Rugelach are Eastern European pastry-cookies that translate to “Little Twists”. Butter and cream cheese make the dough super tender and flaky, filled with a variety of slightly sweet but lip-smacking fillings.
Don’t let the croissant-like shape fool you, Rugelach are easier to make than you might think. Just bring out your food processor, and you’re a few pulses away from the perfect holiday cookie. Another beautiful thing about rugelach, besides being crazy versatile, is that it’s patient; bake it later if you want!
To make the dough a bit more decadent, I added an egg yolk to my dough. It’s not strictly necessary, but I like it for the extra richness and a guaranteed golden color in the oven.
Circles of the dough are rolled out, then the filling is spread over top. You cut wedges into the dough, roll them up and bake. You can even roll the dough up into different shapes, slicing pinwheels or spirals, there’s pull-apart or logs, wreaths, twists, you name it.
There are a lot of traditional filling options such as fruit preserves, nuts, chocolate, and/or raisins, but I opted for the most commonly used one with apricot preserve and a walnut/cinnamon/sugar mixture sprinkled on top.
The filling gets all melty and warm, the pastry is buttery, uniquely crisp, light, and flaky. Some filling may spill out and a little butter may drip out of the dough as the rugelach bakes. But this is all OK! That butter dripping out will “fry” the bottoms into a crispy phenomenon. And there’s still plenty of good stuff hiding inside, too.
But the filling ideas don’t stop there. Let’s talk about savory versions, maybe for any appetizers you need this holiday season? Maybe Feta with a bit of mint, or a sweet/salty rendition with jam and fine goat cheese crumbles. Honestly, the options are deliciously endless.
Some notes before starting:
- You can prepare the dough up to 1 day ahead of time as noted in step 3 or freeze for up to 3 months, also noted in step 3. You can prepare the filling 1 day in advance. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature until ready to use. Rugelach freezes well for up to 2 months; simply place in freezer bags. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
- Making Rugelach by Hand: If you don’t have a food processor, just cut the cream cheese and the butter into the flour mixture using your finger tips or a pastry cutter, just as you would for pie crust. Sprinkle the yolk mixture over the top and fluff the dough with your fingers until it feels heavy and can hold together when pressed into a ball. Proceed with the rest of the recipe as instructed.
12 Days of Baking 2016:
Day 1: Apple Frangipane Tart
Makes 48 crescent shaped cookies
For the Dough
- 280 grams (2 cups) All Purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 package (220 grams) cold cream cheese, cubed
- 2 sticks (200 grams) cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 egg yolk
For the filling
- 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons apricot jam per dough circle
- Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to mix. Scatter the cubes of cream cheese and butter over the flour. Pulse 10 to 12 times until coarse crumbs form.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the vanilla and yolk in a bowl, and the pour them over the butter-flour mixture. Run the processor continuously until the dough starts to clump together and form large curdlike pieces.
- Turn the dough out onto the counter and gather the pieces into a ball. Divide into four portions and flatten each into 1-inch thick disks. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate the dough at least 2 hours or up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months (thaw in the refrigerator before using).
- When ready to bake the rugelach, preheat the oven to 190°C.
- Prepare your fillings by mixing all the ingredients together, except the apricot jam.
- Sprinkle your work surface generously with powdered sugar. Take one disk of dough from the refrigerator and let it warm on the counter for 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle the surface of the dough and the rolling pin with more powdered sugar. Roll the dough from the center out into a circle about 1/8-inch thick. Don’t worry if a few cracks form near the edges. Use more powdered sugar as needed to prevent sticking.
- Spread the jam in a thin layer evenly over the surface of the dough, sprinkle it with the walnut mixture. Keep a small border at the outer edge of the dough without filling, to help seal it.
- Slice the dough into 12 wedges, like a pizza, using a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Roll up each wedge, beginning at the wide outer edge and moving inward. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Make sure the tip is tucked underneath.
- Refrigerate cookies on the baking sheet while you prepare remaining batches.
- Bake the cookies until golden-brown, 20-25 minutes. Cool on the sheet, 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve warm or at room temperature. Cookies will keep in an air-tight container at room temperature for about a week.
Bon Appetit 🙂