Serious Eats: Recipes

Cherry-Nut Rugelach

[Photographs: Caroline Russock]

The other day a friend was describing these wonderful cookies that he had recently tried for the first time. When I asked him what they were called, he replied in an uncertain tone, "Um, rugula?"

"Rugula, as in arugula?" I asked.

And then it occurred to me that he was talking about rugelach, a crescent-shaped cookie of Eastern European heritage. All of a sudden memories of holiday dinners at my grandmother's house came flooding back; I hadn't thought about rugelach for years.

Hanukkah begins on Friday at sundown so I thought it only appropriate to bake up a batch of these Cherry-Nut Rugelach from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion in honor of the Festival of Lights.

Rugelach get their name from the Hebrew word for creeping vine, a reference to their twisted or rolled shape.

Growing up I had always thought of rugelach as the Jewish equivalent of croissants, although the flavors couldn't be more different. This version is made with a cream cheese based dough, and a filling of tart dried cherries, walnuts, butter, cinnamon, and sugar. This baking project was a tactile joy, the rolling, and stuffing of these cookies brought to mind all of the hands on parts of ceramics or even playing with Play-Doh.

Once the rugelach cooled enough to sample I remembered why these cookies weren't my favorite childhood dessert. They are not overwhelmingly sweet, and their richness comes mostly from the cream cheese dough. My palate has matured over the years and over the top sweetness doesn't do it for me anymore. I could really appreciate why rugelach were favorites among the grown up set, and they are a newly rediscovered favorite of mine.

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