I first experienced rugelach when a child living in Princeton NJ. My parents used to buy them at the local grocery store, Davidson’s (which sadly closed in 1997). My mother doesn’t eat walnuts which are frequently in rugelach fillings, but Davidson’s had a version with hazelnuts and raspberry jam that she loved. I thought it would be a good idea to replicate them.
For the pastry, I went to the excellent blog Smitten Kitchen, which offers a pragmatic approach to rugelach pastry and favours a simple log sliced into bite size morsels and other log variations. However, I still prefer the traditional crescent rolls to the sliced logs. The filling is my own concoction.
If hazelnuts and raspberry aren’t your ideal of a rugelach filling, the world is your oyster. There are many sweet filling choices and I’ve seen some interesting suggestions for savoury rugelach fillings.
One of the great things about rugelach is that they can be made in stages. The pastry can be made several days ahead of assembly and the rolled cookie can be chilled for a day or frozen (before applying the egg finish) for up to a week before baking. They are best eaten in the first few days after baking, so freezing some of the unbaked ones is a good idea if you want them at their best. It is easiest to freeze the log version, but the crescents can also be frozen.
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
1/2 pound (225 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 pound (1 8-ounce or 225-gram package) cream cheese
1 jar seedless raspberry jam (you won’t use the whole jar)
1 cup hazelnuts, blanched and roasted and chopped very finely
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water or milk
Turbinado or white sugar
Make the dough:
Place flour and salt in a food processor bowl fitted with standard blade. Pulse to combine. Add cream cheese, chopped into large chunks, and run machine until it’s fully dispersed into the flour. Add butter in large chunks and run machine just until dough starts to clump. Dump out onto a clean counter or cutting board and form into four flattish discs. Wrap each disc with plastic wrap.
Chill dough until totally firm — about 2 hours in the fridge you can hasten this along in the freezer for about 30 minutes. (Dough keeps in fridge for up to a week, and in freezer much longer.)
Assemble the rugelach:
Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon and hazelnuts together.
On a well-floured counter or board , roll each ball of dough into a 9-inch circle. If the dough has been in the fridge for a while, it might be quite firm but will soften quickly. The dough is sticky so you will need lots of flour on the rolling pin. I flipped my dough regularly to ensure that it was not sticking.
Leaving a 1/2 inch circle in the centre of the pastry clear, spread the circle with a thin layer of raspberry jam. Leaving this small circle at the centre clear of filling will make it easier to get the pastry to stick to itself when rolled.
Sprinkle 1/4 of the filling mixture evenly across the jammy surface. Lightly press the filling into the dough.
Using a pizza cutter or knife, cut the circle into 12 equal wedges by cutting the whole circle in quarters, then each quarter into thirds. Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge gently pressing the point into the rolled dough so that it won’t peel back when baking. (For the log version, see the Smitten Kitchen link above.) Place the cookies, points tucked under, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Chill for 30 minutes.
Baking the rugelach:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Brush each cookie with the egg mixture. Sprinkle the cookies lightly with the turbinado sugar. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Allow to cool on a wire rack.