There has been a debate over its origin, but one thing is for sure, rugelach is a light and flaky, crescent-shaped Jewish pastry usually made for Hanukkah and To BiShvat. While some insist that rugelach comes from Poland, others argue that it has Hungarian roots, rugelach’s homeland may be somewhere in Central Europe, where Hungarian kifli, Austrian kipfel and Polish rogal served as an inspiration for this pastry. Rugelach conquered many countries and became popular among American and European Jews, and also in Israel.
Rugelach was originally made with a rich yeast dough and filled with fruit jams, poppy seed paste or nuts. But when Ashkenazi Jews resettled in America, bakers quickly came up with a short cut for the complex yeast dough and rugelach began to be made with a cream cheese pastry, and that version spread worldwide.
Rugelach’s dough contains butter, cream cheese, flour, sugar and salt, it can be made by hand or in a stand mixer, or in a food processor. The filling ingredients are flexible, they leave a lot of room for creativity. Combining any fruit jam and toasted nuts (walnuts, pecans, almond slivers, hazelnuts, macadamias, or cashews) is always a winning strategy, while nutella, almost any chocolate and caramel can improve the experience.
I took the following rugelach recipe from Street Kitchen, in this case the cookies are filled with plum butter, toasted walnuts and dark chocolate. Feel free to modify the list of filling ingredients according to your preferences and possibilities.
Ingredients for 48 pieces:
For the dough:
- 200 g (~7 oz) butter
- 100 g (~3/4 cup) powdered sugar
- 250 g (~8 3/4 oz) cream cheese
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 350 g (~2 3/4 cups + 1tbsp) flour
For the filling:
- 200 g (~7 oz) walnuts
- 200 g (~7 oz) semisweet dark chocolate
- 12-14 tbsp plum butter
For the egg wash:
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp milk
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
For the dough let the cream cheese and butter rest on the counter for 15-20 minutes. Put them in a bowl, add sugar and salt, and beat them together until well blended. Add flour and quickly knead into a smooth dough. (You can also use a food processor to pulse the ingredients until the dough starts to come together.) Divide it in 4 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a disk, wrap the disks in plastic wrap separately and refrigerate them overnight.
For the filling place the walnuts in a baking pan and toast them in the oven preheated to 180°C / 356°F for 5 minutes. Let the walnuts cool completely.
Once the walnuts have cooled, put them and the chocolate broken into pieces in a blender, and grind them until they are chopped coarsley.
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 356°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a floured surface roll out the first piece of dough into a thin circle. (Note 1: chill the other 3 pieces of dough until use. Note 2: the dough will be sticky, so the surface where you roll it out needs to be floured abudantly.)
Spoon a thin layer of plum butter over the dough, then scatter over 1/4 of the coarsley ground chocolate-walnut mixture. Cut the circle into 12 wedges and roll them up starting at the base of each triangle. Arrange the roll-ups on the prepared baking sheet, making sure the points are tucked under the cookies. Repeat with the remaining 3 pieces of dough.
In a small bowl whisk together egg, milk, sugar and cinnamon, and brush this glaze over each rugelach. Put the cookies in the preheated, fan forced oven and bake them for 15-16 minutes or until golden brown. (Baking time in a non-fan oven will be longer, about 18-20 minutes).