Rugelach – Raspberry, Nuts and Chocolate wrapped in Cream Cheese Dough

My maternal great great grandmother, Shirley Sierra (the name given to her at Ellis Island), had a bakery in Kiev, Russia (now part of Ukraine). She moved to Brooklyn, NY at the turn of the 20th century and continued her “bakery” there. It wasn’t a shop as we imagine now, it was just her, baking in her apartment. According to my 92 year old grandmother, Sarah Berkowitz, her Bubbe would make rugelach, challah, strudel and all kinds of Jewish baked goods for her family and neighbors. She described their small apartment kitchen as stacked high with goodies, which in the depression must have been a welcome sight.

This morning when I told my grandmother that I was baking rugelach with raspberry preserves and chocolate, she said that was “way too modern for her tastes.” She prefers hers stuffed with chopped prunes and raisins. None of Bubbe Shirley’s recipes exist today, no one even remembers if they were written down way back when. Until recently I got a steady supply of rugelach from a bakery in town, but when they shut their doors I was determined to create my own recipe. After several attempts, all of which were tasty, but not quite ready for prime time, I landed on this recipe. The dough is soft and tender, with just a slight zip from the cream cheese and zest, which is a perfect compliment to the sweet fillings. Eating them brings back great memories. 

Rugelach – inspired by a conversation with my grandmother and a recipe from Joan Nathan’s Jewish Cooking in America


8 ounces cream cheese

2 sticks unsalted butter

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups (10 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour (measured with scoop and sweep)

“Modern” fillings:

1 cup preserves (raspberry, apricot, cherry….)


1 cup chopped nuts, lightly toasted (pecans, walnuts, almonds…)


1 cup chocolate shavings (bittersweet, semisweet or milk)


1/4 cup cinnamon sugar (mix 1/4 cup sugar with 1 tablespoon cinnamon)

“Bubbe’s Traditional” fillings:

2 cups prunes and/or raisins, finely chopped and cooked to a paste in water or orange juice


1 cup chopped nuts, lightly toasted (pecans, walnuts, almonds…)


1/4 cup cinnamon sugar (mix 1/4 cup sugar with 1 tablespoon cinnamon)

For the top:

1/4 cup heavy cream

sugar for sprinkling on top

To make the dough:

In a Food Processor cream together the cream cheese, butter and confectioners’ sugar. Add the lemon, zest and vanilla and pulse again to combine.

Add the flour and pulse the dough until it comes together in a soft ball. Divide the ball in two discs and refrigerate for about one hour or overnight. Dough can be frozen for about 3 weeks or until you remember that it is in there.

Preheat oven to 350°F

On a well floured surface,

roll the dough to about an 1/8-inch thick round.

Cover with about 1/2 cup of the preserves. Use a Pastry Wheel to cut the dough into 16 equal pieces. I cut the dough into quarters, then cut those in half, and then half those pieces.

Sprinkle on the nuts and/or chocolate if you are using. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.

Use a knife or the pastry wheel to make a small slit at the wide end of the piece of dough.

Roll the dough up, starting at the wide end, and slightly flare the split seam so that the ends are a touch wider. This will give your crescents a nicer shape.

Continue to roll the dough until the pointy end is tucked under the cookie. Repeat with the rest of the pieces, working rather quickly so the dough doesn’t get too sticky.

Place them on a cookie sheet, lined with parchment and lightly greased.

Brush the tops with a small amount of heavy cream.

Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are light golden-brown.

Remove the cookies from the sheet while they are still warm, so they will not stick to the parchment. Allow them to cool on a wire rack.

Call your grandmother and get all of her recipes, so they don’t disappear! I’m wrapping up the rest of these cookies to send to her.

My gorgeous grandmother, Sarah Berkowitz, at 92!