la la rugelach

la la rugelach

Oh, my goodness, it’s been so long. There have been many distractions, some of them terrible, some of them annoying, some of them great, and all of them quite time-consuming. But there’s finally been some baking going on, so let’s get to it.

I didn’t know about rugelach when I was a kid. There were always tons of cookies this time of year: shortbread, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter kisses, gingerbread men, spritz, snickerdoodles, but no rugelach to speak of. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I discovered the joys of these little rolls of jam and chocolate and joy. And now, they’re some of my favorite holiday cookies. I generally love anything that has a filling; I just think it’s more exciting. So anyhow, Friday was the first night of Chanukah, as you may know, and Kenan and I went over to his dad’s house on Saturday for a family dinner, which meant that rugelach was necessary.

rolling and filling

rolly guy

The only rugelach I’ve seen have been filled with some combination of jam and nuts, but I thought it’d be exciting to also make one of the fillings. Because I didn’t have the fresh fruit to make jam and also because I have a minor obsession with poppy seeds, I decided to make a poppy seed filling for half of the cookies. After I’d gotten the ingredients, I threw the dough together to set up in the refrigerator until the afternoon. The dough for rugelach is quite simple: a combination of cream cheese, butter, flour and salt. Simply run the food processor until just before the dough starts to ball up, and voila! Dough. The dough also doesn’t have any sugar in it (you can add some if you prefer), so it can also be easily modified to use for little hors d’oeuvres and things.

When I got back to the house, I got started on the poppy seed filling, which was also blessedly simple: poppy seeds, milk (or water), honey, a bit of granulated sugar, and one egg. I’ve seen versions that also include cream and butter, but I thought that might be a bit too rich when combined with the already buttery dough. So anyhow, the filling was a snap; I heated the poppy seeds, milk, honey, and sugar until they were thickened, tempered the egg, mixed it all back together, and then set it aside to cool. In the meantime, I rolled out the first portion of the dough, spread on some jam, sprinkled everything with a healthy dose of cinnamonsugar and chocolate, sliced the cookies, rolled them up, and set them in the refrigerator to cool for a bit before baking. Once they were sufficiently chilled, I brushed them with an egg wash, sprinkled them with more cinnamonsugar, and popped them in the oven for a little tanning session.

The first tray looked beautiful, but I had forgotten to use parchment paper, and some of the filling had leaked out of the cookies and formed evil-looking black ponds of sugar and jam on the pan. But once I’d pried them off the tray, they looked and tasted spectacular. The poppy seed guys, once they had chilled and been egg washed and baked, also looked great. They were a bit more petite than their jam-filled cousins, but they had all turned a nice, friendly golden brown and gotten crispy on the bottom.


rolly guy

Later, after an intense and painstaking session of wrapping Chanukah presents with scissored-up brown paper bags and a frustratingly long trip into the city, we arrived at Kenan’s dad’s house, ready for drinks and a delicious dinner. And after dinner (and presents! Oh, my goodness, the presents!), there was dessert, and life was good. The rugelach were chewy and flaky and not too sweet. I think the poppy seed guys were my favorite, because (a) they tasted of poppy seed, and (b) they just kinda had a little something extra. But that is not to denigrate the jam guys; the combination of rose hips and strawberries was really quite astounding, and the chocolate added just the right amount of creaminess.

And there you have it. Just make sure not to eat four of them in a row after eating a huge dinner; it tends to upset the stomach.

rugelach (adapted from Dorie Greenspan)

rolly guy


cold cream cheese, cut into four chunks 4 ounces
cold unsalted butter, cut into four chunks 1/2 cup (1 stick)
all-purpose flour 1 cup
salt 1/4 teaspoon

poppy seed filling (adapted from

poppy seeds 1 cup
milk (or water) 1/2 cup
honey 1/4 cup
granulated sugar 2 tablespoons

salt 1/4 teaspoon
freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional) 1 teaspoon
1 lightly beaten egg

jam filling

jam (i used rose hip and strawberry) 2/3 cup
sugar 2 tablespoons
ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon
chopped nuts (optional) 1/4 cup
finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate 2/3 cup


1 large egg
cold water 1 teaspoon
sugar (i used more cinnamon sugar) 2 tablespoons

for the dough: Let the cream cheese and butter rest outside the refrigerator for 10 minutes – they should be slightly softened but still cool to the touch.

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor, plop the chunks of cream cheese and butter over the flour mixture and pulse the machine 6-8 times. Then turn the machine on, scraping down the sides of the bowl periodically, just until the dough starts to come together. Make sure that you stop the machine before the dough starts to ball up on the blade. Note: If you don’t have a food processor, you can of course do all of this in a large mixing bowl, using a pastry blender or two knives to cut the butter and cream cheese into the dough.

Turn the dough onto a work surface, gather it up and divide it in half. Shape each half into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to a day (wrapped very tightly, the dough can be frozen for 2 months).

to make the filling: For the poppy seed filling, in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart sauce pan combine the poppy seeds, milk, honey, sugar, and salt. Stirring constantly, cook over moderate heat until the filling starts to thicken, 8-10 minutes. Add the lemon juice (optional). Add about 1/4 cup of the hot mixture to the beaten egg, whisk to combine, and then add the egg mixture back into the rest of the filling, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

For the jam filling, in a medium sauce pot over low heat, warm the jam until it liquefies (about five minutes). Set aside to cool. In a separate bowl, mix together the cinnamon and sugar.

Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

to shape: Pull one disc of dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly-floured surface, roll the dough into approximately a 12″ circle. Spoon or brush a layer of jam (about half of it) over the dough, and sprinkle half of the cinnamon sugar mixture over the jam. Sprinkle with half of the nuts and half of the chocolate. Cover the filling with a piece of wax paper and press gently into the dough, then remove the paper and save for the next batch.

Using a sharp knife or pizza wheel, cut the circle of dough into quarters, and then cut each quarter into four smaller triangles. Starting at the base (the wide part) of each triangle, roll the dough up so each cookie becomes a wee crescent. Arrange the cookies on one baking sheet, point sides down. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before baking.

to bake: Position two racks in the middle and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Stir the egg and water for the glaze together. Pull one tray of cookies from the refrigerator and brush a bit of the glaze over each cookie. Sprinkle with half of the sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until puffy and golden, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back about half way through. Transfer to racks to cool.

rolly guy

photos by kenan “boy blue” rubenstein.

la la rugelachla la rugelachla la rugelachla la rugelachla la rugelachla la rugelachla la rugelachla la rugelachla la rugelachla la rugelach

3 notes

  1. boy blue says:

    just to clarify, you should also avoid eating eight in a row before dinner.


  2. Hiro says:

    Hi! These look fabulous. As do you. As usual.

    Wow, I miss you.

  3. mom says:

    oh, the deliciousness of it all! the only bad part is that you won’t be home to do baking in the home kitchen, and the kitchen and all of its inhabitants will be missing you as a primary ingredient of holiday happiness!

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