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Recipe Description

Rugelach, pronounced ro-ge-lah, is a cherished pastry with roots in the Eastern European Jewish community. Various attributions have been made to its name, which means “little horn” in Polish, or potentially stemming from the Yiddish word “rugel” which means royal.

Traditional rugelach is made by rolling a piece of triangular dough around a filling into a crescent shape. Historically, this delicacy is believed to precede the croissant, which originated in Austria to commemorate the Battle of Vienna in 1683.

However, they do not have the distinctive laminated layers of pastry you would expect from a croissant. And being cookies, they are also significantly smaller, prompting my daughter to whimsically label them “mini croissants”. What defines rugelach is the inclusion of cream cheese or sour cream in the dough, which imparts a tender and flaky texture to the baked pastry due to the fat and acid in these dairy products shortening the gluten strands.

Fillings for rugelach can be quite varied with jam, dried fruits, nuts or chocolate being the most common. Some bakers even apply a layer of jam, usually apricot, on the dough before filling it with finely chopped nuts. Regardless of your chosen filling, proper chilling of the dough facilitates easier cutting and handling after rolling it out.

I’ve used the bottom round of a spring-form cake tin to roll out my dough. This method eliminates the need to measure an 18-cm disc of dough while ensuring the correct half-centimetre thickness. I just have to make sure that I roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper so that I can lift them up and then peel off the top sheet of paper. It is also more efficient to cut the dough into wedges with a rotary pizza cutter compared to a knife.

The filling will tend to ooze out during the baking and stick to the tray, so it is advisable to line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Alternatively, swiftly use a spatula to lift the cookies off the tray after baking, before the sugar solidifies. While the final dusting with icing sugar is optional, it adds a festive touch to the presentation, making it particularly appealing for sharing this pastry during the Christmas season.

Recipe Ingredient

  • Dough
  • 42g butter
  • 85g cream cheese
  • 60g sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 155g all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Filling
  • 1 egg white
  • 115g ground walnuts
  • 100g sugar


  1. Mix cream butter and cheese with sugar until fluffy.
  2. Add the egg yolk and continue beating. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together, then fold into the batter.
  3. Divide dough into three equal portions and set aside to chill in the refrigerator for about 1 hour until firm enough to roll.
  4. Whisk egg whites until frothy, then fold in ground walnuts and sugar.
  5. Roll out each dough portion into an 18-cm disc and fill each disc with one-third of the filling.
  6. Then cut the filled disc into 12 wedges with a knife or preferably a rotary pizza cutter.
  7. Starting from the wide end, roll the wedge into a crescent shape and place it on a baking sheet about 5cm apart to prevent sticking.
  8. Bake at 180°C for 12-15 minutes until lightly golden. Lift cookies off the baking sheet immediately with a spatula before the sugar hardens. Cool on a wire rack and dust with icing sugar before serving.

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