POPULAR FILLINGS FOR RUGELACH?
The barely sweetened cream cheese dough is rich, and it’s just right to offset the sweet filling, which usually contains a combination of chocolate, cinnamon and nuts.
Filling variations range from apricot, raisins, cranberries and poppy seed to raspberry jam or marmalade.
Instead of the cranberries in this recipe, you could finely chop apricots or figs, keep or skip the chocolate or add some finely chopped walnuts or almonds. You could also try a combination of chopped walnuts and raspberry jam or marmalade.
EASY RUGELACH DOUGH
Whether you mix the dough together in a bowl with a wooden spoon or use a stand mixer, the dough comes together in just a few minutes.
Divide it into portions, and refrigerate it until firm before you roll out the pastries. It’s easiest to work with when cool.
Once you have the dough chilled and the filling ready, work with one portion of the dough at a time to roll it into a circle and then top it with filling.
The magic happens next, when you cut the circle into wedges and roll up the tiny pastries (and I do mean tiny) to form crescents. This is when you put your favorite music on and enjoy the process.
HOW BIG TO MAKE RUGELACH COOKIES
The crescents really are tiny, about an inch in length. Although my grandmother didn’t make rugelach, they remind me of her assortment of Christmas cookies. I swear I used to think you needed a magnifying glass to see the little dots of her dough spread out on the baking sheets.
So yes, these one-bite wonders are small!
That said, if you want slightly larger cookies, you can divide the dough into four rather than six portions. Roll the dough into 4-inch wide rectangles and cut them into larger triangles.
HOW TO FREEZE RUGELACH
- To freeze unbaked rugelach: Fill and roll the rugelach, and then freeze them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer them to a plastic freezer bag. Take them straight from the freezer to the oven to bake them, adding a few more minutes to the baking time.
- To freeze baked rugelach: If you’d like to OHIO (Only Handle it Once), you can bake the cookies and when cool, enclose them in plastic freezer bags. Spread them on a rack to defrost.
In either case, the optimal storage time in the freezer is two months.
ENJOY WITH COFFEE!
Whether you make them ahead or gobble them up immediately, you’ll feel oh so sophisticated munching these dainty morsels with a cup of coffee.
MORE FAVORITE HOLIDAY COOKIES
Chocolate Cranberry Rugelach Recipe
For the dough:
- 2 2/3 cups (325 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (30 grams) powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the filling:
- 1 1/3 cup (160g) walnuts
- 2/3 cup (66g) finely chopped bittersweet chocolate (60 to 70 percent,) or 60 percent bittersweet chocolate baking chips, such as Ghirardelli
- 2/3 cups (113g) dried cranberries
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
To finish the cookies:
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar or natural cane sugar
1 Make the dough: In a bowl, whisk the flour, powdered sugar, and salt until blended.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on low speed, mix the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients to the bowl, mixing just until the ingredients are combined.
If making by hand: With a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon, mix the cream cheese and butter until very smooth. Gradually add the dry ingredients, stirring until combined.
2 Portion and refrigerate the dough: Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide it into 6 equal portions, and shape each portion into a flat disk about 5 inches in diameter.
Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour (or for up to 1 day).
Note: For larger rugelach, divide the dough into four pieces—you’ll get 4 dozen cookies instead.
3 When ready to assemble the cookies, make the filling: In a food processor, pulse the walnuts, cranberries, chocolate, and cinnamon until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl.
4 Roll out the dough and fill the rugelach: Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured work surface, roll it into a 10- to 11-inch circle.
Spread about 1/3 cup of the filling (loosely packed) over the dough; the filling might look a little sparse, but it will be plenty once you start rolling up the cookies. Press the filling into the dough with your hands (or lightly roll over it with a rolling pin) to press the filling lightly into the dough.
5 Roll up the cookies: With a pizza cutter or chef’s knife, cut the dough into 12 wedges.
Starting at the outer edge of the circle, roll each wedge toward the center, tucking the dough underneath carefully to keep the filling intact. Curve the ends toward the center to form a crescent and place it on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
6 Brush with egg wash: In a small bowl, thoroughly whisk the egg and water with a fork. Brush the cookies with the egg wash and sprinkle them with the sugar.
7 Bake the rugelach: Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, or until slightly puffed and golden brown on the bottom. Remove and let cool for 3 to 4 minutes.
With a spatula, transfer them to racks to finish cooling. The cookies can be kept at room temperature in an airtight tin for 4 to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 months.
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