The upcoming Hanukkah holiday means plenty of occasions to celebrate: large family meals, festive parties, and gift-giving are all signs of the season. If you’re looking for a Hanukkah dessert, a delicious party snack, or a homemade gift to give, look no further than rugelach cookies.
These traditional Hanukkah cookies are made from a tender cream cheese pastry and are filled with your favorite nuts and dried fruit. Making rugelach isn’t difficult, but unless you have your grandmother showing you how it’s done, it’s helpful to have instructional photos, so read on to learn how to make rugelach for Hanukkah.
Rugelach Recipe for Hanukkah
yield: about 24 cookies
- 4 oz cold cream cheese
- 4 oz (1 stick) cold butter
- 1 cup flour
- 6 tbsp granulated sugar, divided use
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup raspberry or apricot jam
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/3 cup chopped toasted nuts (like pecans or walnuts)
- 1/3 cup dried fruit (Iike raisins or dried cranberries)
- 1 large egg
First off: a warning. You’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to make these cookies, since the dough needs to chill for at least 2 hours before you can finish assembling them. To get started on the dough, cut the butter and cream cheese into cubes and let them soften at room temperature just for 5-10 minutes. They should still be cold, but not rock-hard.
This dough is best made in the food processor, but if you don’t have one, regular instructions are below. To make rugelach in a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in the processor and pulse it to combine. Add the cubes of butter and cream cheese to the dry ingredients.
Pulse the food processor a few times to break down the big chunks, then process it in a few longer spurts, until the dough starts to come together in big clumps. (It should look like the dough above). Don’t let it run so long that it forms a ball around the blade of the processor! This is a delicate dough, so be nice and gentle with it. The less it’s handled and processed, the flakier and tastier it will be.
If you don’t have a food processor, soften the butter and cream cheese until they’re at cool room temperature. Beat them together with a hand mixer or a stand mixer until they’re lump-free, then gently stir in the flour, 2 tbsp of sugar, and the salt. Do this by hand so it doesn’t get overmixed.
Divide the dough in half. This helps it chill faster, and also makes it easier to handle if it’s in smaller quantities. Form each half of the dough into a disc and wrap it with plastic wrap. You’ll notice at this point it’s still a little crumbly and not completely holding together.
Here’s a little secret for bringing your dough together without mixing it too much and making it tough. Once your dough is wrapped in plastic wrap, take a rolling pin and firmly roll the packet. The dough will compress and fill out any empty space in the plastic wrap, and it loses its crumbly texture. Chill this dough until firm, for at least 2 hours. This step can be done a day ahead and the dough can sit in the refrigerator overnight without problems.
When the dough is chilled and ready to roll out, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Flour your work surface and rolling pin, and work with 1 packet of dough at a time. Roll the dough until it’s in a rough circle, about 10-12 inches wide. Work quickly but gently: as the dough warms it becomes soft and sticky, so it’s best to be fast and roll the dough while it’s chilled and firm. However, it is a delicate dough, so try not to mangle it with the rolling pin. It will be quite thin when you roll it to its final size.
Gently spread half of the jam (about 1/3 cup) over the circle of dough. Mix 2 tablespoons of the sugar with the cinnamon, and generously sprinkle half of this cinnamon-sugar mixture over the jam. The cream cheese makes the dough tangy, so don’t be shy with the sugar in order to balance it out.
Now, I like to cut my rugelach before I add the rest of the filling ingredients, because I think it’s less messy this way. So use a pizza cutter or a large sharp knife to cut your circle into wedges just like a pizza. Depending on the size of the rugelach you want, you can cut it into 8 wedges (yield 16 total cookies for the full batch, each about 4 inches long) 12 wedges (yield 24 cookies, each 3 inches long) or 16 wedges (yield 32 cookies, each 2 inches long). I like to make 12 wedges: the cookies are not too gigantic, but they’re large enough so that they’re fairly easy to shape without difficulty. But you can, of course, experiment to find what size works for you!
Next sprinkle on half of the nuts and half of the dried fruit. Press down gently to embed them in the dough, but not too hard, since you don’t want them to break through the bottom. I like to do this step second, because if I add the fillings first, the nuts and fruit get caught in the pizza cutter and cause the dough to tear.
Here comes the fun part! Starting at the base of one of the wedges, gently roll it up until it completely rolls on top of the tip and becomes a crescent shape. Make sure that the bottom of the cookie is resting on the tip. Repeat with the rest of the wedges, until they are all formed into small crescents.
Transfer the cookies to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper–the filling tends to leak out when cooked, so you definitely want to use something to protect your baking sheets. Whisk the egg with a little bit of cold water, then gently brush the egg wash all over the tops of the cookies. Sprinkle some of the remaining sugar on top of the cookies. Bake rugelach in the preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are crackling and golden brown.
While you’re waiting for your rugelach to finish baking, you can roll the second packet of dough and assemble those cookies, or it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
After they’re out of the oven, let the rugelach cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
These rugelach are delicious! With their tender, flaky crust and intricate rolled shape, they’re definitely more like a small pastry than a traditional cookie. So give a plate of rugelach as a Hanukkah gift this year, or just make them for yourself to enjoy!