Sweet and flaky, rugelach (which translates to “little twists” or “rolled things”) are Jewish pastries that have become a popular dessert across America. They are fun to make, pretty to give, and delicious!
For Jewish bakers, these pastries are often made for Jewish holidays like Hanukkah, Shavuot, and especially Rosh Hashanah, when sweet foods are made to signify a sweet new year. The rolled shape at the Jewish New Year symbolizes the cyclical nature of a year.
Note that rugelach filling recipes vary greatly. If you wish to substitute raisins for semi-sweet chocolate chips or use pecans instead of walnuts, or change the raspberry preserves to strawberry or blackberry, feel free! Make these rugelachs your own!
Need more guidance? See our “how to make rugelach” article. We show you how it’s done with photos and instructions.
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. Be careful not to overmix the dough. It should be crumbly (like cottage cheese).
Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into three.
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.
If you don’t have a food processor: let the butter and cream cheese come to room temperature. In a separate bowl, sift together the salt, sugar, and flour. Then slowly add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, mixing constantly, until dough holds together and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Again, don’t overmix.
See instructions for making the filling below.
An optional step for those who add nuts: In a skillet, toast the chopped nuts over medium heat until fragrant. Be careful not to burn them!
While the dough chills, put the nuts, raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt into a food processor. Pulse the mixture repeatedly, until everything is coarsely chopped and a thick paste forms. Add the butter and continue to pulse until the mixture is finely chopped and still separate (not clumpy). Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate.
Lightly flour a counter surface which is covered in wax paper or parchment paper. Also, lightly flour a rolling pin.
Take one portion of the dough out the refrigerator (keep the rest of the dough cold until ready to use). The dough may be very firm at first, but it will become more pliable.
Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness into the best 12x7-inch rectangle you can manage, using firm and even pressure. (If the dough gets too soft and delicate at any point, slide it onto a small baking sheet and refrigerate for 10 to 20 minutes, until it firms up and becomes easier to handle and roll.)
Trim all of the edges with a pastry cutter or paring knife, removing as little dough as possible. (Wrap it in plastic and reserve in the refrigerator, adding to the ball with each batch that is made.)
Stir the preserves briskly, to smooth. Spread 1/3 of the preserves evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides. Keep the layer thin or your pastries will burst open! Sprinkle 1/3 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 350°F.
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.
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