Orange Cranberry Rugelach for Aunt Marilyn

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Orange Cranberry Rugelach is the perfect pastry for the holiday season. Originally developed for my Aunt Marilyn who loved orange cranberry muffins, this riff of my chocolate rugelach will delight you and your guests from Thanksgiving to Hanukkah and all year long.

cranberry orange rugelach on honeycomb plate

Orange Cranberry Rugelach – for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and All Year Long

In our family, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are both filled with food traditions. Extended family visits and no matter what else we do – gift-giving, candle-lighting, dog-walking, hiking, game-playing, it’s the food we look forward to the most. Thanksgiving is the very reason we bought a dining room table to fit 14!

Thanksgiving and Hanukkah dining tables side by side

In 2013, Hanukkah started on the eve of Thanksgiving. Remember that once-in-a-lifetime tradition the Internet labelled Thanksgivukkah? Well I felt compelled to create a new recipe to bring the two holidays together. And that’s how orange cranberry rugelach were born.

Extending the Hanukkah Rugelach Tradition

My family’s “award-winning” rugelach, always present on the Hannukah dessert table, seemed like a natural starting point for a crossover holiday tradition. It has a rich history which you can read about here, but I was stuck on how to incorporate the Thanksgiving flavors – pumpkin? pecans? apples? cranberries? Then my son, inspired by a memory of my late Aunt Marilyn, suggested the magical combination of orange and cranberry. And a new rugelach came to life.

cranberry orange rugelach

Aunt Marilyn’s Zest for Cranberry Orange Muffins

When Aunt Marilyn was near the end of her life, we all flew to Florida to spend a few special days together. Each person holds his own memory of that visit, but my son fondly recalled her love for a Starbucks orange cranberry muffin. You can even see one in a bag by her hospital bed in one of our photos. Inspired by my son’s special memory, I was finally motivated to create a Thanksgivukkah pastry that I know Aunt Marilyn would have been excited to eat.

sugar with orange zest in red bowl

What Makes these Rugelach Taste of Orange Cranberry?

For a burst of orange flavor, I infused the dough with orange zest and use a swipe of citrus marmalade for topping. For the tangy tart cranberry taste, I replaced our traditional currants with dried cranberries in the filling and used homemade cranberry jam to line the inside of the dough.

close up of orange cranberry rugelach on a white plate

Don’t let the cranberry jam scare you off – it is simple to make and will be so welcome on your turkey sandwich leftovers. But a stand-in of raspberry jam will not hurt either. For the citrus marmalade, I splurged on an Italian mixed citrus version but any good-quality orange marmalade will do.

cranberry jam and orange marmalade

Prepare the Rugelach in Stages

I cannot tell a lie – rugelach is not as quick to make as one-bowl brownies. But with a bit of planning, you can prep them in steps and fit in parts of the process when you are able.

  • Dough can be made ahead and refrigerated for a day or two or even frozen.
  • Filling can be mixed and left covered at room temperature for a day in a cool dry place.
  • You can freeze unbaked or baked rugelach for later use.
  • You can bake in partial batches – no need to make all 48 at the same time.
  • OR, get a helper, make a double batch of dough, set up an assembly line and make a mountain of rugelach in one afternoon.
  • For even more detailed step-by-step photos of the process, be sure to check out my original post on rugelach.

close up of cross section of orange cranberry rugelach

I promise, no one will complain if these little gems appear for dessert at Chanukah or Thanksgiving or anytime you take a break and pour yourself a hot cup of coffee or tea. 

Cheers to warm memories recalled and new traditions created at your family’s dinner table.

Supplies for Making Orange Cranberry Rugelach 

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cranberry orange rugelach
5 from 3 votes
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Cranberry Orange Rugelach

A rugelach combining an orange-scented dough with dried cranberries, dark chocolate, toasted walnuts, and homemade cranberry jam - it's a burst of Thanksgiving and Hannukah goodness in every bite.
Course Dessert
Cuisine Jewish Holiday Baking
Keyword cranberry, cranberry orange jam, rugelach
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 48 servings
Calories 104 kcal

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (8 ounces, at room temperature)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese (at room temperature)
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest (about 1 ½ medium oranges)
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

Filling:

  • 6 ounces dark chocolate (medium fine chop)
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts (about 4 ounces, medium fine chop)
  • cup dried cranberries (about 1 ½ ounces, chopped to about the size of currants)
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon orange zest
  • ½ cup cranberry orange jam
  • 2 tablespoons orange or citrus marmalade (my marmalade was quite spreadable – if yours is a bit thick – you can heat it for 10 seconds at a time in the microwave with a bit of water to loosen it up if necessary)

Instructions

Make the dough:

  1. Zest your orange(s) to accumulate 1 tablespoon of zest (if preparing the filling immediately following the dough, zest an extra ½ teaspoon for the filling) – I use a microplane to do this – you want to be sure to get only zest, no white pith. Put the 2 tablespoons of sugar into a small bowl, add in the zest, and combine with your hands until the sugar is fragrant with the zest. (I learned this technique from Dorie Greenspan – it is a great way to infuse citrus and herb flavors into baked goods.)
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium high speed until soft and creamy, about 1 minute. Mix in the sour cream and 2 tablespoons of orange-zested sugar until well combined, about 1 minute. Add flour and use 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 over-mix or knead. Just combine until the flour is mixed in and the dough can be pulled together into a ball. Form it into a ball, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Make the filling:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the chopped chocolate, toasted and chopped walnuts, chopped cranberries, 4 tablespoons of sugar, and orange zest. Set aside at room temperature. (can prepare ahead of time by a few hours or even a day)

Roll the rugelach:

  1. The key to rugelach making is to get organized. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put your jam(s) into small bowls each with a pastry brush for spreading. Have your flour available for dough preparation. Pizza cutter at the ready. ½ cup measure ready for filling. Cookie sheets lined with silicone mat or parchment nearby. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions; refrigerate all but 1.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, form the dough into a ball and flatten it out. Roll the dough into a circle about 10 inches in diameter and ⅛ inch thick.
  3. Brush 2 tablespoons of the cranberry jam over the dough. Sprinkle a generous ½ cup of the filling mixture evenly over the dough and press down gently. Cut the dough into 12 triangles using a pizza or dough cutter. Gently but firmly roll each triangle up starting at the wide end. Place the rugelach, with the pointed side underneath, on a large 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.
  4. Brush each rugelach with a dab of the orange or citrus marmalade, then refrigerate the pan for 15 – 30 minutes before baking. This step seems to help then hold their form when baking.
  5. Repeat with the remaining dough, preserves and filling mixture; the rugelach will fit on 2 - 3 cookie sheets, depending on how large your sheets are. Do not overcrowd them.

Bake the rugelach:

  1. Bake up to two sheets at a time, switching the sheets after 20 minutes, for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the edges start to brown and filling starts to ooze a bit. I found if I baked one sheet at a time, it took just under 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Once out of the oven, transfer the rugelach to a rack to cool. Store in a closed container for several days or the rugelach can be frozen, well wrapped, for 2-4 weeks; let return to room temperature before serving.

Recipe Notes

Use my homemade Cranberry Orange Jam for filling.

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26 Responses to Orange Cranberry Rugelach for Aunt Marilyn

  1. Noelle December 7, 2018 at 8:26 am #

    5 stars
    This is a great recipe, thank you for sharing we all really enjoyed.

    • Beth Lee December 7, 2018 at 11:08 am #

      I am so glad! Thanks Noelle!

  2. Linda December 7, 2018 at 8:18 am #

    5 stars
    This sounds like a great recipe to combine the two holidays together! And the orange-cranberry flavor is always a winner. I make breads for the holidays too and no matter if it takes a little longer there is a lot of love mixed in with the results. And everyone always appreciates all the deliciousness. Good for you for making something that brings memories of important people to the forefront. Very special indeed.

    • Beth Lee December 7, 2018 at 8:25 am #

      Awww thank you Linda. I think more than ever, the homemade items at this time of year seem more meaningful to me than ever. XO

  3. [email protected] November 17, 2016 at 9:54 pm #

    Beth, What a genius idea! Rugelach and cranberry sauce are so natural together. And your Aunt is a doll – can I borrow her? 🙂

    • Beth Lee November 18, 2016 at 11:23 am #

      You would have loved her Laura – she was like a little doll – petite, always put together, sweet as can be, and she loved her orange and cranberry!

  4. Jessica Fasano (Savory Experiments) January 10, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    Love the photographs, use of color and light. It truly makes me want to try this recipe. Good job!

  5. Hannah November 26, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    This is a touching, beautiful tribute to your Aunt Marilyn, Beth! Such a nice way to marry the two holidays, too. Your rugelach look scrumptious indeed. Good luck in the contest! Wishing you and your family a warm, wonderful Thanksgivukkah! xx

  6. Renee November 26, 2013 at 4:39 am #

    What a great treat for the holidays! Pinned and shared.

    • Beth Lee November 26, 2013 at 9:17 am #

      Thank you Renee! Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. Monet November 24, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

    5 stars
    This made me smile ear to ear. Family. Tradition. Memory. And very good food. I love how you brought the two holidays together in this delicious treat!

    • Beth Lee November 25, 2013 at 6:58 am #

      Thanks – it was a lot of work to figure out the recipe but worth every minute! Thanks for visiting!

  8. Couscous & Consciousness November 22, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

    Beth, I’ve never celebrated Hanukkah or Thanksgiving, and never tried rugelach, but it seems to me that you have done a great job of marrying the flavours of two distinct traditions together in these amazing looking cookies. I also have no doubt, that with 14 people seated around your dining table you will have no trouble celebrating this new found tradition. Happy holidays and you got my vote xo

    • Beth Lee November 22, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

      Thanks Sue! Well too bad you are not in the states next week – I would gladly have you join us for both holidays. As for the rugelach, you must let me know when you plan to visit next, I will definitely prepare a batch just for you. They are a little bit like a mini croissant (super mini) but with filling and jam already included 🙂

  9. Deb November 22, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    I am very fond of holiday traditions and the food we associate with our memories. So many things change over the years and yet the aromas and flavors of our favorite food memories draw us back in time. Savor every moment as each year is special. The exceptional Cranberry Orange Rugelach is a fabulous treat to celebrate the year of colliding holidays!

    • Beth Lee November 22, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

      The year of colliding holidays – that’s how I feel! I can’t believe my house is going to smell like oil and stuffing at the same time. Those smells are supposed to be separate and distinct! Oh well – we will make the best of it, starting with the rugelach! Hope you and yours are looking forward to a delicious and restful holiday!

  10. sandy corman November 21, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

    I could not read the story without a tear or two. Thanks for remembering her so lovingly. She will be very happy that we are enjoying the rugelachs.

    • Beth Lee November 21, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

      She would have loved them. We will enjoy them next week and think of good memories.

  11. Carol Sacks November 21, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Sweet story, clever recipe and terrific photos! Such a nice post, Beth. Good luck in the contest, too!

    • Beth Lee November 21, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

      Thanks Carol! I really couldn’t get excited about the overlapping holidays until my son recalled that memory – so fun when I looked through some old photos and saw a muffin in the hospital – @dormantchef and my SIL are giving her a manicure and right there on the hospital table is a starbucks bag with you-know-what in it. Lots of work to create the recipe but a huge learning experience and lots of fun.

  12. Jael November 21, 2013 at 10:16 am #

    What a lovely filling for the rugelach 🙂 I made rugelach for the first time some time ago,and used a nut and date-filling.

    • Beth Lee November 21, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

      Hi Jael! Dates – that is one great idea! that could be super yummy. I had fun playing with the fillings – you learn so much about flavor creation when you try so many different combinations to get the taste you want. Thanks for stopping by!

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