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Thursday, December 16, 2010


I've been making rugelach for Christmas for a few years now, as per a special request from my mom a few years back, as they are one of her favorites. I happened upon this recipe from Ina Garten, and with a few modifications, made them my own.

Rugelach is Yiddish for "little corners" (although sometimes it is attributed as being related to the word "royal"), with the -ach ending actually denoting the plural form of the word. It originated with the Ashkenazic Jews of central and eastern Europe, who adapted the tradition of using sour cream in dough from the Middle East. The dough is typically sour cream or cream cheese-based, and it is rolled around a filling that typically contains nuts, spices and/or raisins. Sour cream-based rugelach is typically a yeast dough, while cream cheese rugelach typically uses eggs as the leavening agent. This recipe falls into the latter category.

As far as effort goes, these cookies are on the medium end of the scale: you do have to roll, fill and roll again, but the process isn't difficult, and I have several tips and suggestions to help you on your way. You need some basic ingredients first: some jam (I used a 15oz jar of Polander's because it is naturally low in sugar), ground nuts (I used walnuts) and and other ingredients. Ina calls for raisins. I say "bah humbug" to that, and used mini chocolate chips instead.

You start with softened cream cheese and butter, which you mix together until fluffy.

After it is well combined, you add in the rest of the wet ingredients (sugar and vanilla) plus salt, and beat until combined. You then slowly add the flour and mix until the dough just combines.

Then, you form it into a ball, and cut that ball into quarters like so:

Wrap each quarter in saran wrap, and stick them all in a ziplock bag and chill them in the fridge for an hour.

In the meantime, you can get your filling together: brown and white sugars, nuts and mini chips.

You can also get the cinnamon sugar for sprinkling together, as well as the egg wash.

Now, flour your work surface fairly liberally. Take a quarter of the dough out, pat flour all over it, and roll it into a 9-12 inch circle. Keep the pin well-floured. You'll thank me later. Then, plop your jam right in the center. Ina says to puree it first, I never bother. If you are using jam, it should be fine. If you have preserves with huge fruit chunks, you might want to think about pureeing it first.

I normally spread it around with the back of a spoon in a circular pattern, kind of like how pizza sauce gets spread on dough. Once that is done, I trim the dough to match the circle, leaving maybe 1/2 inch to 1 inch overhang. I always end up with uneven edges when I roll dough into a circle, so this is an important step for me.

Then, take the nut/sugar/chip filling and sprinkle it on the dough.

As you can see from the pic, I sprinkle heavily along the edges, not so much in the center. When you are rolling the actual cookies up, you roll towards the center, and you will find that the filling pushes towards the inside anyway, so it makes rolling a lot easier not to start out with so much filling there.

Then, cut the dough into quarters. It is hard to see in the pic, but you can just make it out.
And then, you take each quarter and slice it into thirds, so you end up with 12 total pieces.

Starting from the outside, you take one piece at a time and roll inward towards the center of the dough.

Place these on a cookie sheet, seam side down, brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.

Then, they get baked for 18-25 minutes. The range is large because each oven I try these in is vastly different. Take them out when they are a nice golden color.

You can remove them to a wire rack within the first 2 minutes, to let them cool fully.

These cookies are great. The dough is tender, they are not too sweet, and the chocolate is subtle but definitely present. I made apricot rugelach here, but you can use any flavor of jam you wish. I was toying with the idea of raspberry ones, but I already had raspberry thumbprints made, so I didn't want redundancy. These cookies take a little time, mostly because of the hour in the fridge, but they aren't hard as long as you are well-floured. And, they really make for a nice presentation on a cookie tray.

Consider adding them to your holiday baking this year!

(Printable Recipe)

For dough
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/4 C sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 C flour

For Filling
2 C walnuts, or other nuts, finely chopped
1/4 C brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
6 tbls sugar
1 C mini chocolate chips (or raisins)

1-15 oz jar of jam for spreading
1 egg beaten with 1 tbls milk, for egg wash
1 tsp cinnamon mixed with 3 tbls sugar for sprinkling


1.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Cream the cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light. 
2.  Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the salt, and vanilla. 
3. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix until just combined. 
4. Dump the dough out onto a well-floured board and roll it into a ball. Cut the ball in quarters, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
5. To make the filling, combine 6 tablespoons of granulated sugar, the brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, the chips, and walnuts.
6.  On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9-12 -inch circle. 
7.  Spread the dough with 2 tablespoons apricot preserves and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling. Press the filling lightly into the dough.
8. Cut the circle into 12 equal wedges—cutting the whole circle in quarters, then each quarter into thirds. 
9. Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge. 
10. Place the cookies, points tucked under, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. 
11. Brush each cookie with the egg wash. 
12.  Combine 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle on the cookies. 
13.  Bake for 18 to 24 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.

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