Rugelach is by far the most popular Hanukkah cookie. The last time I had one was in June in Montréal, but that was more because I passed a Jewish bakery and I couldn’t *not* get one. Fast forward six months to Saturday night, when I decided to make my own rugleach from scratch.
Honestly, it’s an easy process. You make some dough, refrigerate it, and then roll it out into circles. The rolling is the most difficult part because you want the dough to be more or less an even circle. I would do this by rotating your rolling pin 45 degrees between each roll. It will ensure that the dough rolls out evenly.
Then you slather on some apricot preserves, throw some chopped walnuts, sugar, and raisins on top, and cut the circle into 12 triangles. My favorite part is rolling up each triangle, starting with the wide side, until the rugelach look like little fruit rollups. Brush each cookie with egg wash, pop them in the oven, and bake them until they’re golden brown.
Rugelach are good Hanukkah cookies because they’re sweet and rich but not cloyingly so. They actually have a lot of good stuff in them (see: raisins and walnuts), so you don’t feel like you’re eating pure sugar. Plus, they’re little so you can eat a bunch at once and not feel like you’re going to puke.
You could get creative with rugelach fillings. I’ve seen recipes that call for figs, chocolate, and even raspberry. Those all sound delicious but I’ve included a more basic recipe below. It’s the kind of rugelach that you’d find on traditional holiday tables. It reminds me of my ancestors, even though I’m not even 100 percent sure they made rugelach. If they did, I bet it looked something like this.
Here’s a song to get you started on your rugelach journey.
8 oz cream cheese, at room temp
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp
1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 6 Tbsp
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins (I used regular and golden raisins)
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp milk, for egg wash
Cream the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, salt, and vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour and mix until just combined.
Turn out the dough onto a well-floured work surface and form it into a ball. Divide the dough into four pieces and roll each into a ball. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least an hour.
Make the filling by combining the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, raisins, 6 Tbsp of granulated sugar, and walnuts. Line rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll out the refrigerated dough on a well-floured surface, making each ball into a circle about 9-inches in diameter. Spread 2 Tbsp of apricot preserves on each circle and sprinkle 1/2 cup of filling on top. Divide the dough into 12 triangles with a pizza cutter. Roll each triangle starting with the wide side until they’re all rolled up. Place the cookies on the baking sheets with the points tucked under. The cookies should not be touching-leave a little space between each one. Chill the sheets with the dough for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Before you bake the cookies, brush the egg wash on top. Bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Place the cookies on a wire rack to cool. Enjoy!