Chocolate Rugelach with apricot jam is a sweet and tangy magical little bite. Over the years, we perfected our techniques. But you don’t need years to learn – just follow my step-by-step instructions and you’ll be a rugelach expert in no time at all!
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Award Winning Chocolate Rugelach
Everybody has a food story. If our family had to choose just one story – it would be about these chocolate rugelach with currants and apricot jam. We’ve been making them since December 1990 when we found the original recipe in a Hanukkah article in Food and Wine.
One year, our chocolate rugelach won our favorite cookie baker’s stamp of approval and we knew then, we would have to make these little rolled pastries forever. We’ve tweaked the technique over the years and I’ve created other versions like this cranberry orange rugelach. But chocolate and tangy apricot jam version is always our family favorite.
Why you’ll love this recipe
What’s not to love? (Can’t you just hear my bubbe saying that?)
Rugelach is a traditional Jewish pastry, small enough to be eaten in one or two bites. They look like miniature croissants and are made with a rich butter, cream cheese, and in this case, sour cream dough. This chocolate rugelach is filled with a mixture of nuts, currants, chocolate, and cinnamon sugar and lined and topped with apricot jam.
Whether as a nibble with afternoon tea, a sweet start to the morning or finish to the day or a feature on a dessert table – rugelach always hits the spot.
Ingredients you need for this recipe
- Butter: Use regular unsalted butter, not European style butter with a higher fat content. We made that mistake one year and had problems with the dough.
- Cream cheese: I use the brick style cream cheese – it’s 8 ounces so if making a single recipe, you just cut it in half.
- Sour cream: Many rugelach recipes don’t have sour cream in the dough. The recipe we originally used called for sour cream which might be a relationship to a German pastry called shnecken or a Hungarian pastry called kifli. In any case, the tang and texture of this dough is so special that I have never experimented making it without the sour cream.
- Chocolate: I use mini chocolate chips – usually semi-sweet – the best I can find. It is a shortcut to chopping up your own chocolate. But if you have the patience and time, a great block of chocolate can only make them that much better!
- Walnuts: I like to toast them – adds so much flavor. Also, I take another shortcut and frequently buy them chopped. I still chop them smaller but it takes less time.
- Currants: Like the mini chips, these are ready to go with no additional work. But if you can’t find currants at the store, dice up some raisins.
- Apricot preserves: We use a brand called Maman but any preserves will work. If the preserves are too thick to spread, warm them up a bit and they’ll spread more easily.
Steps to make this recipe
I break this recipe down into four main steps:
Preparing the dough
1. Using your stand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese together
2. Incorporate the sugar and sour cream
3. Add flour just until blended and remove from bowl onto a clean surface
4. Separate dough into roughly equal balls and refrigerate (I weigh mine so I’m sure they’ll roll out into roughly equal circles – looking for about 5.85 oz or 166 grams each)
5. When wrapped well and stored in an airtight container, the dough keeps for several days in the refrigerator if you are not making your cookies immediately.
Preparing the filling
6. Combine toasted and chopped walnuts, mini chips (or chopped chocolate), currants, cinnamon and sugar. Cover and set aside.
Rolling the rugelach
7. Grab one ball of dough at a time, shape it quickly into a ball then flatten it on a lightly floured surface. Roll out to about 10 inches in diameter. It does not have to be perfectly round. If you rotate as you roll and flip it over, you’ll end up with a nice flat and round-ish surface. If it sticks, use a bench scraper to move it and add some more flour.
Roll each one firmly and yet gently. Be sure the pointy end sticks to the dough, shape it into a crescent and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets.
9. After you fill up a sheet, brush a bit of apricot jam on the top of each one.
Baking the rugelach
10. Before you bake them pop each sheet tray into the refrigerator to chill – it help ensure that they stay rolled up and looking fabulous after baking.
11. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes – checking at 15 minutes and changing shelves in the oven if baking two sheets at a time. They will look browned when ready. You might see some moisture around each one – don’t worry. Just let them sit on the parchment for a few minutes, then place on a cooling rack. They’ll be fabulous – I promise!
Expert Tips and FAQs
- Make the dough the day before (or even a few days before), portion it out, wrap, and refrigerate. Each dough ball should weigh about 5.75 – 5.85 ounces when portioned out. No need to be that precise but it will ensure more even rounds of dough.
- When rolling out the dough, only take one piece out of the refrigerator at a time. If possible, roll out on marble or granite and use a marble rolling pin or a cold rolling pin.
- To save time, buy mini semi-sweet chocolate chips – eliminates the time and mess of chopping chocolate. Do the same with walnuts – buy them already chopped.
- Buy good quality apricot preserves – they taste great and spread the easiest.
- Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough circles into the 12 pie-shaped pieces for rolling.
- Use regular unsalted butter – don’t use the fancier butters that are available at gourmet stores – the fat content is different and the dough will act differently. We learned this the hard way.
- Baked rugelach freeze really well. So double the recipe and make extra!
- Bake on parchment or silicone mats. So much easier when they come out of the oven.
- Always refrigerate your pan of unbaked rugelach before baking.
- Break this process up into parts or invite a friend over to help roll. I’ve done it both ways – all alone in steps or with my family and/or friends helping. Remember you can make the dough and filling ahead of time.
- Before you start rolling out the dough and forming the rugelach, get all your tools and ingredients ready to go (mise en place) and then get the assembly line going!
- If you need to make a nut-less version for someone with a nut allergy, be sure to make that batch first, before you begin the nut-filled assembly line.
Rugelach is a Yiddish word that means “little twists”. Some believe that the origin is the Polish word “rogal” that means royal. I’m going with the little twists definition because it just makes sense to me.
There is an alternative spelling with an “a” – rug.a.lach. Many pronunciation guides suggest it’s a long U in “ru”, then a short E or A “ge” or “ga”, and then a “la” (as in fa la la) with a guttural CH sound at the end.
Rugelach dough, as we know it now in the United States, is cream cheese-based and does not have yeast in it. The use of cream cheese in dough apparently was a marketing effort by Kraft (Philadelphia Cream Cheese) and Borden as a way to simplify the dough making process. Who exactly made the first cream cheese dough rugelach is not clear but apparently it happened around 1939. If you are a food history buff, you can read more details in this Tablet article.
The original rugelach style pastries were yeast-based and originated in Eastern Europe. Interestingly, if you go to Israel today, rugelach there is still made with yeast. They look like mini chocolate croissants with a shiny glaze.
Some rugelach doughs are butter, flour and cream cheese. My rugelach dough also includes sour cream based on the original recipe from Food and Wine. Sour cream encourages a very tender dough and adds tang.
The sour cream may hint at the origin of rugelach. Turns out there is a German pastry called Schnecken (meaning snail) which has sour cream in the dough. So does a Hungarian cookie called Kifli which are also very similar to rolled rugelach.
The most common filling includes nuts, cinnamon, and sugar and possibly some raisins or currants. But the addition of chocolate takes these to a whole new level. And the jam, whether apricot or raspberry or a whole host of other choices adds another layer of complexity to each little bite.
Generally, rugelach are associated with Hanukkah or Rosh Hashanah – though I’m not sure why. We started making them at Hanukkah time because of that article we read way back in 1990. Once we started making them, we never stopped because they are so beloved and so darn good! Honestly, these mini pastries are good all year round. Why wait for a holiday?
The other reason you should eat these beautiful little pastries year-round is that they freeze so well. Wrap them securely before you freeze them and they should last at least three months in your freezer. But I’ll be honest, I once found some a bit older than that and ate them, and they were still quite good.
As my daughter once said when I complained that I’d only had one rugelach and they were almost gone: “You have to be aggressive, Mom, if you want to eat rugelach.” They will disappear fast so enjoy every bite, but do it quickly!
Be sure to check out my cranberry orange rugelach as well – a recipe I developed in honor of my aunt who loved cranberry orange anything!
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Chocolate Rugelach with Apricot Jam and Currants
- 2 sticks of unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 4 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 6 ounces semisweet chocolate about 3/4 cup mini chips or chopped chocolate
- 3/4 cup walnuts toasted and finely chopped
- 1/4 cup currants
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3/4 cup apricot preserves (homemade or store-bought)
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer on high speed until soft and creamy, about 1 minute. Mix in the sour cream and 2 tablespoons of the sugar until well combined, about 1 minute. Stir in the flour by hand until well blended. (I use the mixer to fold in the flour but it can get messy so be careful.)
- Put the dough on your work surface (could just be parchment) and separate out into four equal pieces (eyeball it or use a scale) Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, overnight, or even a few days. Or freeze.
- In a medium bowl, combine the chocolate, walnuts, currants, cinnamon, and the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar. Set aside at room temperature. (make ahead or combine right before you roll the rugelach)
Rolling the Rugelach
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove one dough ball from the refrigerator. 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 1/8 inch thick.
- Brush 2 tablespoons of the apricot preserves over the dough. (If the preserves are bit thick, add a bit of water, heat briefly in the microwave and mix well to loosen them up.) Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the chocolate mixture evenly over the dough and press down gently. Cut the dough into 12 triangles using a pizza cutter. Starting with the first triangle, roll the dough tightly, but carefully, from the wide end toward the point. Roll tightly but gently at the same time.
- Place the rugelach, with the pointed side underneath, on a large ungreased cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll up the remaining triangles in the same manner and arrange them on the sheet, about ½ inch apart. Repeat with the remaining dough, preserves and chocolate mixture; the rugelach will fit on 2 large cookie sheets.
- Lightly brush the tops of the rugelach with the remaining apricot preserves. As each pan of rugelach is completed, pop it in the refrigerator to chill back up. It will help them bake without flopping open.
Baking the Rugelach
- Bake, switching the sheets after 20 minutes, for 35 to 40 minutes, or until well browned. Immediately transfer the rugelach to a rack to cool. (The rugelach can be frozen, well wrapped, for up to 3 months; let return to room temperature before serving.)