Rugelach is a Jewish treat that has now penetrated deep into American cuisine. Most supermarket bakery counters have an array of these treats waiting for you to taste. Soft dough, sweet filling. One or two bites and you are ready to snatch another. And then another.

I find those supermarket versions weak. You need to taste rugelach fresh and warm from your oven. You need the scent filling your kitchen.

And, while most folks do use a filling that includes the jam, I grew up with only cinnamon sugar inside. Oh, yes, my mom was anything but Jewish. But I still prefer just the cinnamon interior encased in the lovely cream cheese dough.

You won’t eat just one. You cannot. This is habit-forming, but it’s a habit centuries old and relished by people around the planet. It’s truly a universal comfort food.


Classic Rugelach

Yield:32 large, 48 medium or 64 small ones

Ingredients:

Cream Cheese Dough:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract (optional)
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour, sifted

Traditional Filling:

  • 1 cup jam, such as apricot or raspberry, or ¼ cup melted butter
  • ½ cup sugar mixed with 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon cup
  • ¾ cup dried currants or raisins (optional)
  • Egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water or milk)
  • About 2 tablespoons sugar, or 2 tablespoons sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon) for sprinkling

Preparation:

To make the dough, in a large bowl, beat together the butter, cream cheese, and sour cream until and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and, if using, sugar and vanilla or almond extract. Gradually beat in the flour. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, form into balls, flatten into 1-inch-thick rounds, wrap in plastic wrap, refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Let the dough stand at room temperature until malleable. On a lightly floured surface (or a surface sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar), roll out each dough piece to a ⅛-inch-thick round, about 9 inches in diameter. Brush with jam and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, leaving a ½-inch border around the edge. If using, sprinkle with the currants.

Cut each round into equal wedges—12 for medium cookies, 8 for large cookies, or 16 for small cookies. Starting from the wide end, roll up the wedges to the point and gently bend to form a crescent.

Place the crescents on the prepared baking sheet pointed side down, 1 inch apart. Brush with the wash and sprinkle lightly with the sugar.

Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the cookies stand until firm, about 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days the freezer for up to 3 months.


Source: Encyclopedia of Jewish Food by Gil Marks [Lifestyle, 2010]

 Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/3.5 for 1/30th second at ISO‑400