Rolling in dough.
You’ll love diving into this recipe for old-fashioned cinnamon rugelach cookies rolled with raisins and nuts. These rugelach look special, and taste fantastic.
Meet This Cinnamon Rugelach Cookie Recipe
There are many, many holiday cookies, but rugelach stand apart for their uniquely tender pastry and swirly good looks.
You may often see recipes for chocolate rugelach or apricot rugelach. But for an especially cozy, holiday cookie, I turn to this raisin, nut, cinnamon rugelach recipe every time.
This is a soft cinnamon rugelach cookies recipe with a flaky pastry and sweet (but not too sweet), nutty filling. Rugelach are admittedly more time consuming than, say, a simple drop cookie. But the result is worth the mixing, chilling, assembling, rolling, chilling again, and baking time. Promise.
What Is Rugelach in English? Where Did Rugelach Originate?
Some brief facts about rugelach’s origin and history.
- Rugelach is a Yiddish word of Polish and Austro-Hungarian origin. Rugelach roughly translates to “little twists.”
- The rugelach we know today in America (a cream cheese dough rolled with filling and baked) was popularized in the 1950s through the 1970s. This New Yorker rugelach article by Hannah Goldfield offers a wonderful history of the evolution of rugelach into the modern pastry or cookie we know and love today.
Make and Roll Out the Flaky Cream Cheese Rugelach Dough
A tender dough, properly rolled, is key to a great rugelach. This raisin walnut rugelach recipe uses a classic cream cheese and butter dough. Cold butter and chilling is essential. Cold butter will create flakes when the dough bakes.
To make the cream cheese rugelach dough:
- Cut the chilled butter into small pieces.
- Combine the butter, cream cheese, yolks, and dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse just until combined and crumbly.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead it a few times, just enough to gather it into a ball. Divide into thirds.
- Flatten each dough into a thick rectangle. Wrap and chill.
How to Make the Cinnamon Rugelach Cookie Filling
This is the easy part! Dump the raisins, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and sugar into a small pot, covered with just enough water to cover the raisins. Simmer until most of the liquid is gone. This plumps and softens the raisins.
Blend in the food processor with the nuts until it forms a glossy spread. Don’t over-blend the rugelach filling, though. You should still be able to see small pieces of nuts.
Raisin Cinnamon Rugelach Cookie Recipe: How to Assemble, Cut, and Bake
Assembling, cutting, and baking the these raisin cinnamon rugelach are the most technique-heavy part. But don’t worry; you’ve got this.
- Use a rolling pin to roll the first chilled rugelach dough to slightly less than a 1/4-inch-thick rectangle. (Pro tip: Always keep a ruler in your kitchen tools drawer!)
- Spread a third of the filling over the surface of the dough.
- Working from the top of the dough, roll the dough tightly toward you, until you have a nice log.
- Transfer the log to a sheet pan. Cover, chill. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- When each log has chilled, slice into 1 1/4″ pieces. Transfer to a baking sheet. Egg wash, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and bake.
A Word About the Traditional Rugelach Croissant Shape (Or Lack Thereof)
Traditionally, many rugelach recipes have a mini croissant shape, made by cutting the dough into small triangles and rolling.
But I prefer these nice, even log cuts instead. I love how cutting the rolled dough into straight-sided swirls shows off the rolled pattern, and is less time consuming to make.
Love this old fashioned cinnamon rugelach cookies recipe? Here’s more holiday baking you’ll love:
- Snowballs (Mexican Wedding Cookies)
- Soft Italian Sprinkle Cookies
- Soft Molasses Spice Cookies
- Slice-and-Bake Butter Cookies
Cinnamon Rugelach Cookies
For the Cream Cheese Rugelach Dough
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 ounces (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 8 ounces (1 block) cream cheese, cut into pieces
- 2 egg yolks
For the Cinnamon Rugelach Filling + to Finish
- 12 ounces golden raisins
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts
- 1 whisked egg yolk, for egg wash
- Demerara or cinnamon sugar, for topping
For the Cream Cheese Rugelach Dough
- Pulse the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor until mixed. (You can use a whisk and large mixing bowl.) Add the cubed butter, cream cheese, and egg yolks. Pulse in the food processor until the dough comes together as a crumbly dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly-floured surface. Gently knead the dough a few times to bring it together. Divide into thirds.
- Shape each dough into a thick, flattened rectangle. You can use your palm, but I prefer a rolling pin. Wrap and chill for at least one hour. Repeat with the remaining dough.
For the Cinnamon Rugelach Filling
- While the rugelach dough rectangles chill, make the filling. Put the raisins, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla in a small pot. Cover with just enough water to submerge the raisins.
- Bring the raisin mixture to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the water has fully evaporated and the raisins are plump and soft. You should see a thickened syrup at the bottom of the pot. Don't cook beyond this, or you risk burning the raisins.
- Transfer the raisin mixture to the bowl of a food processor, leaving behind the syrupy liquid. Blend until the mixture forms a thick spread. Add the nuts and blend again to combine.
- Lightly dust the countertop and your dough with flour. Roll the first dough into a neat rectangle slightly less than 1/4" thick. The wide sides should be your top and bottom. PRO TIP: I always keep a clean 12" ruler in my kitchen tools. In addition to taking measurements, it also acts as a useful straightedge for scraping a countertop, or cutting pastry against.
- Spoon a third of the raisin nut filling all over the surface of the rugelach dough. PRO TIP: I like to use my indispensable small offset spatula to spread the filling, but the back of a spoon will work, too.
- Starting from the top of the dough and working toward you, roll the dough tightly to make a spiral log. Transfer the log, seam side down, onto a baking sheet. Cover and chill. Repeat with the remaining rugelach dough and filling. Chill for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Remove the chilled dough from the fridge. Brush the top and sides of each log with the egg yolk, and sprinkle generously with your choice of demerara, sparkling, or cinnamon sugar.
- Using a sharp knife, trim the shaggy ends from each log. Slice the rugelach into 1 1/4" thick pieces. Place each raw cinnamon rugelach cookie on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, seam down, each spaced about 1" apart. PRO TIP: Make sure you wipe your knife clean as necessary as you cut to give the rugelach clean edges.
- Bake, rotating half way, for about 25 minutes, until golden brown.
- Transfer to a cooling rack. Cool fully before serving. The rugelach will keep in an airtight container for about 5 days, and freeze well.