Those impostors in the deli case wish they were these cookies. Filled with walnuts, honey, and spices, they pair just as perfectly with a snifter of brandy as with a glass of milk. Best of all, the shape-shifting dough moves from sweet to savory without skipping a beat. Try variations like raspberry and almond, Nutella and peanuts, or onion jam with everything-bagel seasoning, or create a new signature combination of your own. When layered and wrapped well, rugelach have a long shelf life, making them a strong contender for the holiday cookie swap.
Why It Works
- Cream cheese in the dough means a tangy flavor, easier rolling, and a sturdy pastry that holds its shape for a bronzed, buttery, flaky cookie.
- Sprinkling fresh bread crumbs over the filling thickens any potential runniness.
- Baking the rugelach on stacked baking sheets prevents the bottoms of the cookies from burning.
- Egg-washing the cookies before baking gives them a shiny, bright finish.
- Yield:Makes 12 or 16 cookies, depending on form
- Active time: 45 minutes
- Total time:3 hours
- For the Dough:
- 4 1/4 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup, spooned; 118g), plus more for dusting
- 4 ounces cold unsalted butter (8 tablespoons; 115g), cut into large cubes
- 4 ounces cold cream cheese (8 tablespoons; 115g), cut into large cubes
- 1/8 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume or use the same weight
- For the Filling and to Finish:
- 2 1/4 ounces (1/2 cup) walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) clover or wildflower honey
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) freshly squeezed orange or lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
- 1 egg yolk whisked with 1 teaspoon (5ml) cold water
For the Dough: In the work bowl of a food processor, combine flour, butter, cream cheese, and salt. Pulse 4 to 5 times, then turn the processor on and process until the dough forms a shaggy ball, about 1 minute.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured sheet of plastic wrap and lightly flour your hands. If making crescent cookies, gently form a disk 5 inches in diameter. If making sliced cookies, form dough into a 3- by 4-inch rectangle. Dust surface with flour and wrap tightly. Lightly press with a rolling pin to smooth, then lightly tap the disk or rectangle's edges on the counter. The smoother the edges, the less prone they will be to cracking later on. Chill until the dough registers 40°F (4°C) on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 hour. The dough may be frozen for 3 months; defrost overnight in the refrigerator to proceed.
Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 375°F (190°C). Stack 2 baking sheets and line the top one with parchment paper.
For the Filling: In a small bowl, combine walnuts, 2 tablespoons sugar, honey, orange or lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and nutmeg.
For Crescent-Style Rugelach: On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 9-inch circle, using a dinner plate and paring knife to trim edges. Spread filling over surface of dough using an offset spatula, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over filling. Using a sharp knife, pastry wheel, or pizza cutter, cut disk into 16 equal wedges. Starting from the wide end of each long triangle, roll up and press on the pointy end to seal. Place seam side down on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining triangles, working quickly and placing cookies about 2 inches apart. Transfer baking sheet to the freezer for at least 20 minutes before proceeding. Alternatively, freeze hard and transfer to freezer bags or containers for up to 6 months; defrost in the refrigerator overnight to proceed.
For Sliced Rugelach: On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 4- by 12-inch rectangle. Spread filling over surface of dough using an offset spatula, leaving a 1/2-inch border along the two 12-inch edges. Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over filling. Starting at one 12-inch edge, tightly roll dough into a spiral. Aim to make at least 4 full revolutions but no more than 7, pressing seam firmly to seal. Place roll on baking sheet and freeze or refrigerate for at least 30 and no more than 45 minutes. (If chilled for longer, allow dough to warm very slightly at room temperature, so it will not crack when sliced.) Using a sharp knife, pastry wheel, or pizza cutter, cut roll into 12 cookies, each the shape of an isosceles trapezoid. Keep the smaller edge of the trapezoid no less than 1/2 inch in length, and the larger edge no more than 1 1/2 inches in length. Place seam side down on baking sheet and transfer to freezer for at least 20 minutes before proceeding. Alternatively, freeze hard and transfer to freezer bags or containers for up to 6 months; defrost in the refrigerator overnight to proceed.
To Finish and Bake: Mix remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon sugar together in a small bowl. Brush cookies' surface with egg wash using a small pastry brush. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Bake cookies until browned and flaky, about 22 to 25 minutes. Some filling may squish out; that’s okay. The bottoms of the rugelach should be caramelized, not blackened. Transfer the cookies (still on the parchment) to a rack to cool completely, about 1 hour. Store in an airtight container, layered between sheets of wax paper, for up to 3 weeks, or freeze for up to 1 month.