How to Make Classic Rugelach Cookies

Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn

There is no resisting rugelach, no matter how nubbly or imperfectly rolled. They're buttery, flaky, and just the right amount of sweet. You can fill them with anything from ground nuts and honey to peanut butter and chocolate — the only real constant is using cream cheese to make a super-tender dough. Here's how you can make them at home.

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I am a student of the Dorie Greenspan School of Rugelach. This means that I make my rugelach dough in a food processor rather than with a mixer or by hand. This makes an incredibly tender dough where the cream cheese and butter are cut into the flour rather than absorbed by it. If you don't have a food processor, though, no worries: take a look at the instructions for making rugelach by hand at the end of the recipe.

I like adding an egg yolk to my dough. It's not strictly necessary, but I like it for the extra richness and a guaranteed golden color in the oven. These are, after all, celebration cookies, so now is not the time to shy away from a decadent cookie.

Also as part of the Dorie Greenspan School, I prefer rugelach rolled individually into crescents rather than rolling the dough around the filling and then slicing them into pinwheels. This technique is a bit more labor-intensive, but I find the crescent shape to have a more satisfying bite and pleasing appearance.

I love making several different fillings for the ruglach and using a different one with each batch. I always make a classic honey-walnut filling, and chocolate is another favorite. If I have a really good summer jam in the cupboard, I'll fill a batch with a few spoonfuls straight from the jar. I've seen rugelach made with an amazing array of fillings, so you can really let your imagination go wild.

Like most classic recipes, there are lots of opinions about what constitutes a "true" rugelach. Do you have a favorite way of making them or a must-have filling?

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How to Make Rugelach

Makes 64 cookies

What You Need

Ingredients
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 package (8 ounces) cold cream cheese, cubed
2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg yolk
1 batch filling (see ideas below)
Powdered sugar

Equipment
Food processor
Rolling pin
Pizza cutter or sharp knife
Baking sheets
Parchment or non-stick baking sheet liners

Instructions

1. Combine the flour and salt. Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to mix.

2. Mix in the cream cheese and butter. Scatter the cubes of cream cheese and butter over the flour. Pulse 10 to 12 times until coarse crumbs form.

3. Mix in the yolk and vanilla. Whisk together the vanilla and yolk in a bowl, and the pour them over the butter-flour mixture. Run the processor continuously until the dough starts to clump together and form large curdlike pieces.

4. Refrigerate the dough. Turn the dough out onto the counter and gather the pieces into a ball. Divide into four portions and flatten each into 1-inch thick disks. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate the dough at least 2 hours or up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months (thaw in the refrigerator before using).

When ready to bake the rugelach, preheat the oven to 375°F and prepare your fillings.

5. Roll out the dough. Sprinkle your work surface generously with powdered sugar. Take one disk of dough from the refrigerator and let it warm on the counter for 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle the surface of the dough and the rolling pin with more powdered sugar. Roll the dough from the center out into a circle about 1/8-inch thick. Don't worry if a few cracks form near the edges. Use more powdered sugar as needed to prevent sticking.

6. Spread with filling. Spread the filling in a thin layer evenly over the surface of the dough. Make sure it goes right up to the edge of the dough.

7. Slice and roll the cookies. Slice the dough into 16 wedges, like a pizza, using a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Roll up each wedge, beginning at the wide outer edge and moving inward. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Make sure the tip is tucked underneath.

8. Chill the cookies. Refrigerate cookies on the baking sheet, 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare remaining batches.

9. Bake the cookies. Bake the first tray of cookies until golden-brown, 20-25 minutes. Cool on the sheet, 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack. Bake the remaining cookies.

Cookies will keep in an air-tight container at room temperature for about a week.

Ideas for Rugelach Fillings:

Nut Filling: In a food processor, grind 1 cup walnuts and 1 cup pecans until they break into tiny crumbs, 30 to 40 pulses. (Be careful of over-processing and making nut-butter.) Combine the ground nuts in a bowl with 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) melted butter, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Fruit and Jam Filling: Warm 1/4 cup marmalade, apricot jam or raspberry jam in the microwave until it liquefies. Stir in the 1 tablespoon sugar. Set aside to cool until no longer steaming, still liquidy. Pulse 2 cups (roughly 10 ounces) dried fruit, such as apricots, cranberries, cherries or currants, in a food processor until it breaks down into tiny pieces. To assemble, spread the jam onto the rugelach dough; sprinkle the dried fruit on top.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Filling: Warm 1/2 cup peanut butter in a microwave until it liquefies. Spread over the rugelach dough; sprinkle with 1 cup miniature chocolate chips.

Additional Notes:

Freezing Rugelach: The disks of dough can be frozen for up to three months; thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using. The shaped cookies can also be frozen for up to three months. Arrange cookies on a baking sheet, making sure they do not touch, and freeze until solid. Transfer to a freezer container for long term storage. Cookies can be baked straight from the freezer and may need an extra few minutes to bake.

Making Rugelach by Hand: If you don't have a food processor, just cut the cream cheese and the butter into the flour mixture using your finger tips or a pastry cutter, just as you would for pie crust. Sprinkle the yolk mixture over the top and fluff the dough with your fingers until it feels heavy and can hold together when pressed into a ball. Proceed with the rest of the recipe as instructed.

Halving This Recipe: Nix the egg yolk and cut the rest of the ingredients in half.


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(Images: Emma Christensen)

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