Babka can seem daunting—how do you achieve those swirls? But once you know how simple it is to make, you will be experimenting with sweet and savory flavor combinations of your own.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 8 ounces full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 egg, beaten (for glaze)
- Suggested filling: 3/4 cup raspberry jam, chocolate
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add the sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat until combined. You can also do this by hand.
Add the flour and mix just until dough comes together. To keep the ruglelach delicate and flaky, the key is to not overmix. Divide dough into four pieces. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Roll each piece of dough into a large circle. Using an 8- or 9-inch round, cut the dough into a perfect circle. I recommend using a pizza cutter for this task.
Spread each circle of dough with a thin layer of filling, leaving ¼-inch border all around.
Using the pizza cutter, cut the dough into 8 even triangles. Starting at the longer end, roll up each triangle.
Place the point side down on a baking sheet lined with a parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
Brush each rugelach with beaten egg.
Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
About this recipe
"While the origins of rugelach are European, the rugelach we know and love in the United States is very much an American invention. The use of cream cheese was not common in Europe, and once it was created in the U.S. in 1872, it slowly developed more and more applications in the American food landscape. It most famously gained popularity in the 1970s as an accompaniment to Sunday bagels. Cream cheese also made its way into various baked goods, like rugelach, where it adds a signature flakiness to the dough. In Israel, rugelach is more pastry-like, as it is made with yeast and laminated with a sugar syrup. They are often wonderfully gooey and would remind you of a European-style pastry. What is consistent between both versions is the crescent shape, since rugelach means “horn-shaped.”
Rugelach was not a treat I grew up baking. In fact, Italian bakery cookies like rainbow cookies and white lace cookies were most beloved in my family. But as I expanded my Jewish baking repertoire over the years, I wanted to learn how to make these iconic Jewish cookies. I was grateful to get a personal lesson from Samantha Ferraro, a fellow blogger and Jewish food lover. Samantha’s expert tips include using a pizza cutter to cut the dough into a perfect circle, and then into triangles before rolling up. It makes the job very easy." -- Shannon Sarna
How the Dough Should Feel
The dough should be smooth, not crumbly and not sticky. Do not overmix.
The dough should chill for 1 to 2 hours in the fridge or overnight. If you are in a rush, pop the dough in the freezer for 30 minutes. If the dough gets too warm while working with it, place it back in the fridge for 5 to 10 minutes. The cookies are easiest to roll when the dough is still cold.
An 8 or 9-inch round cake pan or cutting ring to cut out dough
Pizza cutter for cutting triangles
Small icing spatula for spreading various fillings
Silicone baking mat or parchment paper
Pastry brush for the egg wash
Excerpts and recipes used with permission from Modern Jewish Baker by Shannon Sarna, © The Countryman Press 2017.