While writing “The Essential Jewish Baking Cookbook” this year, I spent countless hours asking myself, what makes a recipe traditional? Since the early 1990s, my family has made rugelach for Hanukkah. Although not a traditional oil-based dessert, it’s become tradition in my family as well as on many holiday tables. When Thanksgiving and Hanukkah collide, rugelach bursting with cranberry and orange flavors feel like the perfect crossover holiday treat.
I make cranberry orange jam to spread inside these rugelach. The jam is incredibly easy to prepare, no canning required. I always make a few jars to serve with our Thanksgiving dinner, spread on leftover turkey sandwiches, to schmear in these rugelach and to top latkes. Give it a try!
Note: This recipe makes about 3 ½ cups of cranberry orange jam. Once cool, put the jam in clean jars and refrigerate. It should last 2-4 weeks or you can freeze for later use. The baked rugelach can be stored in a closed container for several days or frozen, well wrapped, for 2-4 weeks; let return to room temperature before serving.
For the dough:
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp orange zest (about 1 ½ medium oranges)
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
For the cranberry orange jam:
- 16 ounces fresh cranberries, rinsed
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup orange juice
- zest of one medium orange
- 1 medium apple peeled, cored, grated (any variety but tarter apples have more natural pectin which helps thicken the jam)
- 2 Tbsp orange liqueur (optional)
For the filling:
- 6 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped (or use good quality mini chips)
- 1 cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries, chopped to about the size of currants
- 4 Tbsp granulated sugar
- ½ tsp orange zest
- ½ cup cranberry orange jam (or use leftover cranberry sauce or whole berry cranberry sauce)
For the topping:
- 2 Tbsp orange or citrus marmalade (if your marmalade is too thick to spread, heat it for 10 seconds at a time in the microwave with a tsp of water to loosen it up)
- Start by making the dough. Put 2 Tbsp sugar into a small bowl, add in the zest and combine with your hands until the sugar is fragrant with the zest.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed until soft and creamy, about 1 minute. Mix in the sour cream and 2 Tbsp orange-zested sugar until well combined, about 1 minute. Add flour and use the mixer on low speed to carefully mix in or stir in the flour by hand until well blended. In both cases, be careful not to overmix or knead. Combine until the flour is just mixed in and the dough can be pulled together into a ball.
- Divide the dough into 4 similar-size pieces, flatten each into a disk, wrap the dough pieces in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- To make the jam, place cranberries, sugar, orange juice, zest and grated apples in a medium saucepan on medium heat and bring to a boil.
- Maintain a low boil for about 10 minutes. Intermittently, you’ll hear the cranberries popping. Mix often to check for thickening. If the cranberries have not all popped and it’s getting too thick, add a bit of water or orange juice.
- Taste for sweetness and flavor at 10 minutes and, if using, add the orange liqueur. Depending on the texture you prefer, use a wooden spoon or potato masher to break up some of the cranberries. Cook for another 5 minutes, take off heat and let it cool.
- Make the filling: In a medium bowl, combine the chocolate, walnuts, cranberries, sugar and orange zest. Set aside at room temperature. (The filling can be prepared ahead of time by a few hours or even a day.)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Get ready to roll the rugelach; the key is to get organized. Put your jam(s) into small bowls, and have a pastry brush ready to spread each jam. You’ll need flour available for dough preparation, a pizza or dough cutter and a ½ cup measuring cup at the ready for filling. Line cookie sheets with silicone mats or parchment.
- Take one dough disk from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a circle about 10 inches in diameter and ⅛ inch thick.
- Brush 2 Tbsp cranberry orange jam over the dough. Sprinkle a generous ½ cup of the filling mixture evenly over the jam and press down gently. Cut the dough into 12 triangles using a pizza or dough cutter. Gently but firmly roll up each triangle up starting at the wide end. Place the rugelach, with the pointed side underneath, on a cookie sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Roll up the remaining triangles in the same manner and arrange them on the sheet, about ½ inch apart.
- Brush each rugelach with a dab of the orange or citrus marmalade, then refrigerate the pan for 15-30 minutes before baking. This step helps hold their form when baking.
- Repeat with the remaining dough, preserves and filling mixture; the rugelach will fit on three cookie sheets. You can comfortably fit about 18 rugelach per cookie sheet.
- Bake up to two sheets at a time, switching the sheets after 20 minutes, for 35-40 minutes, or until the edges start to brown and filling starts to ooze a bit.
- Once out of the oven, transfer the rugelach to a rack to cool for at least an hour.