When I was a kid, I really disliked rugelach. It wasn’t a cookie I encountered often, but they always popped up around the holidays at Hannukah or Christmas parties. I didn’t like the mystery nut fillings, which rarely had a distinct flavor, and I disliked the fact that they were usually hard and dry. In short, I didn’t care for rugelach because I had always had very bad rugelach. This is a shame because these cookies can actually be quite good and are easy to adapt to all kinds of fillings!
I’ve made Chocolate Cranberry Pecan Rugelach before and really like that flavor combination, but this year I made some rugelach that I think I would even have enjoyed when I was a kid: Peanut Butter and Jelly Rugelach. They start out like many rugelachs, with a cream cheese dough. This dough is soft and sticky, and it needs to be refrigerated before you work with it. It has a nice vanilla flavor to it and (although I’m not recommending that you eat the dough raw…) reminds me of the flavor of cream cheese frosting. It makes a great backdrop to all kinds of filling flavors.
I rolled out my dough and spread columns of peanut butter and jelly onto it before rolling it up and slicing out the individual cookies. I used crunchy peanut butter – the nuts add a nice little bit of texture – and mixed berry preserves. Use any flavor jam you like, but try to go for a jam or preserve with bits of fruit in it rather than a jelly-type spread (jellies are more prone to melting in the oven). The rugelach need to be chilled for about 15-20 minutes before you bake them, as that will help them keep their shape and prevent the from spreading. The finished cookies have a beautiful swirled shape and taste just like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! They are definitely kid friendly, but everyone can appreciate the flavor of a good pb & j!
Peanut Butter and Jelly Rugelach
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
6-oz cream cheese, softened (two 3-oz packages)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk
approx 2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
approx 2/3 cup berry preserves or jam
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, beat together butter and cream cheese until smooth. Cream in sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, followed by vanilla and milk. Gradually incorporate the flour mixture until it has been completely incorporated. Divide dough into three pieces (dough will be very sticky), wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Lightly flour a work surface and take the cookie dough out of the refrigerator. Work with one portion of the dough at a time. Roll dough out into a rectangle about 12×8 and roughly 1/8-inch thick.
Spread two alternating rows of jam and two rows of peanut butter lengthwise along the dough (down the long side). Starting with the long side, gently roll the dough up. When rolled, turn it so it is seam-side down. Slice into 3/4-inch thick slices with a sharp knife and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops of cookies with coarse sugar (brush tops lightly with water if the sugar will not stick on its own).
Chill cookies for 15-20 minutes.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until cookies are light golden.
Cool on a wire rack.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.