I fell in love with them, especially the raspberry ones, and was determined to make my own. First, they were rather pricey. Second, they seemed pretty simple. And third, I needed to find a sure-fire way to be able to have them any time I wanted, once I left southern California.
I found plenty of recipes for rugelach online, but none of them seemed to fit the bill. Then, I was browsing a bookstore one day after returning to Seattle, and found The World of Jewish Cooking, by Gil Marks. In it was a recipe that I felt sounded very similar to the rugelach that I'd fallen in love with. And the pastry crust used cream cheese, which I already knew I was a fan of, from previous pie-making experiences.
I am pleased -- and amazed -- to tell you that these homemade versions are even better than the ones from the bakery. I wish that happened more often! The only difference is in appearance -- rugelach are traditionally crescent shaped, while the bakery version sold them in squares. I followed the instructions to shape them into crescents, though it would be very easy to roll them into squares, instead. In fact, it would be a lot less time consuming.
You can also shape the rugelach into small, medium, and large sizes -- I chose to make small, bite-sized ones; the recipe makes 64 bite-sized cookies, 48 medium-sized cookies, and 32 large cookies. Because you're working with four balls of dough, it's also easy to play around with fillings. I decided to make half raspberry and half chocolate (though to be honest, I still love the raspberry ones best). Also, for the filling, I used walnuts and granulated sugar, and omitted the optional raisins.
Rugelach (recipe from The World of Jewish Cooking by Gil Marks)
For the dough
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling
- 1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
- 1/2 cup dried currants or raisins (optional)
- 1/2 granulated sugar or brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- About 1 cup apricot jam, raspberry jam, strawberry jam, orange marmalade, or 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, melted
- To make the dough: Beat together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the salt. Gradually beat in the flour.
- Divide into 4 equal portions, form into balls, wrap, and refrigerate overnight. (For quicker use, place in the freezer for about 1 hour. The dough can be frozen for up to 4 months.) Let the dough stand at room temperature until workable.
- Position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- On a lightly floured surface or piece of waxed paper, roll out each piece of the dough into a 1/8-inch-thick round about 15 inches in diameter.
- To make the filling: Combine the nuts, currants or raisins, if desired, sugar, and cinnamon. Brush the dough rounds lightly with the jam, marmalade, butter, or margarine, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges. Sprinkle evenly with the nut mixture.
- For large rugelach, cut each round into 8 wedges; for medium, cut into 12 wedges; for small, cut into 16 wedges. Roll up the wedges from the wide end toward the point, pinching the point to seal. Gently bend to form crescents. (The rugelach can be prepared ahead to this point and frozen for several months. Defrost before baking.)
- Place the rugelach on ungreased baking sheets. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let the cookies stand until firm, about 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the freezer.