Be sure to read “How I learned to make babka from the master, Dorie Greenspan.”
Makes about 40 rugelach
Rugelach, a cookie with cream-cheese dough spiraled around a sweet filling, was one of the first things I learned to bake. The recipe came from my mother-in-law, and because the dough was so forgiving, I made it often, confident that each outing would produce delicious cookies. What’s changed over the years is what I fill the rugelach with. I still love my basic filling, with jam, cinnamon-sugar, raisins, nuts and chocolate, and my other trusty combination of coconut, pecans, chocolate and cherries. But recently, playing around, I discovered that the cinnamon cocoa filling from babka is terrific with the dough, as is an even richer filling of cream cheese and jam that, when baked, turns custardy. And while I was playing around, I changed the shape. Instead of the traditional crescents, which were fussy to form, I now roll the dough up and treat it like a slice-and-bake cookie (this makes shaping so easy, which is one reason you often find barrel-shaped rugelach in bakeries). Once you’ve mastered the dough (easy!) and made your first batch, you can start coming up with your own fillings. Think of this recipe as the first step to your own repertoire.
FOR THE DOUGH
1 recipe Cream Cheese Dough (see below), divided in half and chilled
FOR THE CLASSIC FILLING
⅔ cup (160 ml) raspberry jam, apricot jam or marmalade
2 tablespoons sugar, mixed with ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup (40 grams) moist, plump raisins or dried cranberries, chopped
¼ cup (30 grams) finely chopped nuts
4 ounces (113 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, or ⅔ cup (113 grams) mini chocolate chips
FOR THE COCONUT-FRUIT FILLING
¾ cup (90 grams) shredded sweetened coconut
½ cup (60 grams) lightly toasted pecans, finely chopped
3 ounces (85 grams) milk or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
⅓ cup (about 55 grams) moist, plump dried cherries or raisins, snipped or chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons sugar, mixed with ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
FOR THE BABKA FILLING
5 tablespoons (2½ ounces; 70 grams) unsalted butter, melted
½ cup (100 grams) packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
FOR THE CREAM-CHEESE FILLING
6 tablespoons raspberry jam, apricot jam or marmalade
3 ounces (85 grams) cream cheese
¼ cup (30 grams) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
3 ounces (85 grams) chocolate, finely chopped, or ½ cup (85 grams) mini chocolate chips
1 egg, mixed with 1 teaspoon cold water, for glazing
Sanding or granulated sugar for sprinkling
A WORD ON AMOUNTS: Each filling makes enough to spread over a full batch of the cream cheese dough. If you’d like, the dough can be doubled, or the filling recipes can be halved, so you can have more variety.
TO ROLL OUT THE DOUGH: Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough out on a floured surface or between sheets of parchment paper into a 12-inch square. The dough will be very thin and the edges might be ragged. If the dough is not sandwiched between parchment, slide it onto a sheet of parchment and cover with another sheet. Transfer the dough to baking sheets and refrigerate until needed. (You can refrigerate the dough for up to 3 days or freeze it, wrapped airtight, for up to 2 months. If it’s been frozen, don’t try to work with the dough until it’s pliable.)
TO SHAPE THE RUGELACH: Follow these basic directions for filling and shaping the dough squares. Work with one square at a time, leaving the second one in the refrigerator until you are ready for it. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving a slim border bare at the top and bottom of the square of dough. Cut the dough crosswise in half, so that you’ve got two 12-x-6 inch rectangles. Starting from the center edge, where you cut the dough, roll up one rectangle of dough into a log, making the roll as tight as you can and finishing with the bare border. Repeat with the second rectangle. Wrap both logs and refrigerate or freeze them (I usually freeze them; I think they bake better) until they are chilled, or you are ready for them. (The logs can be refrigerated for about 8 hours or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 1 month.)
TO MAKE AND SPREAD THE CLASSIC FILLING: Warm the jam with a splash of water (I do this in the microwave) until it liquefies; let cool. Working with one piece of dough at a time, spread the dough with half the jam, sprinkle with half the cinnamon sugar and scatter over half the raisins, nuts and chocolate. Roll and chill as above.
TO MAKE AND SPREAD THE COCONUT-FRUIT FILLING: Mix together the coconut, pecans and dried fruit. Working with one piece of dough at a time, spread the dough with half the melted butter, sprinkle with half the cinnamon sugar and scatter over half the coconut mixture. Roll and chill as above.
TO MAKE AND SPREAD THE BABKA FILLING: Mix all the filling ingredients together—the mixture will look a little lumpy and maybe even a bit curdly. Let it sit for 15 minutes, and it will be fine. Working with one piece of dough at a time, spread half the filling over the dough with a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon—you might have a few bare spots here and there, but you should be able to get a nice coating over all of the dough. Roll and chill as above.
TO MAKE AND SPREAD THE CREAM-CHEESE FILLING: Warm the jam with a splash of water (I do this in the microwave) until it liquefies; let cool. Mix the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and salt together in a bowl until smooth and spreadable. Working with one piece of dough at a time, spread the dough with half the cream cheese mixture and then half the jam. Scatter over half the chocolate. Roll and chill as above.
TO BAKE THE RUGELACH: Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper or a baking mat.
Working with one log at a time, unwrap the log and place it on a cutting board, keeping the seam on the side, not the bottom, if you can. Trim the ends and cut the log into 1-inch-wide cookies. Place them on the baking sheet about an inch apart, again trying to keep the seam to the side. If the seam is on the bottom, it’s not fatal, but filling always bubbles out and burns, and it’s better if it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the cookies. (The shaped cookies can be frozen, well wrapped, for up to 2 months and then baked from frozen—you might have to add an extra minute to the baking time.)
Lightly brush the top of each cookie with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake the rugelach for 21 to 26 minutes; you’re looking for a lovely deep golden-brown color; the babka rugelach take less time than the others. There’ll be bubbled-up and maybe burned filling around the cookies, but don’t worry, it won’t spoil them—especially if you lift them off the baking sheet as soon as they come out of the oven.
Use a small offset spatula to very carefully transfer the rugelach to a rack. Cool to room temperature.
STORING: Rugelach are best the day they’re made, but they can be refreshed briefly in a 350-degree-F oven.
Cream Cheese Dough
Makes enough dough for about 40 cookies
4 ounces (113 grams) cold cream cheese
1 stick (8 tablespoons; 4 ounces; 113 grams) cold unsalted butter
1 cup (136 grams) all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
Take the cream cheese and butter out of the refrigerator 10 minutes before you’re ready to start and cut into 4 chunks each. (You want these ingredients to be slightly softened but still cool.) Put the flour, baking powder and salt in a food processor and pulse to blend, then scatter over the pieces of cream cheese and butter and pulse the machine 6 to 10 times, so that the flour coats the chunks. Process, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, until the dough forms large curds—stop at the curd stage, you don’t want the dough to form a ball.
Turn the dough out, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a square or round, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Follow the Rugelach recipe (page 189) for working with the dough. If you want to use the dough for another recipe, roll the dough out on a floured work surface, reflouring it as needed so that the dough moves easily, or between sheets of parchment.
STORING: Tightly wrapped, the dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months; thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Excerpted from “BAKING WITH DORIE: Sweet, Salty, & Simple” © 2021 by Dorie Greenspan. Photography © 2021 by Mark Weinberg. Reproduced by permission of Mariner Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.