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!