Rugelach come in a couple of different styles. There’s the classic croissant shape and what you might call the “strudel: shape. Either one will work with this formula. Any time I take on a classic I try to be aware that there are dozens of possible alternatives, most with an equal claim to the “definitive version” title. That rule certainly applies to rugelach. Some versions are made with sour cream and are a little more cake-like, some with cream cheese and are a little more pie crust-like. This formula is the latter, because that’s the version I first tasted and learned how to make. Calle me sentimental. The proportions for this style of rugelach are fairly standard:
For the Pastry
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 ounces (1 stick) butter or margarine, room temperature
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5 ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour
large crystal sugar to finish
There are several ways you can go here. The classic is cinnamon sugar (roughly 6-1 granulated sugar to cinnamon) plus either walnuts or golden raisins that have been plumped in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Other possibilities include sugar and cocoa powder (mixed 3-1), maybe with a few chocolate chips added for fun. A thin layer of jam and the cocoa powder mixture is not uncommon. Jam and cinnamon is another way to go. You can really go
nuts crazy here, and many people do. Use your imagination!
Place the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle. Beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high until smooth. Beat in the sugar, vanilla and salt. Then with the machine on low, slowly add the flour and stir until just combined. Remove the dough to a lightly floured board and form it into a ball. Divide the ball into 2 pieces, wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate them 1-2 hours or overnight.
When you’re ready to shape, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it sit and warm up until it’s pliable but still chilly, 10-20 minutes. For croissant-shaped rugelach, roll one piece out into a circle about 10″ across. Apply your filling to the circle in a broad ring about mid-way between the outer edge and the center. Press the filling into the dough with the palm of your hand. Next using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into either 12 or 16 pizza slice-like wedges, depending on how big you like them (for 12, cut the dough into quarters, then cut each quarter into thirds). To finish, roll the wedges of dough up starting at the outer edge, then inward toward the center.
For strudel-like rugelach, roll the pastry piece out into a rectangle. Apply filling over the entire sheet, then roll the sheet up and cut the roll into pieces about 1 inch long.
Lay the shaped rugelach out on a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake about 35 minutes, until the edges of the pastry start to brown. Remove them to a rack to cool.