Rugelach - two ways

Growing up in Hawaii I had very little, if any, connection to the Jewish community. In fact, the Jewish community makes up only about 0.5% of the population in Hawaii and is getting smaller. 1 By comparison, Massachusetts has a thriving Jewish population. As with most new cultures I encounter, my way of connecting is through food. When I moved to Boston, for the first time in my life, I was introduced to hamantaschen, matzoh ball soup, chopped liver, latkes, and proper bagels (thank you Kupel's). I was also introduced to these lovely little cookies called rugelach.


What are rugelach?

By no means am I an expert on Jewish dishes and I will never claim to be. Here is information I've gleaned from personal interactions and information on the Internet.

Rugelach are little cookies that often look like small filled crescent rolls. They are made with a light, cream-cheese and butter dough and filled with jam, nuts, or chocolate. I won't go into the history of rugelach - there's lots of information and supposition on the Internet - but it seems that this version is what many call American rugelach because of the use of cream cheese in the dough. It is different from those from Northern and Slavic Europe which are made with a yeasted dough.

Rugelach is often associated with Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashana and especially with Hanukkah. While researching, I read in more than one blog that rugelach are great to eat year-round and not just for holidays. As I do not celebrate the Jewish holidays, I would have to agree.


Merging influences

After watching an episode of Barefoot Contessa, I learned that rugelach are pretty easy to make. After making Ina Garten's recipe for many years, I started incorporating elements I liked from other bakers (see my list of inspiration below). I found that most recipes are pretty similar. Here are some of the differences:

  • Barefoot Contessa incorporates sugar into her dough, others don't.
  • Most, like Dorie Greenspan, treat the dough like a pie crust, cutting cold butter and cream cheese into the dry ingredients. Barefoot Contessa treats the dough like a cookie, creaming together room temperature butter and cream cheese. 
  • Sally's Baking Addiction processes the fruit & nut filling in a food processor, resulting in a finely-chopped, homogenous mixture.

The recipe I share here takes elements from all these influences.


Same dough, different fillings

I'm sharing two different rugelach that I make. They both use the same dough and both use some form of nuts. The first is more traditional and includes a thin layer of jam (I use either my apricot or papaya ginger jam) and a mixture of nuts, fruit, and sugar. The other uses jarred Nutella with a layer of chopped hazelnuts for crunch.

The recipe makes enough dough to make two dozen of each variety. Each filling is enough for half a recipe of dough.


1 Nehmad, I. Robert, (November 2020), Hawaii Jewish Community: A Community Mapping Report, Jewish Community Services