Holiday baking traditions: Rugelach

rugelach

Rugelach is probably one of the most widely known and cross-cultural of Jewish baked goods and treats. The name rugelach is believed to be derived from the Yiddish “rugel,” meaning royal. Rugelach are also called kipfel, cheese bagelach, and cream cheese horns, depending on where you are in the world.

Many Eastern European recipes for rugelach call for a yeasted dough made with sour cream, for flavor and tenderness. This more American version calls for no yeast and uses butter, sour cream, and cream cheese to make a very rich dough.

Our beloved Andrea, one of our test kitchen bakers, has a family member who, when you arrive chilled after a long winter’s ride, will toss a blanket in the dryer and then wrap you up in warm fuzziness. I think these fragrant, sweet cinnamon twists give you the same feeling of warmth, comfort, and family – all in one tasty bite.

Let’s make Rugelach.

Place all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of a large food processor. Break up the butter and cream cheese into lumps, to enable them to incorporate more easily.

Pulse the mixture about 8 to 10 times, until the dough comes together in a rough ball. Be careful not to over-process; the dough should still look shaggy.

You should also be able to see pieces of butter and cream cheese in the dough. This is going to make your dough oh-so-light and tender.

Turn the dough out onto the counter and gently press it together into a ball.

Divide the dough into even portions. For small, bite-sized rugelach, make four discs. For larger twists, divide into thirds.

Wrap the discs in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to overnight. A good timeline is to mix the dough and filling up after dinner; then you’ll be ready to roll and bake first thing in the morning.

To make the filling, give the food processor bowl a quick wipe out, and add the filling ingredients.

Pulse until well combined and slightly moist. You can also mix by hand, but I think the processor does a better job, and cuts up the raisins a bit. To me, this makes the twists easier to roll up.

Set the filling aside, covered with plastic wrap.

When you’re ready to make the rugelach, remove one disc from the fridge and leave the others chilling. Lightly dust the work surface with flour and press the disc out with your rolling pin.

Can you see the lovely swirls of cream cheese and butter in the dough? As those bake, the steam created will puff the dough into light, flaky layers. The fat will melt as well, and make these twists melt-in-your-mouth tender.

Using a gentle touch, roll the disc into a 10” circle.

Brush the dough with a touch of water, and sprinkle on about 1/3 of the filling. If you divided your dough into quarters, use about 1/4 of the filling; you get the picture. Press the filling down into the dough a bit to help it stick.

Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, divide the circle into 8 even sections. Beginning at the fat end of each wedge, roll rugelach up loosely.

You should end with the pointed tail tucked under the body of the roll.

Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, point side down. This will keep the little tip from unrolling and burning.

Bake the rugelach in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. As the rugelach bake, the butter will lightly fry the bottoms, making a crunchy crust and caramelized base.

Golden brown and delicious. Allow the tender rugelach to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a serving tray and dusting with confectioners’ sugar.

Enjoy these sweet, fragrant twists with coffee or tea – and, of course, family and friends.

Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Rugelach.

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. J.G.

    Crisis! Both of the links kick me back to your home page! Want to see this delicious looking recipe!! Thanks–where would I be without KAF? Sad and hungry, that’s where. You guys are the best!

    Reply
  2. Marty

    I don’t have a food processor….please tell me there’s still a way I can make these. They sound SO good!

    The biscuit method of mixing may help here – cut in the butter and cream cheese so you still can see chunks, then stir in the sour cream until the dough comes together in a rough ball but still looks shaggy. Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  3. Donna Jo

    I’m not able to get to the recipe for this.

    Thanks for letting us know this link isn’t working. There are several rugelach recipes on our website and the link to the recipe used in this post is working now! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  4. flybynite

    Oh, King Arthur – I have been baking these for about 20 years or so. A family favorite during the holidays. I usually make 2 batches, with half a batch going to my niece as a Christmas present. I maintain these turn out so wonderful year after year is due to KAF and Vietnamese ; cinnamon. Thanks for all the work that goes into the blogs; I so enjoy them.

    Judy

    Reply
  5. supermoth

    These are a classic holiday cookie in our house, though I’d always known then only as “Meltaways”; which is true, given how light and tender they are. Instead of cream cheese, we’ve always used cottage cheese, though. It sounds gross, but it creams right in and helps give that same light texture, but with a little less fat. Which helps me justify that these cookies are healthy, so that I can eat them by the handful!
    Your series of holiday recipes has given me the urge to start baking, but seeing this one makes me want to go home right now and start mixing up some dough!

    Reply
  6. Ann D.

    I am sure these are delicious, but we don’t care for raisins. Can they be made with the same measurement of Craisins or other fruits — and possibly other changes such as in the cinnamon quantity?

    Absolutely, Ann; any dried fruit is fine. Chopped apricots, cherries, apples, even pineapple; pick your favorite. And you can adjust the cinnamon however you like, too. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  7. Nicole Hannah

    The best bagel store (Siegel’s) in Vancouver, BC sells a chocolate version – also delicious!

    What about freezing these after they are baked? Worth risking it?

    Yes, Nicole, rugelach freeze very well. Wrap in plastic, over-wrap in foil, and they should be good for several weeks in the freezer. PJH

    Reply
  8. Brenda

    Oh my! These are wonderful! I substituted dried cranberries for the raisins (I don’t like raisins…ever). Absolutely stupendous! I Love you KAF!
    We <3 you too! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  9. Heidi

    Our family doesn’t care for raisins either so I use the cinnamon and nuts with mini chocolate chips with that tender dough.

    Reply
  10. Rockycat

    My mother’s recipe for rugelach (which is, without question, the very best in the world) is the only recipe I have which I will not share. I’ll pass along a few tips, though, some learned from her and some from other sources.

    Always use parchment paper. Seriously – you don’t want to have to clean up without it.

    Use a pie divider to mark off your triangles. Then go over the lines with a pizza wheel. It guarantees perfectly even triangles for those of us who are geometrically challenged. I use the smaller side when making rugelach for the family, the larger side when making them for gifts.

    Brush the cookies on the pan with a little beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with white sugar before baking.

    Make sure your kitchen is on the cool side or use a refrigerated pastry marble when rolling the dough. This recipe may be more heat tolerant than mine, but colder is better.

    I’ve never used a food processor for the dough. A stand mixer works just fine.

    Happy baking!
    Thank you so much for sharing these tips. I hope you have your secret recipe written somewhere for your family, I’m sure it will be part of their treasured memories and wouldn’t want to lose it. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  11. cathy

    Perhaps I missed it but I don’t see what size circle to roll out if you divide the dough into four to make smaller ones. Not still ten inches? I think mini versions are a great idea.
    Thanks — rugelach are remarkably good.
    HI Cathy,
    For the smaller discs, roll to about 8 inches. You want a thin layer, but not transparent. Enjoy! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  12. arl18

    I made rugelach for the first time this past Rosh Hashanah, trying to duplicate the best I’ve ever had – from the Royale Bakery in NY (sadly, closed). I brushed warmed apricot jam on the surface of the rolled out dough and then covered it with a mixture of cinnamon, brown sugar and raisins. Once the rugelach were formed, I brushed the tops with an egg wash and then sprinkled the tops with Demarara sugar. Perfection!

    Reply
  13. Adele

    There’s a fabulous Italian pastry shoppe near me that makes everything from scratch. They make rugelachs as well, but they roll the dough into a log shape with the filling inside, and then cut them into two-inch pieces with demarara sugar on top, then bake them. They have apricot and raspberry fillings that are wonderful, as well as chocolate chip filling, as well as walnut. I’m thinking of using your recipe, dividing it into fourths, and rolling the dough into a log shape. My question is this: Can I use a canned filling (like Solo apricot filling, raspberry, etc.) and what would I add to thicken it a bit so it doesn’t ooze out? Would a bit of tapioca work?

    Yes, if the filling need a bit more body, try a few teaspoons of tapioca flour. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  14. lorrainesfav

    Thanks again KA for your recipes!. I have a fav Rugelach recipe in my collection but…your tutorial has given me new light as to why my dough is sometimes tough. In the past I have overmixed the dough in the processor. This year, I will keep the butter and cream cheese visible in the dough and process as your instructions say. I do add a bit of sugar to my dough to make it sweeter. Rugelach is my #1 Holiday cookie!

    Reply
  15. Margy

    As a Catholic girl living in a mostly Jewish community with multiple Jewish bakeries, I became addicted to these. Sadly, when I moved away, I couldn’t find any in my area and had to try to make my own, but have never found quite the right recipe, so can’t wait to try yours. I use the tiny dried currants instead of raisins–don’t need to cut up. I did observe that many of the bakeries simply rolled out the dough, covered it with the filling, then rolled it up and sliced like a jellyroll to bake.

    Reply
  16. sarahepardee

    Thanks for the great guide on making rugelach (I’ve never made them before and would like to for this holiday season). However I was wondering if I can substitute plain yogurt for the sour cream? Thanks!
    That should work just fine. Enjoy! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  17. vibeguy

    Two hints:

    1) Before you put down the filling, set a bottle cap from, say, a cranberry juice jug, in the middle of the dough, shielding it from filling, then lift straight off to reveal a bare patch, before cutting. The lack of filling makes the tip of the dough stick to the underlying layer better after it’s rolled up. Just a dab of water or eggwash into the blank area will help even more.

    2) If you’re *super* pressed for time, blitz some Almond Roca candy in the food processor until it looks like the fillings shown, and add a dash of cinnamon if desired. You get chocolate, butter toffee and almonds all in one delicious filling ingredient with absolutely no fuss. I happen to live close to their outlet store, and buy giant bags of rejects just for this purpose.

    Reply
  18. amgbooth

    I am so excited. I begged PJ for a new rugelach recipe to try. We call these cold doughs and make them with the butter and sour cream but no cream cheese. And they are filled with apricot (homemade ONLY with California apricots) or walnut filling. We roll ours in granulated sugar instead of flour. Of course, that means parchment really comes in handy. I can’t wait to try these. Maybe even with a dried cherry filling. Thanks!

    Thanks to MaryJane – we all enjoyed her “rugelach testing” along the way! PJH

    Reply
  19. glenner

    This recipe for rugelach was so easy! I substituted pecans for the walnuts since a family member doesn’t care for walnuts. We consumed the rugelach over a period of eight days. By about the fourth day, the quality in the taste of the crust degraded, so next time I will freeze about half of the baked rugelach and set out the other half to be eaten over two or three days. BTW, a similar creation using the wedge-shaped dough and a peach preserve filling was the winner in a city-wide holiday cookie contest in 2008.

    Reply
  20. lorrainesfav

    OK…my old Rugelach recipe goes in the trash! THIS IS THE BEST RUGELACH RECIPE I have tried. The pastry is flaky, buttery and sinful. I made these cookies 2 times already in the past month and they are totally addictive. For the filling I used Nutella spread thin and mini chocolate chips. Roll the formed cookie in sugar and bake. The technique is perfect. Thanks KA. Lorraine

    Reply
  21. azlady

    Even though I put rolled and filled rugelech in frige for 10 minutes orso, before baking, the filling still comes out onto the parchment, how do I prevent that.?

    I’m sorry to hear of your difficulty. You may just need to use a bit less filling next time. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  22. Sara

    Can you make these a few days ahead? I have so many things to make on Christmas Eve, for Christmas Day. I’d love to be able to make them the day before Christmas Eve. Any thoughts?

    Store these delicious treats at room temp. in a sealed tin or plastic container. This recipe also freezes well for bake ahead convenience. Irene @ KAF</strong.

    Reply
  23. Jacqueline Manni

    Wow – I just ate my first one after they cooled for 5 minutes. Wow, wow, wow! All I can say is WOW! Thank you so much for yet another amazing recipe, King Arthur! Your tutorials break everything down into such clear and understandable steps. It also goes without saying your flour is second to none, as are the ingredients you sell. Please let me say WOW just one more time!

    Reply
  24. mafado

    Make SURE to use a RIMMED cookie sheet when baking these! I didn’t and had quite a runoff of melted butter/cream cheese to clean from the oven floor. Despite this, the pastries were good. After making mine I noticed that the blog said to brush the rolled dough with water before applying the raisin/brown sugar filling but the recipe itself omitted the water. Since the filling tends to fall off when rolling up, I think the water is probably a good suggestion.

    Reply
  25. Roxanne Morris

    I’ve been making rugleach for years; my favorite filling is either ground walnuts combined with mini chocolate chips, cinnamon, and a Tbl. of unsalted melted butter, or prepared poppy seed filling (I use canned Solo brand) with chopped walnuts added.

    Reply
  26. Barbara Klemish

    Your recipe does not specify room temp butter, or cream cheese. Do you make with cold ingredients?
    Sorry for any confusion. Yes, the ingredients should be cold. ~ MaryJane

    Reply

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