Rugelach

Ahhh, rugelach. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Jewish dessert that is more beloved than sweet, flaky rugelach. Yiddish for “little twists” or “rolled things,” rugelach have become a popular dessert in America, enjoyed by Jews and non-Jews alike. They descend from an Eastern European pastry known as kipfel, which is a croissant-like cookie made with flour, butter, sour cream, sugar, and yeast. Sometimes kipfel are filled with fruit or nuts, sometimes not. In the early 20th century, American Jewish cooks took the concept of kipfel and added cream cheese to the dough, resulting in the delicious rugelach we know and love today.

Rugelach are often served on Jewish holidays like Hanukkah and Shavuot, though of course they can (and should!) be made throughout the year. Our family typically serves them during Rosh Hashanah, when sweet foods are made to signify a sweet new year. The rolled shape is similar to the spiral challah served at Rosh Hashanah, which symbolizes the cyclical nature of a year. Some people roll rugelach into a strudel-like form, then slice it to make spiral-shaped cookies. In today’s blog, I’m going to share the method for creating the more popular crescent-shaped cookies.

While rugelach filling recipes vary greatly, the dough most American bakers use for rugelach is pretty standard, comprised of equal amounts of flour, cream cheese, and butter. I add a bit of sour cream, sugar, and salt to mine because I like to shake things up. I’m a rugelach rebel! Actually, many people use sour cream in their dough instead of cream cheese, which is more similar to the way kipfel are made. I like to add both because I love the way the dough bakes up– crispy on the outside, soft and flaky and scrumptious on the inside. You’ll love it too. Promise.

I wish I could say that this recipe is healthy, but alas, it is just the opposite. That is, unless you consider fat, sugar, and starch to be healthy– and they might be, depending on how you look at it. After all, tasty treats in moderation are certainly good for the soul. I don’t recommend futzing with the recipe too much by substituting lowfat ingredients, since it’s the fat in the dairy products that ultimately makes these cookies so flaky and delicious. If you do try modifying the recipe for health reasons, let me know how it turns out for you– I’d love to hear! For the rest of us making full-fat rugelach, don’t worry about it too much. These cookies bake up fairly small, so you can treat yourself to a couple and not feel too terribly guilty. Life is there to be lived, am I right?? :)

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Dough Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup berry preserves (raspberry, strawberry, or blackberry)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Egg Wash Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

You will also need

  • Food processor or electric mixer, plastic wrap, parchment paper, cookie sheets, rolling pin and surface, skillet, 9 inch cake pan (optional)
Servings: 40 large rugelach or 60 small rugelach
Kosher Key: Dairy
  • Chop cold butter and cream cheese into smaller pieces. Put pieces into your food processor along with sour cream, flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse together ingredients until a crumbly dough forms and begins to fall away from the sides of the processor. Don't overprocess; the dough should look crumbly, like cottage cheese.
  • If you don't have a food processor: let the butter and cream cheese come to room temperature. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together with the sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and sugar. 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. Don't overmix. Pour dough onto a lightly floured rolling surface...
  • and form into a rough ball shape.
  • Divide the ball into four equal pieces and form those pieces into rough balls.
  • Cover each ball with plastic and place in the refrigerator. Refrigerate dough balls for at least 1 1/2 hours, for up to 48 hours.
  • In a skillet, toast the chopped nuts over medium heat until fragrant.
  • Pour the toasted nuts into a food processor along with the chocolate chips, berry preserves, and brown sugar. Pulse together until a thick, coarse paste forms. Reserve.
  • Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl; reserve. Beat your egg wash with water; reserve.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly flour your rolling surface and rolling pin. Take one portion of the dough out the refrigerator (keep the rest of the dough cold until ready to use). Roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. You may need to use the rolling pin to pound out the dough a bit at the beginning; the dough will be very firm and cold, but will become more pliable as it starts to warm. Just keep rolling with firm, even pressure, and eventually it will look like this:
  • Lift the dough gently from the rolling surface (it may stick a bit) and re-flour your surface beneath the dough.
  • Replace the dough onto the newly refloured surface. Use a round 9" cake pan as a guide to make a nice, smooth imprint of a circle in the dough.
  • Cut the dough into a large circle, following the shape of the cake pan. If you don't have a cake pan, just guesstimate the size of the circle and cut it as smoothly as you can.
  • Form the trimmed excess dough into a small ball. Wrap it in plastic and reserve in the refrigerator, adding to the ball with each batch that is made.
  • Take 1/4 of the filling (about 4 tbsp) and place it in the center of the circle. Spread it very thin across the surface of the dough; a thick layer of filling will make your cookies expand and burst. You can use your fingers to make the spreading easier; I like to use my palm to flatten and even out the filling. Leave about an inch around the edges of the circle.
  • Cut the circle into 8 equal triangles by first cutting the circle in half...
  • then quarters...
  • then halve the quarters to make eighths.
  • If you prefer to make smaller bite-sized cookies, divide each quarter into three to make 12 equal triangles.
  • Roll each triangle, starting from the wide flat end and rolling towards the narrow point.
  • Press the end point into the cookie to secure it. Place the rolled cookies onto a parchment lined cookie sheet, end point down. Leave an inch between the cookies, as they will expand slightly during baking.
  • When you are ready to bake, brush the top of each cookie with egg wash...
  • then sprinkle lightly with cinnamon sugar.
  • Place cookies in the oven and let them back for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Roll out your next batch of cookies while this batch is baking. When the cookies are golden brown, remove from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack.
  • If you'd prefer to bake more than one batch of cookies at a time, you can store batches of rolled unbaked cookies (without egg wash) on a cookie sheet in the refrigerator. Egg wash and dust them with sugar just prior to placing them in the oven.
  • When you're finished making cookies from the four dough balls, make a smooth ball from the leftover dough trimmings you've reserved and roll it out to make your fifth batch.
  • These cookies taste amazing served warm and fresh from the oven. They'll keep for a few days in a tightly sealed container. You can rewarm them in the microwave if you want to. Also, feel free to use this dough recipe with other rugelach fillings. If you're using a fruit-only filling, make sure it's an oven safe variety for pastry baking. Using simple jam or preserves alone (without firming them up with other ingredients) tends to make a runny filling that flows out of the cookies, which makes for a goopy mess. If you've never made these cookies before, start with my filling-- it's really yummy, promise!

Comments (53)Post a Comment

  1. First, these look delicious and I’m definitely going to try them. But I have a question for you: how are rugelach different than schneken? I see pastry that look very similar labeled as each of these. Is there a difference, or are they two names for the same thing?

  2. Mmmmm try different fillings too. I love to make these with pineapple jam or marmalade–lemon or orange are good–with some chopped candied or crystalized ginger!

  3. I am sure it must have tasted great. Wow so much of effort on those pretty Rugelach. Very clever idea to use baking pan and cut it into pieces. Love your pictures made it even more easier to follow the recipe. Perfect.

  4. Jackie, you could certainly make an almond filling for this, as long as the filling is somewhat firm and not too runny. Very wet fillings will drip out of the rugelach and make a mess. Many people like to use a combination of nuts, raisins, and cinnamon as a filling. I’m a fan of the chocolate myself, but they’re all good!

    Diane, schneken are very similar to rugelach– the big difference is that schneken dough is made with sour cream only instead of cream cheese or a combo of cream cheese & sour cream. Schneken are more like kipfel, which are the predecessors of rugelach. But you’re right that they are very similar!

  5. Don’t Modify!!! In a moment of guilt about fat some years ago, I tried making these with low fat cream cheese and margarine. They were horrible. I just tell people each cookie has 1200 calories (not really) and to enjoy them but eat fewer. They are my favorite cookies.

  6. Looks wonderful. Is there a substitute for the cream cheese and sour cream to make it pareve and still turn out so good?

  7. I have made several flavors of rugelach one with dried blueberries, blackberry jam,cinnamon and ground nuts and they are incredible and full of antioxidants .!

  8. These sound just wonderful. I was wondering what to bake special for my hubby when he plows our snow filled Maine yard tomorrow..
    He will love these from the sound of the ingredients!
    Thank you so much! I feel like I am snoopin’ around in your kitchen..

  9. You make it look so easy, from start to finish! I made mine with nuts and marmalade. They oozed, made caramelized puddles on the bottoms that turned into burnt sugar, that glued them in place. They were too good from the scorched bottoms, up, to throw out though. No idea what went wrong. Will try them again. I like the ones from Whole Foods, but nothing beats homemade.

    Thanks.

  10. My friend who lived behind Canters used to bring these to me everyday!! Sooooooooooooooooooooooo good.

    The recipe isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, so I can’t wait to try to make them!

  11. I adore Rugelach and since I moved from NYC I no longer have it. There was a great kosher bakery on W 72nd that I used to pick up apricot Rugelach on my way to work many years ago. Thanks for recipe but the idea of me doing that many steps is…highly unlikely. Cheers!

  12. Thank you Shiksa, you are the best. My husband love Rugelach the one

    with prunes we used to live in Brooklyn N Y. I’m now in Miami Florida.

    And the recipe is great…………….THAKX AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Since you shared the link for this on Facebook in your salmon recipe’s comments, I knew I had to make it. I made these today. Wow, took quite a bit of effort, but they were absolutely delicious! I need to work on my technique a bit because they weren’t all very pretty, but they were delicious nonetheless. I think the filling was a bit thick to spread into a thin layer, but I will try to play around a bit in the future. Absolutely delicious though, thank you for the recipe!

    1. Hi tidesong! So glad you got a chance to try these. The filling is tricky, you want it soft enough to spread thin but not so soft that it melts out of the cookie. Next time, try adding more of the berry preserves, a little bit at a time, until the consistency is more spreadable. And yes, the technique takes practice, but don’t worry– after making them a couple of times, it becomes second nature. ;)

  14. I used to buy these at Canters, but to tell the truth my moms rugelach was always my fave, but your recipe is so close I can taste them as I read your post! I am going to have to make these and take them to mom and tell her I made them and she will flip cuz I have never made pastries or cookies in the past. Great recipe and you have a nice blog.

  15. 4/2/2011

    Thanks for the awesome recipe and all the pictorials.
    They look absolutely delicious and I cannot wait to make them.

    Thanks

  16. I used a vegan recipe for the dough but I used your filling recipe and you’re right – it is THE BEST! I was going to make half of the dough with your filling and the other half with a different filling, but after tasting the first batch, I made them all with your recipe. Thanks so much!

  17. So I absolutely adore your website. I’m in a history phd program and I am a little obsessed with Jewish culture and history so obviously everything about your website is right up my alley. I made these today (I halved the recipe but I wish I hadn’t!) and they are INCREDIBLE. And surprisingly easy!

  18. Do u think gluten free plain flour will work for the rugelach dough? Sounds a little like the cream cheese dough recipe for Hungarian pastries my Ma used to make.

  19. I tried cranberry and white chocolate. I was so afraid that the filling would spill! I decided to add a few T of flour to both the dehydrated cranberry-turned jam filling and the chopped white chocolate and walnuts. It was flawless, not a touch of leaked filling. Thanks for the great recipe!

  20. Thank you so much for the recipe! It is not the first one I made from you, they are all so great! Toda raba! (Trying to send you the picture, not sure how to do it :)

  21. I live in South Africa and want to know what you mean by Berry preserves. We call it jam, but must it have whole fruit in??

  22. Hi – I also live in South Africa and am glad Maxine asked you that question – now I know and will definitely try this recipe – sounds great!

  23. I melted the chocolate chips with about a TB of butter….. Easier than trying to get those chips ground up. In my processor they act like pebbles and barely break down. Then combined the melted chocolate with the nuts, jam and sugar.
    It’s a great filling. Thanks.

  24. I’ve just made the rugelach but it’s several days (5) before I’ll serve them. What’s the best way to preserve them? Freeze them or refrigerate?
    And then warm up before serving?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Sherry, I would double wrap them in plastic, then freeze them. Defrost them several hours before you plan to serve them. You can also reheat them a bit in a 350 degree oven to make them warm and crisp, like they just came out of the oven. Enjoy!

  25. Is there a nut free version of the filling that won’t leak? I’d like to make them for school, but it’s a “nut-free zone”. Thanks in advance.

  26. Hi Tori,
    My mom’s recipe for rugelach has 1 stick butter, 1 stick margarine, 3 cups flour, 8 oz. sour cream, 1pkg. Yeast, and 3 egg yolks. It’s rolled out into a circle on top of cinnamon sugar. The cinnamon sugar is also sprinkled on top. It’s delicious but I’ve never seen a rugelach recipe that contains yeast. I’m wondering if this isn’t really considered “rugelach”. What do you think? I have no idea where she got this recipe.

  27. Hi Tori,
    Just did some research and found a similar recipe for Hungarian kipfel. My grandparents were from Hungary, so maybe my mom got the recipe from my grandmother. Does this make sense?

    1. Hi Barbara– kipfel is very similar to rugelach, in fact they’re almost interchangeable and both cookies are most certainly related. If you read the first paragraph of this post I explain the history a bit. :)

  28. Can these be made gluten free by substituting a GF flour for the all porpose type? HAve you heard anyone trying that trick?
    Thanks.

    1. I haven’t tried it fauxfurr, but maybe another reader will see your comment and respond. Trouble with GF doughs is that they tend to be less flexible than traditional doughs, which makes rolling and shaping more difficult.

  29. Hi Tori,

    These rugelach look amazing. They look like the rugelach from the marzipan bakery in Jerusalem. It’s been 2 years since I went to Israel on birthright and as soon as I get home from school I’m going to make them.

  30. Love so many of your recipes. I have been making rugelach for years. Tried your choc filing. Great for a change. Some tweaks for ease. I found difficult to spread choc. filling evenly evenly so I put on wax paper and rolled out thin Into a circle slightly smaller than dough circle. , then when ready to use peeled off wax paper put on dough peeled off other side and voila. Easy and even. When using apricot , blend in blender makes it easier to use. . After rolling out triangles I put on tray and into frig until all completed. then I use a beaten very frothy. egg white. ( Stiff but not over beaten ) Dip shaped rugelach in beaten egg white and then into topping ,mixture. Makes beautiful and less mess when baking. Always bake on parchment and always roll out on wax paper. Hesse are my tweaks over many years

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