Growing up in Hawaii I had very little, if any, connection to the Jewish community. In fact, the Jewish community makes up only about 0.5% of the population in Hawaii and is getting smaller. 1 By comparison, Massachusetts has a thriving Jewish population. As with most new cultures I encounter, my way of connecting is through food. When I moved to Boston, for the first time in my life, I was introduced to hamantaschen, matzoh ball soup, chopped liver, latkes, and proper bagels (thank you Kupel’s). I was also introduced to these lovely little cookies called rugelach.
What are rugelach?
By no means am I an expert on Jewish dishes and I will never claim to be. Here is information I’ve gleaned from personal interactions and information on the Internet.
Rugelach are little cookies that often look like small filled crescent rolls. They are made with a light, cream-cheese and butter dough and filled with jam, nuts, or chocolate. I won’t go into the history of rugelach – there’s lots of information and supposition on the Internet – but it seems that this version is what many call American rugelach because of the use of cream cheese in the dough. It is different from those from Northern and Slavic Europe which are made with a yeasted dough.
Rugelach is often associated with Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashana and especially with Hanukkah. While researching, I read in more than one blog that rugelach are great to eat year-round and not just for holidays. As I do not celebrate the Jewish holidays, I would have to agree.
After watching an episode of Barefoot Contessa, I learned that rugelach are pretty easy to make. After making Ina Garten’s recipe for many years, I started incorporating elements I liked from other bakers (see my list of inspiration below). I found that most recipes are pretty similar. Here are some of the differences:
- Barefoot Contessa incorporates sugar into her dough, others don’t.
- Most, like Dorie Greenspan, treat the dough like a pie crust, cutting cold butter and cream cheese into the dry ingredients. Barefoot Contessa treats the dough like a cookie, creaming together room temperature butter and cream cheese.
- Sally’s Baking Addiction processes the fruit & nut filling in a food processor, resulting in a finely-chopped, homogenous mixture.
The recipe I share here takes elements from all these influences.
Same dough, different fillings
I’m sharing two different rugelach that I make. They both use the same dough and both use some form of nuts. The first is more traditional and includes a thin layer of jam (I use either my apricot or papaya ginger jam) and a mixture of nuts, fruit, and sugar. The other uses jarred Nutella with a layer of chopped hazelnuts for crunch.
The recipe makes enough dough to make two dozen of each variety. Each filling is enough for half a recipe of dough.
- Rugelach Recipe | Ina Garten
- Dorie Greenspan’s Rugelach Secrets
- Nutella Rugelach, Two Ways | Hummingbird High
- How to Make Rugelach Cookies | Sally’s Baking Addiction
1 Nehmad, I. Robert, (November 2020), Hawaii Jewish Community: A Community Mapping Report, Jewish Community ServicesPrint
These bite-sized cookies are made with a flaky cream-cheese dough rolled around fillings of jam, nuts, or chocolate. This recipe combines the best elements from Barefoot Contessa, Dorie Greenspan, Sally’s Baking Addiction, and Hummingbird High. This recipe offers two different fillings. There is enough dough to make two dozen of each variety. Each filling is enough for half a dough recipe.
For the dough
8 ounces cream cheese, cold
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
For the Nutella filling
2/3 cup Nutella
1/2 cup hazelnuts, finely chopped
For the jam & nut filling
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup golden raisins (regular raisins are fine)
1/4 cup apricot preserves (or your favorite jam)
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash
Granulated sugar for sprinkling
To make the dough
Let the cream cheese and butter rest on the counter for 10 minutes — you want them to be slightly softened but still cool. Break each into chunks – roughly 1″ in size.
Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to incorporate.
Scatter the chunks of cream cheese and butter over the flour mixture and pulse the machine 6 to 10 times. Then process, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, just until the dough forms large curds — don’t work it so long that it forms a ball on the blade.
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 at least 2 hours or overnight.
To make the jam & nut filling
Place the walnuts in a food processor and pulse 6 to 10 times to break down the pieces.
Add the sugars, cinnamon, and raisins and process until finely chopped and well combined. The filling will look slightly moist.
If the jam is chunky, place in a food processor and process until smooth. You can also lightly warm the jam to make it more spreadable. Just be careful, you don’t want warm jam to melt the dough.
On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9-inch circle.
For the jam & nut rugelach: Spread each circle of dough with 2 tablespoons apricot preserves and sprinkle with ½ cup of the filling. Press the filling lightly into the dough.
For the Nutella rugelach: Spread each circle of dough with ⅓ cup Nutella and sprinkle over ¼ cup chopped hazelnuts.
For both types: Cut each circle into 12 equal wedges (starting by quartering the circle and then cutting each quarter into thirds). Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge. Place the cookies, points tucked under, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Brush each cookie with the egg wash and sprinkle each cookie with sugar.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.
The baked cookies can be kept covered at room temperature for up to 3 days.
The unbaked, unglazed cookies freeze well. When you are ready to bake, place the cookies on a lined baking sheet (do not defrost) and glaze and sugar. Then put the cookies directly into a preheated oven. They may take a minute or two longer, watch carefully
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Inactive Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Cookies
- Cuisine: Jewish
- Calories: 126.44
- Sugar: 6.77 g.
- Sodium: 30.15 mg.
- Fat: 8.32 g.
- Saturated Fat: 4.7 g.
- Carbohydrates: 12.06 g.
- Fiber: 0.64 g.
- Protein: 1.54 g.
- Cholesterol: 14.94 g.
Keywords: cream cheese, jam, Nutella