Rugelach could originally have come from many places, mostly in Central and Eastern Europe, where a yeast-risen circle of dough was rolled out, cut like a pizza, smeared with jam, and then rolled up, revealing little corners of jam and chocolate-flecked dough. Once the cookies arrived on this side of the ocean, however, cream cheese and (sometimes) baking powder replaced sour cream and yeast, and rugelach became the treat we all love today.
When I was in Montreal recently at Hof Kelsten, a Jewish bakery-deli, I tasted a most irresistible rugelach, prepared differently, almost like square pockets filled with the jam and nuts. Although the chef would not give me the recipe, he shared the ingredients. His recipe is very similar to my own, except that he makes his square and I am addicted to the circle. Here it is—and it is delicious.
Joan Nathan is Tablet Magazine’s food columnist and the author of 10 cookbooks including King Solomon’s Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.