Rugelach are beloved eastern European Jewish pastries. Cinnamon-Walnut Apricot Rugelach have been a family celebration staple in my home for the past 25 years – from baby namings to high school graduations and every Chanukah in-between. They are a special timeless treat and make a charming hostess gift, teacher thank you offering and are a popular cookie tray or exchange participant.
My recipe is adapted from Maida Heatter’s James Beard award winning Book of Great Cookies cookbook; written in 1977. Most recipes for rugelach today also seem to be a variation of her classic recipe. Older Jewish family recipes are more European in nature and use a traditional yeast or sour cream dough, not the Americanized cream cheese dough Maida Heatter uses.
Maida Heatter is my generation’s doyenne of baking. In her day she was the equivalent of a superstar food blogger, cable tv personality, and restaurateur. She is not a professionally trained baker, yet her seven award winning dessert cookbooks are still referenced by today’s pastry chefs including Rose Levy-Berenbaum, David Leboviz and Dorie Greenspan. My copy of her most popular Book of Great American Desserts cookbook shows my love; the spine is broken, the cover is in tatters, and pages are splattered with food stains.
I tend to make smaller portions of food with the intent of more mindful eating…..for example making mini rugelach creates the sensory pleasure of savoring each bite of this rich, complex and flaky pastry. In reality, smaller rugelach actually makes it easier to eat an entire plateful and somehow not feel too bad because each one is just a little more than a bite. A benefit of smaller rugelach is also a more even baking outcomes without the dense undercooked center often found in large rolled pastries.
A tart lemony-apricot spread perfectly balances out the condensed sweetness of the currants and the spicy flavor and crunchy texture of the cinnamon-sugar walnuts. Currants are essential for this recipe because raisins are just too big for baby pastries. Large-crystal demerara or turbinado sugar adds additional crunch and sparkle to these little gems.
Cinnamon-Walnut Apricot Mini Rugelach
Makes 96 mini rugelach
Cream Cheese Pastry Dough
8 oz unsalted butter at room temperature
8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp kosher salt
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (White Lily flour makes a great pastry dough)
4 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
½ cup apricot spreadable fruit (apricot spreadable pure fruit can be found where jams and jellies are sold)
2 Tbs lemon juice
½ cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs cinnamon
1 ½ cups walnuts, finely chopped (the food processor is the quickest way to do this)
¾ cup currants in 2 Tbs water microwaved for 15 seconds then drained
Glaze – 2 large egg yolks mixed with 3 Tablespoons light cream
Sugar Cinnamon Toppings – ¼ cup demerara or turbinado sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon
Read entire recipe first before starting. The recipe has many steps, but each one is straightforward. I have included more pictures than usual to show more of the process. The time suck for this recipe is consistently chilling the dough. The soft, sticky dough is necessary for a flaky and tender pastry.
- In food processor pulse butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and salt until combined. Add flour and pulse until a soft dough is formed. (Alternatively use a mixer to cream butter, cream cheese, vanilla and salt until well combined. Add flour and mix until a soft and sticky dough is formed)
- Flour hands and form dough into a brick shape on a lightly floured surface.
- Cut dough brick into 8 even pieces with a bench cutter or sharp knife. A scale is a great way to make sure all the pieces are even and the resulting rugelach are uniform in size.
- Roll each piece into a ball and flatten between two sheets of plastic or parchment into a disk about 5” round. Refrigerate disks one hour.
- Once chilled a bit, roll each disk between two sheets of plastic into ¼ thick circles about 7” round. Chill circles again until ready to use (from 1 hour up to two days)
- When ready to form mini rugelach have all filling ingredients ready – mix sugar, cinnamon and walnuts in a small bowl, melt and slightly cool butter in another small bowl, mix apricot jam with lemon juice in a third bowl, and place currants in fourth bowl.
- Take dough circles out one at a time to form rugelach. For each circle thinly spread 1/8 of melted butter then spread 1/8 of the apricot jam
- Sprinkle with 1/8 of the currants
- sprinkle 1/8 of the sugar cinnamon walnut mixture.
- Cover with second sheet of plastic or parchment and lightly press down with rolling pin. Cut each circle into 12 wedges with a sharp knife and return to refrigerator once done and chill until slightly firm.
- When ready to form and bake rugelach preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat mat.
- Working with two circles at a time, let dough sit on counter until just soft enough to roll without cracking, but not yet sticky. If dough gets sticky, just pop back in refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up a bit. To roll mini rugelach, start at outside of each wedge and roll into a crescent shape. Place on baking sheet about 1″ apart in all directions. Gently brush top of each mini rugelach with egg wash and sprinkle lightly with demerara or turbinado sugar.
- Bake mini rugelach for 16-20 minutes until golden brown.