Rugelach are delicious Jewish pastries that usually have a cream cheese–based dough and can be filled with anything from raspberry jam to cinnamon and sugar or chocolate and nuts.
The word literally means “little twists” in Yiddish. However, after making and trying the rugelach recipe from Everyday Baking, the translation seems to have changed a little to mean “heaven in cookie form” in my home . . .
My grandmother makes us Christmas cookies every year, and every year they come in an adorable holiday cookie tin. Opening the tin is almost as exciting as unwrapping presents on Christmas morning because there’s always the most delicious assortment of baked goods that anyone could hope for. There are Christmas cane sugar cookies, peanut butter chocolate buckeyes, lace cookies, mint cookies, and, of course, rugelach.
The rugelach are my favorite. I won’t lie; I gold-dig through the tin like it’s my job to try to find each and every one. The pastry is flaky and delicious, and it twists in the prettiest way around the loveliest combination of fruit, nuts, and cinnamon sugar that’s ever melted in your mouth. Every year, I wait for the day when the rugelach arrives in its Christmas tin, and every year I’m reminded of Christmas values as I struggle not to eat each and every one, but rather to share these wonderful morsels with those around me.
The rugelach from the Everyday Baking cookbook are a different shape from the ones I grew up eating, but they’re still the same delicious cookie. If anything, I think that this shows the diversity of ruglelach: There are different ways to roll them (spirals, crescents, pinwheels) and dozens of different variations for fillings (apricot-pecan is one of my favorites), and you can make them in any size and crunchiness you like. They’re a wonderfully versatile cookie that’s guaranteed to be a huge hit at your holiday celebration. Just remember to share . . .
Simple filling goodness: walnuts, raisins, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
The three dough rectangles, shaped and ready to be individually wrapped and refrigerated until firm.
Putting it all together . . .
Successfully rolled (definitely the most stressful part of the process), and ends sealed! Ready for more refrigerator time, and two more to go . . .
Carefully sliced, egg-washed, and cinnamon-sugared. Get ready for your entire house to smell absolutely heavenly while these babies cook.
Rugelach! Pretty pinwheels perfect for popping into your mouth any time of year.
Raspberry Walnut Rugelach
From The Old Farmer’s Almanac Everyday Baking, page 40
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup walnuts
1 cup raisins
½ cup packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
big pinch salt
1 tablespoon cold butter, in several pieces
¾ cup seedless raspberry preserves
1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash
¾ cup sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon, for coating
For dough: Using an electric mixer, preferably a large stand model, cream the butter and cream cheese until soft and smooth. Beat in the salt and sugar. Blend in the flour, on low speed or with a wooden spoon, about ½ cup at a time, incorporating each measure before the next one is added. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into thirds. Shape each portion into a rectangle about ½-inch thick. Wrap separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1½ to 2 hours, or until firm.
For filling: While the dough chills, put the walnuts, raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt into a food processor. Pulse the mixture repeatedly, until everything is coarsely chopped. Add the butter and continue to pulse until the mixture is finely chopped and still separate (not clumpy). Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate.
To assemble: Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll the dough into the best 12x7-inch rectangle you can manage on a sheet of lightly floured waxed paper or parchment paper. (If the dough gets too soft or delicate at any point, slide it onto a small baking sheet and refrigerate for 10 to 20 minutes, until it firms up and it becomes easier to handle and roll.) Trim all of the edges with a pastry cutter or paring knife, removing as little dough as possible. Stir the preserves briskly, to smooth. Spread one third of the preserves evenly over the dough, leaving a ½-inch border on all sides. Sprinkle one third of the nut filling onto the dough evenly. Press the nuts gently, to embed.
Starting along one of the long sides and using the paper to help you, roll up the dough like a carpet. Keep it snug, but not too tight or you’ll force the filling out at the seam. Pinch the ends to seal. Wrap the filled dough in the paper and refrigerate. Repeat for the remaining two pieces of dough. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350oF. Line one or two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap one log at a time and brush lightly with the egg wash. Using a sharp, serrated knife, slice the log into ¾-inch-thick pieces. Roll the pieces in the cinnamon sugar and place them on the baking sheet, spiral side up, leaving 2 inches in between. Bake one sheet at a time on the center oven rack for 25 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to finish cooling. Makes 40 to 48 cookies.
Kelsey is a Boston native and current Seattle transplant. When not chasing the sun around the state of Washington she can be found doing crosswords on her commute, rock climbing, biking, organizing as many potlucks as possible, and skiing (mostly spent defending the mighty mountains of the east coast). She loves cooking, sailing and traveling and will take you up on an offer to drink coffee, sit by a fire, and play scrabble any day.