Monday, October 5, 2015

Rebecca's Rugelach

A tasty rolled pastry that just might need to be a staple at my house!

You know me: I love baking, dessert and cookies! And pastries. Whichever. For every savory idea I have for this blog, I've probably got about ten sweet ones to match it, and it's difficult to find a good balance most of the time. Rugelach have been something I've been wanting to try for a long time, and this weekend, I finally decided the wait was over. Nothing was going to get in my way!

No seriously, there's no catch this time. Everything turned out really great! And now I'm left wondering what else this dough can be turned into, because even without the yummy filling, the dough was pretty delicious. I'm definitely on the market for more interesting flaky treats to make with it.

Rugelach are Jewish pastries (although some people do classify them as cookies) with a muddy origin story. There are urban legends about them being related to a crescent shaped pastry celebrating the end of a Turkish siege of Vienna in the 1600's, and that they might be a cousin to the croissant, but croissants are a more modern invention than rugelach and rugelach predate the 1600's by quite a bit. It's more likely that they're an off shoot of the kipferl, an Austrian pastry, but even that link is tenuous at best. They were featured in Rebecca's School Set as part of her school lunch, and that alone made them something I really wanted to try out.

That, and the fact that they sound delicious. A soft, flaky pastry with a delicious filling? Yes, please.

The recipe I used today comes from Food Network's own Ina Garten, a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa and can be accessed online at Many people don't seem to know this, but Ina is actually Jewish, and she says these cookies are just like her grandmother used to make! I can't say whether or not she's put her own unique spin on them, but her recipe was easy to follow and resulted in some seriously delicious treats.

You begin by taking a half pound of cream cheese and a half cup of butter, both of which need to be at room temperature so they can blend easily. Once this gets creamed together until it's nice and fluffy, you add in a quarter cup of sugar, a teaspoon (or a little extra, if you're me) of vanilla extract and a quarter teaspoon of salt, and once that's mixed in, you gradually add in two cups of flour just until it's combined. I had to manhandle mine a bit - I don't think our stand mixer actually does a good job of mixing flour into dough, because a lot of it gets stuck at the bottom and forces you to really wrestle with it to get everything mixed in.

Anyway, once you've fought your dough into submission, you roll it into a ball and divide it into four equal sized balls. These need to get chilled for an hour before they're ready to be made into the cookies.

... What's with the lack of pictures of all this, Gwen?

So, a bit of bad news: my camera did that thing again where it didn't tell me hey, I don't have a memory card in me! until after I'd finished making the dough. Oops! But by now, I think you know what cookie dough looks like, even if this one has cream cheese in it.

Once you've let the dough chill, you take a single ball of dough and roll it into a nine inch circle. I did each of my balls of dough separately and left the others in the fridge to make sure they were nice and cold when I was ready to use them.

And now it's time for the filling. Rugelach filling can include a lot of stuff, but Ina's is pretty simple and definitely tasty. To help keep the solid parts of the filling attached, you first smear apricot jam all over the rolled out dough. Ina recommends putting this through a food processor to get a consistent texture, but I just scraped it out of the jar and didn't run into any problems.

The rest of the filling is full of stuff I love: a quarter cup of light brown sugar, a cup of finely chopped walnuts, three quarters of a cup of raisins and a teaspoon and a half of cinnamon.

This get sprinkled generously over the jam and then gently pressed into it to make sure it sticks. You can roll your rolling pin over it a tiny bit just to get everything nice and stuck in place.

And that done, you divide it into fourths again, and then divide each fourth into three, leaving you with twelve little triangles that are ready to be rolled into rugelach!

You start with the wide edge and carefully roll them up, and then place them on a baking sheet, leaving the small point down to hold the roll in place. These then need to get refrigerated for another half hour. I found twenty four cookies fit pretty comfortably on  a large baking dish, so if you wanted to make all of your dough at once, you'd probably need two baking sheets, or stagger them by doing two balls of dough and leaving the other two to chill while you cook the first two in the oven.

(Or, you can freeze the dough and enjoy the cookies later! It's a good recipe if you're looking for a small batch of cookies you can whip out at any given moment.)

After chilling again, the rolls get brushed with an egg wash that's one egg with a tablespoon of milk, and are then liberally sprinkled with a cinnamon sugar mix. They get baked in a 350 degree oven for fifteen to twenty minutes, although mine definitely needed the full twenty before they came out looking nice and golden brown.

If you cook all four balls of dough in one day, you're left with forty eight delicious cookies to share with whoever's lucky enough to be coming over your house.

I think they came out looking pretty nice, don't you think?

I am really in love with these treats. I figured I'd like them, but I didn't know how much I'd like them, especially considering I actually usually really don't like cream cheese in my desserts! I hate cream cheese frosting and worried that these would taste too much like a cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese instead of a dessert, but that really wasn't the case at all! The cream cheese just left the pastry nice and light, with just a little bit of that cool, familiar taste of cream cheese. The butter definitely helps mask it a little, too, and oh man, the filling. I actually had way too much filling and cinnamon sugar left over, so we're storing some to be used as oatmeal topping in the morning. The cookies were soft, easy to bite into, and small enough that you didn't feel too guilty for eating one, or two, or three...

Even though the recipe was a little time consuming with all the chilling, I also really liked this because the pastries had a really soft texture without you needing to worry about cutting in super cold butter or not over handling it. Chilling the dough keeps it cool enough to help them stay crisp and light when they're baked, and over all, I'd consider the time spent making this well worth the finished product.

Considering I only have four cookies left after my family came over for Sunday dinner, I think they decided they agree with me!

So that's rugelach! I'm glad I finally took the time to give them a shot, because I think I have a contender for new favorite cookie. Or pastry. Texture wise, I would say this recipe has more in common with a cookie than a pastry, but they're really good regardless. I definitely need to find other things to do with the dough, too! It really is that tasty.

Of course, making more rugelach with it also sounds like a great idea...


  1. Perhaps you could try some other dried fruit to mix things up a bit. These were really tasty and I definitely would eat them again.

    1. Me too! Maybe next time we have people over...