This Apple and Tart Cherry Rugelach is a delicious cream cheese bit-sized cookie with flaky buttery layers and yummy homemade apple and cherry jam. I first made this cookie for season 4 of The Great American Baking Show and I loved the flavors so much that I decided to recreate it for the blog to share with you. If you've never made rugelach you'll want to read more on how to create this tasty flaky cookie.
Why This Recipe Works
Rugelach is a classic cookie. What makes this cream cheese cookie work is starting with cold cream cheese and cold butter (a lot of recipes call for room temperature cream cheese and butter for easier blending) and then folding the dough a few times to help create a flaky dough. The quick homemade jam is made with dried fruit and apple cider which creates a deliciously tart filling.
Rugelach Dough and Jam Ingredients
The cookie is made of two components: the cream cheese cookie and the jam filling. The cookie has the following ingredients:
- Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- Cold Cream Cheese
- Cold Unsalted Butter
- Granulated Sugar
- Kosher Salt
The great thing that makes this recipe easy to remember is that there are equal amounts of flour, cream cheese and butter by weight.
I specifically call out the salt even though the amount is small because you'll find versions of this cookie made without salt, but this little bit of kosher makes a big difference in the final flavor of the cookie and I recommend not leaving it out.
When I prepared this apple and dried cherry rugelach for The Great American Baking Show - Cookie Week, we had to make our filling from scratch. I couldn't use my tried and true red currant jelly, but had to come up with filling that I could make in the time alloted. I originally used fresh apples, water and tart cherries for the competition.
This version of the jammy filling has the following ingredients:
- Dried Apples
- Dried Tart Cherries
- Apple Cider
- Ground Cinnamon
I like it much better. It's much more flavorful and intense. One of the benefits is that there is no added sugar. Any leftover jam can be used for your morning toast.
How to Make the Apple and Cherry Jam
The jam should be made first so that it has time to cool and chill before making the cookie. However, if you are making both at least a day in advance it doesn't matter in which order you make them.
Start by cooking the dried apples, dried cherries, and cinnamon stick in the apple cider until the cider is reduced to one cup and has started to thicken.
When the mixture has cooled process it in a food processor or blender until the mixture resembles a thick jam or applesauce. It will be a dark red color. Once it has cooled to room temperate refrigerate for at least an hour. The jam should be chilled before spreading it on the dough.
How to Make the Rugelach Dough
Rugelach is fairly easy to make. Using the food processor is the easiest method to make this dough. But if you don't have a food processor you can use a pastry cutter to make the dough by hand. To get a flaky dough use cold butter and cold cream cheese, the same as you would for a pie.
For a long time I used room temperature butter and cream cheese but I learned from my friend and fellow baker Tina Zaccardi to use cold butter and cold cream cheese to produce a much flakier cookie.
Process the dry ingredients in the food processor until they are combined. Add the cold butter and cream cheese and pulse until the dough has a crumbly texture.
Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and press the dough into a 6 x 8-inch rectangle. Fold it together using a letter fold (the ends will break but that's okay). Repeat the rolling and folding 3 more times. Divide the dough into 4 even pieces and shape them into circles. Wrap each piece into plastic wrap and chill for at least one (1) hour.
Once the dough has chilled roll it out into a circle, spread the jam filling on the dough, and sprinkle the brown sugar nut mixture on top. Cut the circle into 8 pieces, roll each into a crescent and chill before baking. You know you have done it right when you can see the layers of flaky pastry at the end of baking.
You can also roll the dough into a rectangle, roll it into a log and cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces for a different shape.
How to Bake the Cookie
Remove the dough from the freezer and allow it to sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Just until it is soft enough to roll out, but still very cold.
Roll the dough out until it's about 10-inches and then use a sharp knife to trim it to a 9-inch circle.
Here are some steps for rolling out dough to ensure an even circle:
- Start with the rolling pin in the center of the dough. Pressing slightly (don't smash the dough) roll up to the edge of the dough, but don't roll over the edge.
- Return the rolling pin to the center and roll down towards you. Repeat these first two steps 2 or 3 times to start to soften up the dough.
- Rotate the dough a quarter turn and roll up and then down.
- Repeat the quarter turn, rolling in both directions each time until the dough is the desired thickness.
Spread the dough with a thin layer of the Apple-Tart Cherry Jam and then sprinkle it with the cinnamon-sugar mixture and the chopped nuts.
Use a pastry wheel or a pizza cutter to cut the dough into eight even triangles. Use a ruler to ensure straight even lines. Roll each triangle into a crescent. Place them on a tray or board and chill for at least 1 hour. Continue to roll out the dough and make the cookies as the finished cookies are chilling.
At this point the rugelach can be frozen. Place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Freeze them and when they are frozen place them in a freezer bag. The cookies will keep up to 2 months in the freezer. They can be baked straight from the freezer.
Brush the cookies with the egg wash and bake until the cookies are golden brown and you see the individual layers of pastry. Remove them from and cool them on a cookie rack.
Why Rugelach Makes a Great Christmas Cookie
I have made rugelach for Christmas for several years, with not a whole lot of variation year to year. But I love this new apple and cherry filling. The apples and spices are my go-to fall flavors and the dried cherries add a nice tart bright taste to the filling. It is so easy to make and I look forward to experimenting with other flavors using dried fruit, and chocolate of course. Family, friends and my husband (who is my chief taste tester) all say these are a winner.
I make this cookie every year for the family Christmas cookie basket. This cookie works so well because it keeps well and can be made up to ten (10) days in advance.
For Christmas, I make the dough right after Thanksgiving and place it in the freezer. I start baking cookies about 3-4 days before I give them away. The baked cookies are good for about 5 days at room temperature in an airtight container and can be frozen for about a month.
Recipe - Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make this cookie without nuts?
If you are allergic or just don't like nuts you can make these cookies without nuts.
Can I use a different filling?
Yes, you can get very creative with the filling. You can use jam, chopped dried fruit, raisins, chopped chocolate, etc. If you using an ingredient like chopped chocolate make sure it is chopped fine enough that it doesn't tear the dough when it is rolled.
Other Christmas Cookie Recipes
If you want to make your own Christmas cookie basket check out these other recipes for cookies that are great to give to friends and family as gifts.
- Pecan Caramel Chocolate Bars
- Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Cookies
- Cocoa Molasses Spice Cookies
- Hazelnut and Prune Jam Linzer Cookies
Please leave me a note in the comments below and let me know what you think about this recipe or ask any questions that you. If you make this recipe I would love to see your pictures and if you post it to Instagram tag me @bakesbybrownsugar and #bakesbybrownsugar.
Apple and Tart Cherry Rugelach
Apple – Tart Cherry Jam
- 1 cup (114 grams) dried apples
- 1/2 cup (86 grams) dried tart cherries
- 3 cups apple cider
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups (228 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup 50 grams granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, cold
- 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, cold
Rugelach Sugar Filling
- 1/2 cup (96 grams) light brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 cup (114 grams) pecans , lightly toasted and chopped fine
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon whole milk
- 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Apple and Dried Cherry Jam
- Place the dried apples, the dried tart cherries, the cinnamon stick and the 3 cups of apple cider in a 4-quart sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium heat and cook until the apple cider is reduced to 1 cup, about 10-12 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and allow the filling to cool for about 10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and pour the mixture into the bowl of a food processor fitted with metal blade. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of salt over the mixture. Process until the fruit and juice until it resembles chunky applesauce. Pour it into a bowl and allow it to cool to room temperature. Store it in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Place the flour, sugar and salt in the food processor and process for about 10 seconds to combine. Cut the cream cheese and butter into chunks and add them to the food processor. Pulse until the dough resembles small pebbles, about 25-35 pulses.
- Pour the mixture onto a work surface and press it into a 6 x 8-inch rectangle. The dough should have a marbled appearance with small visible pieces of cream cheese and butter. Fold the dough into a letter fold, turn the open end towards you and roll into a 6 x 8-inch rectangle. Repeat this step two more times.
- Fold the dough into a letter fold, turn the open end towards you and roll into a 6 x 8-inch rectangle. Lightly flour the work surface throughout the folding and rolling to keep it from sticking. Repeat these steps two more times. The last time the dough should come together and be pliable.
- Divide the dough into 4 pieces, about 188 grams each. Shape each piece into a small circle and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but no longer than 2 days. The dough can be frozen for about 1 month. If freezing for more than a day, place the plastic-wrapped dough in freezer bags.
Rugelach Sugar Filling
- Toast the nuts at 350 degrees F for about 7 minutes. Allow them to cool and chop. Combine the sugar, cinnamon and cardamom and whisk together. Add the chopped nuts and stir together
- Combine 1 egg and the milk and whisk together. In another bowl, combine the sugar and the cinnamon.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet or flat plate with parchment paper.
- Place the dough on your work surface and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Roll out to a 9-1/2 to 10-inch circle and then trim to a 9-inch circle. Spread 3 tablespoons of the apple-cherry jam on the dough and leave about a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the sugar-nut mixture over the top. Cut the dough round into 8 wedges.
- Roll each wedge into a crescent shape. Place the rugelach on the baking sheet or flat plate and refrigerate for about an hour or up to 24 hours. You can also freeze for about 20 minutes if you are short on time.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Place the rugelach on a rimmed baking sheet 2-inches apart. Brush with the egg-milk mixture and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place in the oven and bake for 16-19 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.
- The cookies are good at room temperature in an air tight container for ten days.