Cinnamon rugelach cookies are traditionally served during Hanukkah, but the rich, cream cheese dough and variety of possible fillings make this a delicious any-holiday cookie recipe.
This is one tasty cookie. Or is it a pastry? Let’s discuss.
What Is Rugelach?
Rugelach are crescent-shaped cookies made from a rich cream cheese dough that’s somewhere between a cookie and a pastry dough. They are filled with a variety of nuts, jam, chocolate, poppy seeds or raisins.
Rugelach, pronounced ROO-gah-lah, originated in Poland, but is eaten in Jewish communities all over the world. You can find them in coffee shops all over Eastern Europe and Israel as well as any good Jewish bakery.
According to Wikipedia, rugelach can mean “little twists,” “corner,” or “horn,” all of which describe its shape. These cookies look just like miniature croissants.
Others say that the meaning of rugelach comes from “rugel” which means royal.
Ingredients For Rugelach
This is Ina Garten’s rugelach recipe from Barefoot Contessa Parties! Here are the ingredients you’ll need:
- cream cheese
- kosher salt
- vanilla extract
- all-purpose flour
- brown sugar
- apricot preserves
- 1 egg for the egg wash
- milk for egg wash
How to Make This Cinnamon Rugelach Recipe
Start by letting your butter and cream cheese come to room temperature. In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer, cream the cream cheese and butter until light.
Add 1/4 cup sugar, salt and vanilla. Turn the mixer to low and add the flour gradually until just combined.
Turn out the dough onto a well-floured board and roll it into a ball. Cut the dough into quarters. For uniformity, I like to use a scale so that each quarter weighs the same. An inexpensive kitchen scale is such a useful kitchen tool!
Flatten each ball into a disk. Wrap well in plastic and refrigerate for an hour. At this point, you could freeze some of the dough if you want.
While the dough is chilling, prepare the filling. Mix the brown sugar, 6 tablespoons of granulated sugar, and chopped walnuts in a bowl.
Next, puree the apricot jam in a food processor so it’s a little smoother and easier to spread.
On a lightly floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9″ circle. I like to use the bottom of my springform pan as a guide, trimming it and patching the dough as needed.
Spread each circle of dough with 1/4 of the jam (about 2 tablespoons) using a pastry brush.
Sprinkle each circle with 1/4 of the cinnamon walnut filling (around 1/3 of a cup). Press the filling lightly into the dough.
Cut each circle into equal wedges using a pizza cutter or sharp knife.
Next, roll the cookies. Starting with the wide end of each wedge, roll each wedge until it looks like a little croissant. The point should be on the bottom.
Place the rugelach on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Chill for 30 minutes. (You can freeze the rugelach at this point too.)
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon in a small bowl. Make the egg wash by beating 1 tablespoon of milk with the egg.
Brush each cookie with the egg wash, and sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Remove to wire racks and let cool.
Store the rugelach at room temperature for several days in a cookie tin or sealed container.
Can You Freeze Rugelach?
Yes. You can freeze the rugelach dough one of two ways. Either freeze the dough once you’ve rolled it out into a disc shape or freeze the filled and rolled cookies on a cookie sheet then wrap them carefully.
When you’re ready to bake the rugelach, just place the filled cookies on a baking sheet while you heat up the oven. They should be defrosted by the time you pop them in the oven.
If you’re freezing the discs of dough, defrost the dough until it can be easily rolled.
Can You Use Other Fillings For Rugelach Cookies?
Absolutely! You could substitute any jam and nut combination, such as raspberry jam and chopped pecans, or cherry jam and almonds. This could also be easily adapted to a chocolate rugelach recipe.
Here are some additional ideas for rugelach fillings:
- Chopped, dried fruit
- Poppy seed filling
- Shredded coconut
- Lemon curd
- Cream the cheese and the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, salt and vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix until just combined.
- Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and roll it into a ball. Cut into quarters, roll each into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour. (Dough can be frozen at this point)
Cinnamon Walnut Filling
- To make filling, combine 6 tablespoons sugar, brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and walnuts in a small bowl.
- On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9-inch circle. Spread the dough with 2 tablespoons of apricot preserves and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling. Press filling lightly into the dough.
- Cut circle into 12 equal wedges. Starting with wide edge, roll up each wedge.
- Place cookies, points tucked under, on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Chill for 30 minutes. (Finished cookies can be frozen at this point)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Finishing the Rugelach
- Combine beaten egg and 1 Tablespoon milk to make an egg wash
- Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle on the cookies.
- Brush each cookie with egg wash.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.
- read the recipe through before beginning. The entire amount of white sugar is 1/4 cup PLUS 9 Tablespoons. 6 Tablespoons are used for the filling and 3 for sprinkling on top of the cookies before baking.
- If you want to freeze the dough, flatten each ball into a disc before freezing. Wrap well. It will keep for about 3 weeks.
Defrost before rolling out
- If you want to freeze the cookies BEFORE baking, place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Once they’re frozen, place them in a zip-lock bag. Defrost on a cookie sheet before baking.
- Any nut or jam can be substituted.