Ever had rugelach? If you have, you’re probably vigorously nodding your head and looking around for one to eat. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, change your life right now and put one in your facehole. You’ll be mad you lived so long without having about six hundred of them.
My friend and I were talking about our cookie boxes and trays, and lamenting that so many people we know pass up rugelach in favor of chocolate chip or colorful sugar cookies, usually because they don’t recognize it. While the latter two are fine and tasty on their own, rugelach is worlds more exciting than almost anything else found on most holiday (that is, Christmas) cookie trays, in my opinion.
What is rugelach, you ask? It’s a filled, flaky crescent cookie-pastry, originating among Jewish communities in Poland and a common treat for Jewish communities today throughout the world. It’s not too sweet (almost like a mini crescent pie), and it’s one of those delightful baked goods that looks beautiful no matter how “ugly” you make it before it goes in the oven (unless, of course, you burn it to a crisp. Don’t do that). It’s also customizable with any filling your heart desires. Traditionally, rugelach are filled with dried fruit and/or nuts, but seriously: any filling that stays in is fair game. You can even make savory rugelach!
I’m a fan of mixing jam with finely chopped nuts, and even adding a little chocolate to the mix, for my fillings. Some tasty suggested combinations include:
- Peach Jam with Pecans
- Apricot Jam with Pistachios
- Raspberry Jam with Hazelnuts
- Apple Butter with Walnuts
I’ve also heard of using peanut and jelly, peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, and even salmon and cream cheese. I’d absolutely eat any of these variations, too.
Rugelach are a bit more involved than say, a drop cookie (like chocolate chip), but not more complicated than a decorated sugar cookie – they just look like it! The method is as simple as make and chill dough, make filling, roll out dough, spread filling, cut, roll, and bake.
Add this one to your holiday tray, whatever holiday that may be, and next time you see them at a party, fill your plate and eat up. Happy early Hanukkah!
You can fill rugelach with just about anything your heart desires (peanut butter and jelly, anyone?), although nuts and fruit are the traditional fillings. This base recipe is a simple jam and nut filling, with a variation at the bottom.
you will need:
- 3 c all-purpose flour, sifted
- 12 oz cream cheese (1 ½ blocks), softened to room temperature
- 1 ½ c (3 sticks, or ¾ lb) butter, softened to room temperature
- ½ c white sugar
- ⅛ tsp salt
- ½ c sour cream, room temperature
- ¾ c jam of choice
- ¾ c nuts of choice, toasted if desired and finely chopped
- optional topping: milk and sanding sugar
- In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together at medium-low speed until smooth. Add the sugar and salt, and beat at medium-low speed until combined. Add in half of the sour cream and 1 ½ c flour at low speed until just combined, then add the remainder of the flour and sour cream until just combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 day.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling: stir together the nuts and jam in a small bowl, and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper (you’ll need at least two sheets).
- Divide dough into 3 equal pieces (for 24 larger cookies) or 4 equal pieces (for 32 smaller cookies). Refrigerate dough you’re not immediately working with. Lightly flour a work surface, and roll out dough to about ⅛ inch thickness. Spread ⅓ of the filling (for larger cookies – about ½ c) or ¼ of the filling (for smaller cookies – a heaping ¼ c) on the dough circle, leaving at least ¼ inch space on the edge of the dough circle.
- Using a knife or pizza cutter, slice the dough into 8 even wedges. Starting with the wide end, roll each slice into a coiled shape (like a crescent roll) and place on the prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Repeat with remaining dough. If desired, brush each cookie with milk and sprinkle with sanding sugar.
- Bake cookies at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes (for smaller cookies) or 30-35 minutes for larger cookies, or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack, and store in an airtight container.
Chocolate Hazelnut Jam Variation: For the filling, use ¼ c finely chopped chocolate, ½ c jam (I like blackberry or raspberry here), and ¾ c hazelnuts. You can even chop the hazelnuts and chocolate together with a few pulses in the food processor, rather than by hand, for a finer filling. Proceed with recipe.