Rugelach is a rolled baked treat that cooks as easily as a cookie, yet tastes like a pastry. It's crisp and sweet on the outside, and so delicate and tender on the inside that it melts in your mouth. This circular pull-apart rugelach is a charmingly decorative variation — yet another take on a confection that has had many versions. If you make rugelach often, you will notice that this dough is a bit sturdier and holds its shape a bit better than other rugelach doughs. It very much remains the sumptuous, butter-rich cookie we all know and crave.
Why You Should Make Rugelach in a Ring
For the traditional rugelach-shaped treat, the dough is rolled into a circle, cut like a pie, filled, and then each piece is rolled up, creating individual croissant-like shapes. But this method can be a touch tedious when you want to churn out a few dozen of these cookies. So instead we're turning to a ring presentation produced using the tube technique, a method borrowed from a very close cousin of rugelach known as schenecken. In this recipe the dough is rolled into a rectangle, filled, rolled up, and cut crosswise into spirals of dough and filling for a fast final product that you can set out on a dessert spread for a stunning effect.
The Invention of Cream Cheese Dough
Rugelach started out quite different than we see them today in the United States. The dough was yeasted, and was often made into the lavishly buttery laminated Danish dough. Once bakers embraced the incredible utility and ease of American cream cheese, a new cookie was born. Cream cheese and butter with flour, sugar, baking powder, and an egg started appearing in rugelach recipes in cookbooks around 75 years ago. That unique recipe makes a dough that tastes remarkably similar to a pastry's flaky layering.
Chill Your Cookie Dough Twice
Chilling the dough twice is important in making this not only delicious, but also picture-worthy. The refrigeration helps prevent excessive spreading. If you can't fit the pan in your fridge, carefully lift the rugelach circle onto a large piece of nonstick foil or parchment paper and the plastic, wrap well, and refrigerate like that.
Filling Your Rugelach
The last thing you want is the filling for this rugelach ring spilling out all over the place, so a few precautions are in place to prevent that.
- As long as everything is at room temperature, the mixture comes together without any trouble. If you assembled the filling ahead of time and stored it in the fridge, take it out and let it stand on the counter for 30 minutes before spreading it over the dough.
- Choose a soft spatula or offset spatula for spreading. This helps you get a nice, even layer and ensures there are no snags or tears in the dough.
- Truly, you could use Nutella or any other chocolate spread other than the mixture included in this recipe, but they will result in an oilier cookie. For the same reason, it's wise to avoid nut butters all together.
How To Make a Pull-Apart Rugelach Ring
What You Need
For the dough:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3 ounces), at room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus about 1/4 cup for dusting
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon water
For the filling:
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup very finely chopped semisweet or dark chocolate (about 2 ounces)
Turbinado or other coarse sugar, for sprinkling
Measuring cups and spoons
Stand mixer or handheld electric mixer and mixing bowl
Rimmed baking sheet
Small sharp knife
- Mix the butter, cream cheese, and sugar: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a handheld electric mixer and large bowl, beat the butter, cream cheese, and sugar on medium-low speed until very soft, completely smooth, and lighter in color and texture, 3 1/2 to 4 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Add the egg and vanilla: Add the egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low speed until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with the rubber spatula again.
- Add the flour mixture: Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl until combined. With the mixer on low speed, beat the flour into the butter mixture until fully incorporated, stopping the mixer and scraping the sides of the bowl once. This is a tacky dough that will gather around the paddle. Remove the paddle or beater and stir 2 to 3 times by hand with the rubber spatula to ensure that the cream cheese and butter mixture is fully incorporated and there are no streaks.
- Shape and chill the dough: Transfer the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Shape and pat it into a 6x8-inch rectangle. Wrap it tightly in the plastic and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 1 hour.
- Make the filling: Meanwhile, combine the butter, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl and mix with a spoon until smooth and well-incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
- Prepare to bake: Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray, line it with parchment paper, and set aside.
- Prepare to roll: Drizzle about 1/2 teaspoon of water on a work surface and place a piece of parchment paper on top. (The water will secure the paper so it does not move much, but it will dry as you work, allowing the parchment to help you shape the dough.) Heavily dust the parchment and a rolling pin with flour. Place the dough onto it and dust the top with a little flour.
- Roll the dough: Roll the dough into an 8x12-inch rectangle, between 1/8- and 1/4-inch thick.
- Add the filling: Spread the filling mixture with the rubber spatula over the rectangle, leaving a 1/2- to 3/4-inch border on the long sides. Scatter the chocolate evenly over the top.
- Roll up the rugelach: Starting with one of the long sides, roll the dough up and over the filling, jelly-roll style, to form a tube, using the parchment paper to assist you as necessary. Add a little more flour under any area that sticks. Dust off any excess flour on the outside, especially at the seam and the open edges at the ends.
- Move the rugelach tube to the baking sheet: Gently lift the rugelach tube onto the prepared baking sheet and place it seam-side down.
- Refrigerate the dough: Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the dough is chilled, about 30 minutes.
- Partially cut the rugelach roll: Uncover the rugelach and reserve the plastic wrap. Using a sharp knife, cut the log crosswise, making cuts that are 2/3- to 3/4-inch apart and 3/4 of the way through the log, cutting all the way to the bottom, but leaving a border of about 1/2-inch uncut on the other long side, so that the rugelach roll is still a single entity with a very thick fringe. You should have 16 slashes.
- Form the cut tube into a ring shape: Bend the cut tube into a ring, make sure that the exposed ends touch each other, and gently pinch them together. Dust off any excess flour with a pastry brush.
- Spread the cookies apart: Gently spread open the slashed portions about 1/4- to 1/2-inch apart so they do not touch each other.
- Refrigerate the filled, cut ring: Cover the rugelach again with the reserved plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F.
- Coat with egg wash: Whisk the egg yolk and and 1 teaspoon water together in a small bowl. Brush the egg wash over the rugelach ring and between the cut pieces. Sprinkle turbinado sugar evenly over the top.
- Bake the rugelach: Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan from front to back, and bake until the rugelach ring is a warm golden-brown, 8 to 10 minutes more. Cool completely on the baking sheet, about 1 hour. Carefully transfer to a large serving tray or dish and serve.
- Storage: Pull-apart rugelach will keep, lightly covered, at room temperature for about 2 days, but will get softer on the outside over time.