Rugelach, the traditional Eastern-European-Jewish rolled cookies, are loved by many, and rightly so. The flaky dough, the tasty filling of jam combined with raisins, nuts and lots of cinnamon, works every time.
The traditional versions of the dough contained sour cream, which in the States was substituted with cream cheese. In the following recipe, I use neither. Instead, I used a mixture of milk and yeast. The result is a lighter dough, which is also easier to roll.
Don’t let the use of yeast in this dough deter you from making this simple and easy dough. The resting time for the dough is only 30 minutes – just enough to air the dough and make it flakier, which is all that is needed.
I cut the dough into three parts, and made four different versions, including a less traditional filling of meringue, which I made with the leftover egg whites. You can choose to do the same, or use just one of the methods.
Whichever version you’ll choose, you’ll end up with delectable pastries that will fill the house with wonderful aroma.
Makes: about 40
Dough prep time: 15 minutes + 30 minutes rest
Filling prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 20–30 depending on the shape
For the dough:
½ cup milk
1 ½ oz (40 grams) dried yeast
1 Tbs sugar
3 cups flour
2 sticks (230 grams) butter, soft
2 L egg yolks (keep the whites for the meringue filling) at room temperature
1 Tbs lemon zest
For the jam-nut filling:
About 2 cups of plum or strawberry jam
3/4 cup sugar
2-3 Tbs cinnamon
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
For the meringue filling:
2 L egg whites
½ tsp vinegar
½ cup sugar
½ tsp vanilla
1. The dough: warm the milk in a small pot. Add the yeast and sugar and mix gently. Let sit for 5 minutes, until the yeast foams.
2. Place the flour, butter, egg yolks and lemon zest in a large bowl. Add the milk-yeast mixture and knead briefly to form a dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 340F (170C) and prepare the fillings.
4. Place the dough on a work surface dusted with a bit of flour. Cut into 3 equal portions and use with the following fillings and ways of preparation.
Individual Rugelach – crescents and slices: Crescents: Take 1/3 of the dough and cut a 1/3 of it. On a lightly floured workspace, roll the 1/3 piece into a circle. Using a sharp knife, and an upside-down bowl for measurement, cut the edges to form a 6.5”(16.5cm) circle. With a sharp knife, cut the round into six triangles. Make a small cut in the middle of the wide side of each triangle (this will help with the folding.)
Spread with jam, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, and add raisins and nuts. Fold the sides of each triangle towards the middle, and then roll it and twist it to form a crescent. Place on a cookies sheet lined with baking paper. Repeat with the rest of the triangles. Place on a cookies sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until the cookies are golden-brown. Let cool to room temperature and sprinkle with powdered sugar (optional) before serving.
Slices: You can prepare crescents from the rest 2/3 of the dough, or, if you gave up on the crescents by now (like I did), you can roll the dough into a 12”(30cm) x 5”(13.5cm). (Don’t worry if the edges are not straight, it’s fine.) Spread jam on top, sprinkle generously with sugar and cinnamon and add raisins and nuts. Roll into a roulade, from the long side. Cut the roulade – preferably with a plastic cookie cutter – to about 1”(2.5cm) pieces. Place the pieces on a baking tray and bake for 20 minutes, until the cookies are golden-brown. Let cool to room temperature and sprinkle with powdered sugar (optional) before serving.
Roulade: Roll one 1/3 of the dough to form a 14”(35cm) x 6”(15cm) rectangle. (Don’t worry if the edges are not straight, it’s fine.) Spread about ¾ cup jam on the rolled dough, avoiding the edges. Sprinkle generously with sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle nuts and raisins on top and roll into a roulade, from the long side. Pinch the dough edges tightly together. With a sharp knife, make about 12 cuts, not too deep, about 1“(2.5cm) apart. Bake for 25 minutes, until the roulade is golden-brown. Let cool to room temperature. Sprinkle with powdered sugar (optional) and slice into 2” (5cm) pieces.
Meringue filling: The meringue: place the egg whites and vinegar in a mixer bowl. Whisk on medium-high speed until large bubble start to show. Lower the speed to medium and add the sugar, slowly. Keep whisking about 4-5 minutes, to a white and shiny meringue.
Roll one 1/3 of the dough to form a 14”(35cm) x 6”(15cm) rectangle. (Don’t worry if the edges are not straight, it’s fine.) Gently fold into a roulade from the long side. Cut the roulade – preferably with a plastic cookie cutter – to about 1”(2.5cm) pieces. Place the cut pieces in a 8”(20cm) round pan, side by side, cut side up. (It is a bit of a messy task, but it’s worth it…) Bake for 30 minutes, until the meringue is golden-brown. Let cool to room temperature before cutting. To serve, cut into triangles, like a cake.