Four-Generation Ruggies (Rugelach)
Submitted by Hillary Siegal From her great-grandmother Jenny Harris's recipe, Bronx, New York
When someone says "Jewish pastry," the first thing that comes to mind is rugelach. Referred to as rugulach, rugalach, ruggalach, rogelach, rugalah, or rugala—no matter how you say or spell it, these treats are delicious. What are rugelach? In short, they are rolled cookies typically filled with jam, dried fruit, and nuts. There are several variations of rugelach, including different pastry dough recipes (with cream cheese or sour cream) and an endless possibility of fillings. Rugelach literally means "little twists" in Yiddish.
Hillary's great-grandmother Jenny Harris created a recipe for rugelach around 1935. When her daughter Eva (Hillary's grandmother) was a teenager, they became a family favorite. As Eva became an adult, Jenny brought the rugelach by train from the Bronx to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Over the years, Eva carried them in shopping bags to Hillary's mother's house on Long Island. Trying to put her own twist on the recipe, Grandma Eva changed it ever so slightly by adding extra sour cream to the dough.
Hillary's mother, Sybil, also used this recipe, making some subtle alterations of her own. She created additional flavors, including raspberry with chocolate chips, and made them bite-size. These mini cookies are now affectionately called "Ruggies."
Sybil began bringing Ruggies to meetings, baby showers, dinner parties, and school bake sales. Some of Hillary's fondest memories growing up were of making rugelach in the kitchen with her mother. When she moved to the West Coast after college, it wasn't long before Hillary started having withdrawals from her mother's authentic New York Ruggies. Sybil would ship them in shoe box-size Tupperware containers. When they arrived, Hillary put the Ruggies into the freezer, as she loved to eat them cold. They didn't last long.
Now Hillary makes Ruggies for her children. Following in the ancestral footprints of strong-minded women, she has changed the recipe ever so slightly. Hillary created hazelnut-chocolate Ruggies and updated the family cinnamon-sugar recipe. After four generations, we present the lightest, crispiest, and most delicious version yet.
Here is Hillary's explanation of Ruggies in her own words:
"The Dough: This dough does not have cream cheese, only sour cream. Why leave out the cream cheese? The omission was either because my greatgrandparents were too poor for the extra ingredient, or perhaps because my great-grandmother was onto something. The dough made with just the sour cream generates a pastry that is so flavorful and light, it melts in your mouth. When making the dough, work quickly. It is much easier working with dough that is cold and firm.
"The Filling: The process in creating rugelach is very social and collaborative. As children, making rugelach was the Jewish equivalent of creating your own personal pan pizza. The first layer was the jam: apricot, pineapple, raspberry, or strawberry. Next, we sprinkled on the toppings: chopped walnuts, raisins, chocolate chips, cinnamon, or sugar. It was a creative adventure that always proved to be a delicious success."
Hillary's most popular Ruggies flavor is hazelnut chocolate. This modern interpretation combines rich Nutella spread with milk chocolate and white chocolate chips. Even if you think you wouldn't like Rugelach, this version, which is like a tiny chocolate croissant, will win you over. It's always fun to experiment with new ingredients. Perhaps the recipe can be passed down through new generations with your own unique twist.
Rugelach literally means "little twists" in Yiddish.
Makes 64 Rugelach
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cold (cut into 1-tablespoon slices)
Filling for 64 Ruggies (recipes follow; see Sugar Mommas Note)
- Egg whites, lightly beaten, for brushing the tops
- Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling the tops
- Family tree
Day 1: In the bowl of a food processor, place the flour, sugar, salt, sour cream, and butter. Pulse 25 to 30 times, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Do not overprocess—you should see pea-size chunks of butter in the dough.
Carefully turn out the dough onto parchment paper and form it into a ball. Cut it into quarters. Cover the dough segments tightly in plastic wrap and place in a resealable plastic freezer bag. Chill in the refrigerator overnight.
Day 2: Place the dough in the freezer for 30 minutes. When ready, remove one segment of the dough from the freezer and place it on a heavily floured work surface. Dust your rolling pin generously with flour. Divide the dough quarter in half. Rewrap the remaining portion and return it to the freezer for later. Roll out to an 8- to 9-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick.
Spread the prepared filling over the dough and cut it as instructed in the recipes that follow. Starting at the tops of the wedges, roll each slice of dough toward the pointed tip, like you would a crescent roll. As you roll, tuck the outside edges in toward the center. Repeat until all the cookies are rolled. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the Ruggies on the baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. These cookies do not rise or spread. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 30 minutes, or until the Ruggies are firm.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the Ruggies from the freezer. Dip a pastry brush into the egg whites and lightly brush each cookie. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top of the cookies. Place the cookies into the oven while they are cold. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and cool for 1 minute. Transfer to a wire rack to let cool completely.
Sugar Mommas Note: Each filling recipe is for one one-eighth segment of the dough (8 Ruggies). If you choose to use the same filling for more of your Ruggies, you will need to multiply accordingly.
Carpool Crunch: You can store unbaked Ruggies in a sealed container in the freezer for up to 1 week. They can be baked directly from the freezer according to the instructions. Once the Ruggies are baked and cooled, they can be sealed in an airtight container and frozen up to 1 month.
Old School: Hillary's relatives used Smucker's apricot-pineapple preserves in the traditional filling. Hillary uses Sarabeth's Kitchen Chunky Apple preserves in her traditional filling.
Traditional Ruggie Filling
Fills 8 Ruggles
- 1 tablespoon apple, apricot, or pineapple preserves
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon sugar
- 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped walnuts
- 16 golden raisins (optional)
Use a spoon or a pastry brush to spread the preserves across the entire surface of the dough. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the dough on top of the preserves. Sprinkle the brown sugar and nuts evenly over the dough.
Use a pizza cutter or knife to first cut the dough in half lengthwise. Then cut across horizontally. Then cut across on each diagonal. Your dough pieces will each look like a slice of pizza. Place 2 raisins toward the top (wide part) of each wedge. Follow the remaining instructions in the Ruggies recipe above for rolling and baking.
Hazelnut-Chocolate Ruggie Filling
Fills 8 Ruggles
- 1 to 2 tablespoons Nutella spread
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon sugar
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped walnuts
- 16 white chocolate chips
- 8 milk chocolate chips
In a glass bowl or other microwave-safe dish, heat the Nutella on high power for 10 seconds. Use a small spatula or a pastry brush to spread the Nutella across the entire surface of the dough. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly on top of the Nutella. Sprinkle the nuts over the top of the dough.
Use a pizza cutter to first cut the dough in half lengthwise. Then cut across horizontally. Then cut across on each diagonal. Your dough pieces will each look like a slice of pizza. Place 2 white chocolate chips and 1 milk chocolate chip toward the top of each wedge. Follow the remaining instructions in the Ruggies recipe above for rolling and baking.
Sugar Mommas Tip
Sugar Mommas Notes: Walnut allergy or aversion? No worries. Substitute Rice Krispies cereal for the nuts to get a similar crunchy texture.
Need a little help? Go to www.SugarSugarRecipes.com for a video demonstration.
Sass It Up: Use Guittard real milk chocolate chips and Guittard Choc-Au-Lait white chips. Be creative with your fillings. Use Hillary's fillings as a guide, and once you get the hang of it, try whatever is in your baking stash, such as granola, rolled oats, dried cranberries, or dark chocolate...yum!
Sugar, Sugar: Every Recipe Has a Story
- by Kimberly "Momma" Reiner and Jenna Sanz-Agero
- Andrews McMeel Publishing 2011
- 312 pages; Hardcover; U.S.: $29.99 Canada: $32.99
- ISBN: 1449403581
- ISBN-13: 978-1449403584
- Recipe reprinted by permission.
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This page created December 2011