Perfect Rugelach

Updated on March 24, 2019
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Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

Rugelach is not a Jewish baked good; it’s a baked GREAT.

— Yoni Levi

Is it by design or mere coincidence that the most luscious foods begin with the letter R? There are raclette and Roquefort, raspberries and ramps, ratatouille and roast beef, ravioli and risotto, rum cake, and (of course) rugelach.

Rugelach, an Ashkenazi Jewish pastry, has many spellings, and even more “perfect” recipes. The name “rugelach” (or rugelakh, rugalach, ruggalach, roggelach, rogelach) is a Yiddish word for “little twists.” Originally they were made with yeasted dough. Here's my mom's (almost famous) recipe:

Mom's Traditional "Almost Famous" Rugelach

Ingredients for Dough

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 package (2¼ teaspoons) dry yeast
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cup buttermilk (heat gently in a small saucepan on the stove until barely warm, 120-130°F)
  • ¼ cup melted butter

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Stir in the buttermilk and melted butter. Mix in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.
  2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl; cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 30 minutes. When the dough is ready two fingers poked into the side will leave an indentation.
  3. Punch down dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, divide into four equal portions, and shape each into a smooth ball.
  4. Roll each dough ball, one at a time, into a thin 11-inch circle.
  5. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the nut filling on each circle. Cut each circle into 12 equal wedges—pretend that you’re cutting a pizza.
  6. Roll each wedge up jellyroll fashion from wide end to tip (as if you are making a croissant).
  7. Arrange the rolls on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper.
  8. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel, and let rise for about 20 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  10. Bake the rugelach for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool completely before serving.

Ingredients for Nut Filling

  • 1¾ cups ground walnuts
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 egg yolk from a large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions for Nut Filling

  1. in a mixing bowl stir together the ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cocoa. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk and butter to a simmer. (Be careful, milk scorches easily and can boil over).
  3. Pour the liquid over the nut/sugar mixture. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Allow to stand at room temperature until ready to be spread on the dough. (If the mixture becomes too thick to spread, add a small amount of warm milk.)

Click thumbnail to view full-size
dough is ready for 1st risingsee those indentations? The dough is ready to punch down and shaperoll out each piece of dough onto floured surface
dough is ready for 1st rising
dough is ready for 1st rising | Source
see those indentations? The dough is ready to punch down and shape
see those indentations? The dough is ready to punch down and shape | Source
roll out each piece of dough onto floured surface
roll out each piece of dough onto floured surface | Source

But When They Came to America

Rugelach changed. Perhaps it was the influence of the Philadelphia cream cheese company, maybe it was the quest for the streamlining of a labor-intensive task, but the traditional yeast dough was pushed aside in favor of a quicker, flakier cream cheese rich dough.

Source: Jewish Cooking in America, Joan Nathan [Alfred A. Knopf:New York] 1998 (p. 351-2)

One of the early cream-cheese doughs appeared in "The Perfect Hostess", written in 1950 by Mildred Knopf. Mrs. Knopf, the sister-in-law of Alfred Knopf the publisher, says that the recipe came from Nela Rubenstein, the wife of pianist Arthur Rubenstein. It was Mrs. Knopf's friend Maida Heatter who put rugelach on the culinary map with Mrs. Heatter's grandmother's recipe. It is the most sought after of all Mrs. Heatter's recipes and is the rugelach most often found in upscale bakeries.

— Joan Nathan
Click thumbnail to view full-size
"moosh" those dough clumps togetherroll out each disc into a circlemy daughter chose apple butter and white raisins for the topping of choiceAfter adding the topping and cutting into wedges, roll up each wedge from wide end to pointAll lined up on parchment paper and ready to go into the ovenbaked and on the cooling rack. Do you see all of that buttery, flaky goodness?
"moosh" those dough clumps together
"moosh" those dough clumps together | Source
roll out each disc into a circle
roll out each disc into a circle | Source
my daughter chose apple butter and white raisins for the topping of choice
my daughter chose apple butter and white raisins for the topping of choice | Source
After adding the topping and cutting into wedges, roll up each wedge from wide end to point
After adding the topping and cutting into wedges, roll up each wedge from wide end to point | Source
All lined up on parchment paper and ready to go into the oven
All lined up on parchment paper and ready to go into the oven | Source
baked and on the cooling rack. Do you see all of that buttery, flaky goodness?
baked and on the cooling rack. Do you see all of that buttery, flaky goodness? | Source

The following is an adaptation of Maida Heatter's cream cheese rugelach recipe. I have updated the list of ingredients and the instructions. Mrs. Heatter used an electric mixer to form her dough; I suggest adding one egg yolk and using a food processor which, I think, results in a flakier dough.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk from a large egg

Instructions for Making the Dough

  1. Place the flour and the salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to combine.
  2. Cut the butter and the softened cream cheese into cubes. Drop into the bowl of the food processor. Pulse 10 to 12 minutes to form coarse crumbs. Add the egg yolk and process a few more pulses until dough forms.
  3. Remove the dough from the bowl of the food processor. (Be careful with handling that blade—it's sharp!)
  4. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. It will be in clumps, not one cohesive mass. Gently squeeze/knead the dough several times to form it into a ball. Cut into 3 equal-sized pieces, shape each piece into a flat disc. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or as long as 3 days.

Instructions for Shaping the Rugelach

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Remove the rugelach dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap one piece at a time. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a circle about 1/8-inch thick.
  3. Cover each circle of dough with the filling of your choice (suggestions below) and then cut each circle into 8 equal wedges (as though you are slicing a pizza).
  4. Roll up each wedge from the wide side to the tip, forming a roll that looks like a croissant.
  5. Place the rolls on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. You should be able to get 18 on a baking sheet. Bake 25-30 minutes or until rugelach are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Makes 24

Rugelach filled with Nutella and dusted with powdered sugar
Rugelach filled with Nutella and dusted with powdered sugar | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Linda Lum

    Comments

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      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Angel, you've made my day (or at least given me a good chuckle). This gal's far too old to start another career. In fact, I don't bake very much anymore. Not only is it dangerous (for the waistline), but I find much baking too exacting. However these cookies are easy, forgiving, and rewarding.

      • Angel Guzman profile image

        Angel Guzman 

        2 months ago from Joliet, Illinois

        Mmm yum I love desserts! Great read Linda!! Open a bakery, lol.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Jerry, or whatever your nom de plume is at this moment, I will not allow any of my articles to be highjacked for the purpose of putting down anyone or veering into a discussion that is totally off-topic. If you feel so passionate about this subject, I suggest that you become a contributor to Hub Pages and write your own articles.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Nell, you have just made my happy day even happier. Thank you so much.

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 

        2 months ago from England

        I had never heard of it before, but it looks and sounds so yummy! I am going to bookmark this and give it a try, thanks!

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Pamela, I always thought my mom's yeast version was the best...until I had the short dough made with cream cheese and lots of butter. It was love at first bite (sorry Mom).

        Whichever one you choose, let your imagination run wild as for what to fill these little dears with. Mom's walnut/cinnamon is really good (but a lot of work!).

        Hearing from you always makes me so happy. I hope you are having a wonderful week. Spring is almost here!!!

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        2 months ago from Sunny Florida

        Linda, You make my mouth water just looking at these deserts that I am not familiar with at all. They sound so good. I think I would like the yeast recipe the best. Thanks for sharing this wonderful desert or snack. I hope you have a great rest of the week Linda.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Thank you for stopping by Larry. I don't think you will be disappointed.

      • Larry Slawson profile image

        Larry Slawson 

        2 months ago from North Carolina

        I have never heard of these before. Looks delicious though! Will definitely have to try!

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Paula, rugelach is a much shorter name LOL. Do yourself a favor and make some today. Flour, butter, cream cheese, an egg and the filling of your dreams. It could even be something simple like a schmear if strawberry jam.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Bill, I put up with you because I love you, you old coot. I don't think rugelach would stand up to USPS handling, but next time I'm in your neighborhood I'll be sure to have some with me.

      • fpherj48 profile image

        Paula 

        2 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

        Linda.....This is so interesting to me! My Aunt used to make what looked & sounds exactly like these yummy tarts, but I don't remember her ever referring to them as "rugelachs".....thanks for giving them a name. We just used to call them "those totally delicious things you make that we could eat tons of!!" LOL Now my mouth is watering!

        Paula

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        2 months ago from Olympia, WA

        Huh? I make it a policy to never eat something I can't pronounce. :)

        Why do you put up with me?

        I may not know how to pronounce this, but it sounds delicious. If you were to send me some, I promise I will eat them.

        What are friends for if not for fattening?

        Have a brilliant day, my friend!

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Shauna, you know me, I'm more of a savory girl (I'm sweet enough without consuming sugar, right?) I'm thinking sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, brie (mentioned below), maybe even some lox. (I would have suggested minced ham, but combining pork with a Jewish pastry would probably cause the world to spin out of control.)

      • bravewarrior profile image

        Shauna L Bowling 

        2 months ago from Central Florida

        I've never had this sweet treat, but the flaky dough certainly is inviting. I imagine all sorts of fillings can be used in rugelah, from sweet to savory.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Flourish, last week when my daughter and I made the dough we rolled out only one round and put the other 2 in the freezer so making a fresh batch should be pretty easy. Come on over. I think the hardest part is deciding what to use as a filling, there are so many choices!

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        2 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Just stop it Linda. I am gaining wait as you write ;-)

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        2 months ago from USA

        Sounds amazing! You truly know how to do it! I’ve never heard of this but now I won’t be able to forget it!

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Eric, if you lived next door I'd invite you over for a cup of coffee and rugelach. They are buttery and flaky and the cream cheese makes the dough slightly tangy (in a good way). Even if you've never baked, I'm certain that you could make these. They are very easy.

        Good luck with those brownies. I'll bet they are great.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        2 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Linda my whole cooking lifetime and I say to myself "I don't and don't know how to bake" That must change. After all, what kind of dad would I be if I did not teach my boy to at least be familiar with it.

        We are starting with baby steps out of the box today, Brownies should work.

        I am once again drooling at your article. Thank you.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Lorelei, they are so worth it. Filled with Nutella is my favorite, but right now I'm in the mood for something savory. Is brie and dried apricots too strange? Thanks so much for stopping by.

        Have a wonderful day.

      • Ladymermaid profile image

        Lorelei Cohen 

        2 months ago from Canada

        OMG I am sitting here with my morning coffee in hand and I see the photo of your Rugelach come across my screen. It looks so delicious and would be absolutely the perfect breakfast treat. I may have to do some baking today.

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