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

Rugelach - Raspberry, Nuts and Chocolate wrapped in Cream Cheese Dough | Photo by Zoë François

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

Dough:

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….)

and/or

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

and/or

1 cup chocolate shavings (bittersweet, semisweet or milk)

and

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

and/or

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

and

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:

How to make Rugelach | Rugelach recipe - Raspberry, Nuts and Chocolate wrapped in Cream Cheese Dough | Photo by Zoë François

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

How to make Rugelach | Rugelach recipe - Raspberry, Nuts and Chocolate wrapped in Cream Cheese Dough | Photo by Zoë François

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

How to make Rugelach | Rugelach recipe - Raspberry, Nuts and Chocolate wrapped in Cream Cheese Dough | Photo by Zoë François

On a well floured surface,

How to make Rugelach | Rugelach recipe - Raspberry, Nuts and Chocolate wrapped in Cream Cheese Dough | Photo by Zoë François

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

How to make Rugelach | Rugelach recipe - Raspberry, Nuts and Chocolate wrapped in Cream Cheese Dough | Photo by Zoë François

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.

How to make Rugelach | Rugelach recipe - Raspberry, Nuts and Chocolate wrapped in Cream Cheese Dough | Photo by Zoë François

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

How to make Rugelach | Rugelach recipe - Raspberry, Nuts and Chocolate wrapped in Cream Cheese Dough | Photo by Zoë François

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

How to make Rugelach | Rugelach recipe - Raspberry, Nuts and Chocolate wrapped in Cream Cheese Dough | Photo by Zoë François

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.

How to make Rugelach | Rugelach recipe - Raspberry, Nuts and Chocolate wrapped in Cream Cheese Dough | Photo by Zoë François

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.

How to make Rugelach | Rugelach recipe - Raspberry, Nuts and Chocolate wrapped in Cream Cheese Dough | Photo by Zoë François

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

How to make Rugelach | Rugelach recipe - Raspberry, Nuts and Chocolate wrapped in Cream Cheese Dough | Photo by Zoë François

Brush the tops with a small amount of heavy cream.

How to make Rugelach | Rugelach recipe - Raspberry, Nuts and Chocolate wrapped in Cream Cheese Dough | Photo by Zoë François

Sprinkle with sugar.

How to make Rugelach | Rugelach recipe - Raspberry, Nuts and Chocolate wrapped in Cream Cheese Dough | Photo by Zoë François

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

How to make Rugelach | Rugelach recipe - Raspberry, Nuts and Chocolate wrapped in Cream Cheese Dough | Photo by Zoë François

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.

How to make Rugelach | Rugelach recipe - Raspberry, Nuts and Chocolate wrapped in Cream Cheese Dough | Photo by Zoë François

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.

Grandma Sarah Berkowitz, age 92

My gorgeous grandmother, Sarah Berkowitz, at 92!

42 thoughts to “Rugelach – Raspberry, Nuts and Chocolate wrapped in Cream Cheese Dough”

  1. I have failed many times at making rugelach. It made me wish I had a Jewish grandmother, aunt, sister, etc to teach me how to make them properly! Thank you for this step-by-step tutorial to help give me the courage to make it again. These look AMAZING Zoe!

  2. I too come from a family where rugelach was made by both my mother and grandmother. The recipe they passed down was made with a yeast dough and the filling was made with browned butter, sugar, cinnamon, nuts and raisins. I tend to make this as well as one with a cream cheese dough. I like your addition of lemon juice/zest. I will try that next. Thanks for the post!!!!

  3. What a wonderful story of baking and emigration and history. I love these snippets of historical memories. We just watched a documentary on Irish emigration that was filled with so many moments of families holding on to traditions in a new culture. I’m glad you’ve taken on rugelach and can pass it down another generation of your family.

  4. Zoe the rugelach are lovely looking and sound delicious but what I loved most of all is the picture of your beautiful 92 year old grandmother – now we know where your good looks come from. I hope in three years I will look as good as she does.

  5. Zoe, those are beautiful! Thanks for the reminder to get those bits of culinary heritage while we still can . . .
    Funny that you should do this post, when I was just thinking about rugelach today. I’ve recently gone gluten-free (temporary, I hope) and I was wondering what I was going to do what Christmas baking comes around. 🙂 I was curious to know if this would work with gluten-free flours. (Still fairly new at this, so while I understand why gluten is important to good bread, I have no idea what lack of gluten would do to pastry.)
    Any thoughts would be appreciated. 🙂
    Thanks!
    CJ

  6. Your story reminded me of the book “97 Orchard: An edible history of five immigrant families in one New York tenement”. It was very interesting. A lot of the immigrants had small businesses in their small apartments.
    The recipe looks wonderful. I would have preferred having one of these than the horrid doughnut I had for breakfast. I really need to make these sometime.
    Your grandmother looks adorable and I agree, get all the recipes from all the family members you can, while you can. I have my grandmother’s handwritten recipes she sent to my mother and I cherish them.

    1. Thank you all! My grandmother is gorgeous and such a wit! At 92 she has more energy than I do, in fact, she had to get off the phone to go hang out with her friends and play bridge!

      Cheers, Zoë

  7. Yummm, That does brings out lots of childhood memories 🙂
    Though I really like the “modern” combination… 🙂
    These pastries look just gorgeous! And your photographs are amazing as always.
    Greetings from Israel,
    Inbal

    p.s. my maternal great great grandmother also had a bakery, and they were originally from Russia 🙂 funny

  8. I did not grown up with rugelach, but when I made my first batch, with apricots and walnuts, it was love at first bite (including for the kids). Love these traditional cookies, that are labor-intensive, but oh so delicious, their taste is unforgettable. Will need to try your rich and tangy version.

  9. I love rugelach, but since I didn’t grow up with them, I don’t think chocolate and raspberry is “too modern.” I love the idea… maybe I should stack my apartment high with them too.

  10. Im planning to make rugelach using this recipe on the weekend…you make this look soo doable Zoe..thanks so much.I do have a couple of questions though,does the dough recipe make 2 batches or 1? Also,is it possible for you to mention which raspberry preserves you used?I have tried a few..and none of them taste very raspberryish…if you know what i mean;)

  11. I think I’m with your grandma on the prunes, but I’m having a hard time saying bye to summer, and a last raspberry fix may help. Thanks for yet another wonderful recipe!

  12. I remember enjoying rugelach many years ago. The family for which I babysat seemed to always have a cookie jar full of them!

    You have made the recipe sound easy enough for me to attempt to make them at home. Maybe it is the pictures or the descriptive instructions? Either way, thank you for sharing! I am looking forward to baking these!

  13. Hi! Just discovered your web site (or rather my brother did when he bought your artisan pizza book; then he e-mailed me :). I’ve only had traditional rugelach, which is very good, but not all that exciting; I’ll have to try these 🙂 btw, your Grandma appears very energetic; that’s awesome!

  14. Hi Zoe!! Just dropping by to say a big thank you. I had to make rugelach for the ‘tuesdays with dorie’ baking group… and i turned to your recipe post on how to fold them. The instructions were perfect.. and while my rugelach was not as perfect as yours.. they turned out not too bad themselves!! :)) So.. thank you for writing such a lovely blog with exact instructions!! Thank you!!

  15. Your gma is gorgeous . She looks like she’s full of life! Probably has more drive then most 40 year old’s I know . Be sure to get her recipes..like most things today the older version is much better. I didn’t have the opportunity to know my gparents but I was fortunate that my mom published our immediate family favs in the church cookbooks. I see you treasure her…enjoy your times together she has a lot of valuable lessons to teach you about life. .

  16. Zoe, thank you for sharing your family recipe. My uncle was Hungarian and I remember my aunt making something similar which brought back good memories. Anyway, I gave your recipe a go…and they are delicious..love the cream cheese pastry. I did half batch old school in honor of your great, great grandma (prunes, fig butter, and orange juice) the other half (strawberry preserves, shredded dark chocolate) did toasted chopped pecans on both. The only downside was the chocolate melting and oozing out the sides, but things could be worse:)

    1. Hi Regina,

      Thank you so much for trying them! I love that you made the prune version! My grandma just turned 94 and I she will get a kick out of this story!

      Cheers, Zoë

  17. Sounds yummy. I need to try out this recipe. And yes, be sure to get what you can from your grandmothers — sadly mine passed away before I was 8 yrs old, so I didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy their baking. From what I hear, the stories relatives have told, grandma was an excellent baker, and is truly missed.

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