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Melt-in-Your-Mouth Rugelach Cookies

Updated on October 11, 2017
Margaret Schindel profile image

Margaret has a passion for cooking, baking, and creating recipes that satisfy her cravings for delicious and indulgent food.

Rugelach are a cross between cookies and miniature pastries. They're made with a rich, buttery cream cheese dough and filled with a sweet filling. Grandma brought this wonderful recipe from her native Russia. Like most other homemakers of her day, my grandmother's recipes were in her head and didn't involve measurements. She gauged the amount of each ingredient by eye. After my mother had made this recipe dozens of times with grandma, she eventually worked out the measurements by trial and error and wrote down the recipe in the back of her favorite cookbook, which now belongs to me. And I, in turn, have spelled out the steps rather more clearly for those of you who might not have seen my grandmother, my mother or me making these.

How many cookies you get from a batch of dough depends on how large you make them. In our family we've always made them bite-sized and always will. (I think grandma may have originally intended this as a means of portion control, but if so, her scheme to limit our consumption of these scrumptious treats was a dismal failure!)

These flaky, rich rugelach cookies have authentic, Old World flavor and texture, because they're made from my late grandmother's 100+-year-old recipe from Eastern Europe. A holiday baking favorite from my family to yours!
These flaky, rich rugelach cookies have authentic, Old World flavor and texture, because they're made from my late grandmother's 100+-year-old recipe from Eastern Europe. A holiday baking favorite from my family to yours!

Traditionally Served on Jewish Holidays but Delicious Any Time of Year

Rugelach typically are served on Jewish holidays like Hanukkah, Shavuot and Rosh Hashanah. But you certainly don't have to be Jewish to lose your heart—and your tummy—to these amazing cookies! In fact, for many years I've made them, along with my beautiful and delicious Rainbow Cookies and several other very special Christmas cookies from my recipe collection and packaged a nice assortment of them in pretty, doily-lined tins to give as holiday gifts to my family and friends of all faiths.

What Makes These Rugelach Special

There are many traditional fillings for rugelach, including poppy seed, apricot jam and nuts, chocolate, dates and walnuts, cinnamon sugar, and nuts with honey. In my grandmother's recipe, the cream cheese dough is unsweetened, rolled out thinly on a board sprinkled with granulated sugar, cut into long, narrow triangles, then filled with a thick mixture of raisins, brown sugar, walnuts, and strawberry jam or preserves and rolled up like a croissant. The granulated sugar on the outside becomes crunchy and also caramelizes on the bottoms of the cookies. The contrast between the unsweetened, slightly tangy cream cheese dough and the sweet, rich filling and caramelized bottoms makes these extra special.

My mother wrote my grandmother's rugelach recipe in the back of her favorite cookbook, which I inherited.
My mother wrote my grandmother's rugelach recipe in the back of her favorite cookbook, which I inherited.

A Family Secret No Longer

My grandmother's recipe has been a closely guarded family secret for nearly 100 years! But now that my grandmother and mother have passed on and I am the custodian of this piece of our family's history and tradition, I am choosing to share the joy of making and eating these amazing pastries/cookies with other bakers who will cherish the recipe as much as I and my family have.

You can make the dough, filling, or both in advance and freeze them for up to several months, if you wish. I often make twice the amount called for in the recipe and divide both the dough and the filling in half. Then I roll out, cut, fill and bake one half and keep the other half of the dough and the filling in the freezer so I can whip up another batch of cookies with a lot less work. Sometimes I only make twice the amount of dough and freeze half of it, since I can make a fresh batch of filling in practically no time.

To freeze the dough, either wrap the dough in two separate layers of plastic freezer wrap (I find that Freeze-Tite works the best of the brands I've tried), or for longer storage wrap it in either plastic freezer wrap or regular plastic wrap (e.g., Stretch-Tite) and place it inside an airtight plastic food storage container (e.g., Rubbermaid, Tupperware, Snapware) designed for freezer use. When you're ready to use it, thaw the dough in the refrigerator so it will remain chilled when it is rolled out. To freeze the filling, just put it in an airtight freezer container and thaw it at room temperature when you're ready to make the cookies.

Enjoy my grandmother's rugelach recipe and happy baking. Maybe it will become a family heirloom in your house, too!

My Grandmother's Rugelach Cookies Recipe

A plate of fresh, homemade rugelach cookies made from my grandmother's authentic Old World recipe
A plate of fresh, homemade rugelach cookies made from my grandmother's authentic Old World recipe | Source

Cook Time

Prep Time: I've never timed it

Total Time: Relax and enjoy the process! :)

Serves: Depends on what size you make them

Ingredients

  • FOR THE DOUGH:
  • 8 oz. whipped cream cheese
  • 2 sticks softened butter (my grandmother used margarine)
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • FOR THE FILLING:
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 c. dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. strawberry preserves or thick strawberry jam (do NOT use jelly!)
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
  • FOR ROLLING OUT THE DOUGH:
  • Granulated sugar

Instructions

  1. Place the ingredients for the dough in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on slow-medium speed until well combined, scraping the bowl and beaters every so often to make sure the flour is incorporated. (The dough will be sticky at this point but it will firm up nicely after it has been chilled in the refrigerator.)
  2. Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pull up the sides of the plastic wrap and press the mixture together firmly into a ball and then a thick, squarish patty, working through the plastic wrap so the dough doesn't touch your hands. (The heat from your hands would soften the dough and it would stick to them.) Wrap the patty of dough tightly in the plastic wrap and chill it overnight. Keep the dough chilled until you're ready to roll it out.
  3. The next day, make the filling by mixing all the filling ingredients well in a small bowl. The filling will be VERY thick.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheets or baking sheets with baking parchment, preferably unbleached. (Who wants to eat cookies that have been baked on chlorine-soaked paper?) Important: Do NOT just grease the baking sheets — even if they're nonstick — or you will never get the rugelach off after they are baked!
  5. Remove the well-chilled dough from the refrigerator and loosen the plastic wrap. Press a rolling pin into the top of the dough through the plastic wrap, which will keep the dough from sticking to the pin. Lift, move and rotate the pin after each press to make the squarish patty evenly thinner and wider, loosening the plastic as necessary to minimize wrinkles. Unwrap this thinner patty and cut it into quarters. Note: Do not try to roll out the dough yet, just press it thinner with the rolling pin as described.
  6. Sprinkle your rolling surface with a generous, even layer of granulated sugar. Place one of these pieces of dough on the sugar coated rolling surface. Re-wrap the rest of the dough and return it to the refrigerator. Roll out the dough as thinly as possible without tearing it, using a chilled stainless steel rolling pin if possible. If you don't have one, cover a wooden rolling pin with a rolling pin sleeve, also called a rolling pin cover, and then sprinkle it lightly with flour and work it into the knitted fabric sleeve or cover so there's no loose flour on the surface. This will help keep the dough from sticking when you roll it out so you won't need to add flour or sugar to the top of the dough (which would change its consistency and prevent it from sealing to itself when you roll up the triangles).
  7. Using an 8" plate as a template (or something round of similar size, such as an 8" round cake pan), cut a circle from the dough. Cut the dough circle into 8 identical wedges/triangles. (Save the cuttings/scraps of dough and put them in the refrigerator so you can re-roll them after they have chilled again.) Note: You can make the circles of dough whatever diameter you like, but 8" circles yield mini rugelach of just one or two bites each, which is how my grandmother, my mother and I have always made them.
  8. Place a small amount of filling onto the wide base of one of the dough triangles, centering the filling on the dough about 1/2" down from that edge. Use about 1/2 teaspoon of filling if you cut 8 triangles from 8-inch circles of dough; a little goes a long way.
  9. Fold the edges of the dough over the filling, then fold over the end with the filling and tuck in the sides again. Then roll toward the point of the triangle, keeping the point centered as though you were making a crescent roll. The finished cookie should look like a closed envelope. Repeat with the remaining 7 wedges/triangles of dough and filling. Note: If you roll the dough very thinly, occasionally the dough may tear slightly as you roll it up into crescents. The filling will ooze out of these tears during baking. As long as there is just a little oozing, it's no problem. If your pastries ooze a lot, however, they won't taste the same because you will have lost most of the strawberry preserves/brown sugar portion of the filling and it will burn.
  10. Cut another 8" circle from the sheet of dough if possible and repeat.When you don't have enough dough left to cut an 8" circle, knead together the leftover rolled out dough with another chilled quarter of the original dough patty. (If the dough softens too much from the kneading, wrap it in plastic and chill for 20 minutes to firm up again.) Roll the chilled dough out as thinly as possible, cut out 8" circles, cut them into wedges, add the filling and roll up as before. Continue until you no longer have enough dough left for an 8" circle. (Gather and roll out the last of the scraps, sprinkle the dough lightly with cinnamon sugar, cut into strips, twist them if desired, and bake as extra treats.)
  11. Place the pastries an inch apart on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven just until the pastries begin to turn color at the edges and the undersides are a deep golden brown. The tops should remain pale and just barely tinged with golden color. Cool the cookies on wire racks for about 10 minutes, then remove them from the pans and finish cooling directly on the wire racks.
  12. Repeat with remaining chilled dough and filling. Enjoy them while they're fresh or wrap them tightly in plastic freezer wrap, place them inside a plastic food storage freezer container and freeze.

Love My Grandmother's Rugelach Cookies Recipe? Please Take a Moment to Rate It!

5 stars from 1 rating of My Grandmother's Rugelach Cookies

Keep the Dough Chilled Until the Cookies Go in the Oven

It's important not to let the cream cheese dough warm up too much before it's baked. When you remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator, cut off only the amount you are going to roll out immediately, then rewrap and chill the rest. And as soon as you have finished rolling out the dough, ball up the trimmings and wrap and refrigerate them. It's important to keep the chilled dough cold while you roll it out. I originally used a marble rolling pin, which works well because marble is naturally cool, but I found it too heavy and cumbersome. Now I prefer a stainless steel rolling pin that can be chilled in the refrigerator help keep the dough cool while I roll it out.

Parchment Paper is Essential

The sugar on the bottom of these cookies caramelizes and will stick like glue to even well-greased, nonstick baking sheets, so it's essential to line the pans with parchment paper. (Trust me, you don't want to learn this the hard way!) I use If You Care Silicone Coated Unbleached Parchment because it's better for the environment and for my family's health and safety than the typical bleached or unbleached baking parchment paper. It costs a bit more than supermarket brands, but for me, the fact that it's free of Quilon, chrome, chlorine, gluten and other allergens makes the higher price well worth it.

© 2013 Margaret Schindel

Have you ever tasted rugelach? Do you have a favorite family recipe handed down from your grandmother or mother, or another favorite holiday cookie recipe?

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    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 11 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Judy, these are time-consuming to make, but not difficult, I promise! The only challenging part is not overfilling each cookie and making sure the edges are well sealed. (And when you taste this homemade version, you'll forget all about the Sam's Club rugelach!) :)

    • profile image

      Judy 11 months ago

      I used to buy these at Sam's Club and LUVED them!! Now I know why they were only available a short time a few times a year. These are definitely a challenge to make but they will be so very very yummy out of the oven, thanks for sharing, Margaret!!

    • PaigSr profile image

      PaigSr 17 months ago from State of Confussion

      Nice choice to share. Not sure if I could pull this off. But I shall try at some time in the near future. P.S. Don't tell the wife.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Michelle, thank you so much for letting me know how well your rugelach cookies made from my grandmother's recipe turned out. I really appreciate it!

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      Michelle 2 years ago

      Just made these for Passover dessert. I have made these before, (my hubby is Jewish), but what a wonderful recipe! Unfortunately, I am on a diet :( but they turned out beautiful. Thank you for such an authentic, well directed recipe! Everybody is going to love them!!

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Au fait, thanks for your wonderful feedback! I LOVE your idea of tinting the dough green and serving them as St. Patrick's Day cookies. I really hope you get a chance to try these melt-in-your-mouth sweet treats!

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 2 years ago from North Texas

      These look scrumptious and I haven't had anything to eat yet today. Wish I had some of these right now. I'm thinking they would even be great for Saint Patrick's Day, just 11 days away, by simply adding a few drops of green food coloring to the dough. They look yummy to me no matter what color they are!

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Lorelei, just wait until you and your husband taste them!

    • Lorelei Cohen profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 3 years ago from Canada

      These tiny buns look like finger bite cinnamon buns. My husband would be thrilled. Love it!!!

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      @poutine: I do hope you get a chance to try them. They're really special! :)

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      poutine 3 years ago

      Never tasted those, but they look delicious.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      @oddobjective: So glad you enjoyed the recipe! :)

    • oddobjective profile image

      oddobjective 3 years ago

      Sounds yummy!

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @KimGiancaterino: Thanks so much, Kim! If you love bakery rugelach, just wait until you taste homemade rugelach. You'll be in heaven! :)

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 4 years ago

      I've purchased several types of rugelach at a local bakery (Viktor Benes) and they taste divine. I like your grandmother's style -- I'm not much of a measure either.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @TanjaCrouch: You're very welcome, Tanja! I'm delighted that I was able to share my grandmother's amazing rugelach recipe with you so you can bake your own awesome cookies. Enjoy every mouthful! :)

    • TanjaCrouch profile image

      TanjaCrouch 4 years ago

      Oh my gosh--I love you! Pits hard to find good rugelach in the south and now thanks to you I can make it!!! I'm very excited. Thank you.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @GiftsByDiana: Homemade peach jelly? YUM!!! So glad you liked my grandma's rugelach recipe.

    • GiftsByDiana profile image

      Diana Burrell-Shipton 4 years ago from Hubbard, Ohio, USA

      Sounds extra yummy !

      I think I'll try using my homemade peach... jelly in these :)

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @anonymous: I hope you do send this rugelach recipe to your mom. Just make sure she shares what comes out of the oven with you! ;)

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have never tasted rugelach but I should send your recipe to my head baker (mom).

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @rattie lm: I love homemade shortbread as well! Interestingly, my grandmother cooked only a few things worth eating, but the ones that were were winners. :)

    • rattie lm profile image

      rattie lm 4 years ago

      Sadly, my grandmother was no cook, so no, I don't have a favourite recipe to share. However, my mother-in-law and my mother each thought their shortbread recipe was the best. I preferred Mum's as it was less sweet. We make that at Chirstmas and New Year.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Phoebs78: Thank you! I hope you love them as much as we do.

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      Phoebs78 4 years ago

      Looks good, will give it a try. Thanks for sharing!

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @CrazyHomemaker: Thanks! So glad you enjoyed my grandmother's cookies recipe. :)

    • CrazyHomemaker profile image

      CrazyHomemaker 4 years ago

      Yep. These are great! Nice lens.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Mommie-Moola: Absolutely!!! :)

    • Mommie-Moola profile image

      Mommie-Moola 4 years ago

      Yum! Know what goes good with Rugelach? M-I-L-K ;)

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Ruthi: Ruthi dear, I'm sure they would be delicious with almonds, just different. (If you're not allergic to pecans, those probably would result in a closer taste/texture to grandma's original recipe.) Enjoy!!!

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      Ruthi 4 years ago

      I hope your rugelach are just as tasty with almonds as with walnuts (allergic)! I swear I can taste the sweetness of your recipe already.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Mary Crowther: Thank you! I hope you get a chance to make and enjoy them. I'm sure you'll love them. :)

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @anonymous: Thanks so much! I appreciate your kind words and good wishes. :)

    • Mary Crowther profile image

      Mary Crowther 4 years ago from Havre de Grace

      They look so delicious and just in time to make for the holidays!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      This truly does look delicious! Good luck in the November Squidoo Food Club Quest

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @chocochipchip: Thanks, chocochipchip! I hope you love my grandmother's rugelach recipe as much as we do. :)

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Klinetka: My pleasure! I hope you enjoy it. :)

    • chocochipchip profile image

      chocochipchip 4 years ago

      This is such a great recipe! I'll definitely give it a try! Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Klinetka profile image

      Klinetka 4 years ago

      Thius looks so good. I need to try it. Thanks for the recipe :-)

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @ecogranny: Thanks so much, K! I'm thrilled that you're going to make them; I know it will be love at first bite! :)

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Diaper Bag Blog: Thanks, stajo82! I hope you enjoy them as much as we do. :)

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      D)*@ this new recipe format! I'm loving every recipe I read, and you've nearly made me faint with desire for these tasty little morsels. Can't wait to try them, and I love the tip about rolling the dough out over sugar. Terrific suggestion!

    • Diaper Bag Blog profile image

      Stanley Green 4 years ago from Czech Republic

      Wow... looks amazing! I gotta cook it! Now! :)

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Scarlettohairy: Thanks, Peggy! I also make the leftover pie crust dough version when I'm making pies, and they're yummy. These look similar, but the taste is very different. I hope you get a chance to try them! :)

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 4 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      We made these with leftover pie dough but I bet your special cream cheese dough is wonderful!

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @anonymous: Nurmasani, I'm a huge fan of chocolate desserts, too (I even have a lens about the Top 10 Decadent Chocolate Desserts for Chocolate Dessert Lovers!). If you prefer, you can try making these with a filling of ground nuts, finely chopped chocolate and a touch of cinnamon, or even use Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread as an alternate filling. The taste will be quite different with a chocolate filling, of course, but still delicious. :)

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Not yet. I like all of pastry that made of chocolate.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @DebMartin: Thanks, Deb - they truly are divine little morsels of melt-in-your-mouth goodness. I hope you get a chance to try making them! :)

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Northerntrials: Thanks, northerntrials! My mom used to do the same thing for us kids and I still do the same for my husband. :) The consistency of pie dough is very different than the consistency of the thinly-rolled, tender cream cheese dough used in rugelach, so the taste and experience are noticeably different between the two, but conceptually they're close cousins. :)

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      DebMartin 4 years ago

      Never tried this but have had similar treats. These sound amazing!

    • Northerntrials profile image

      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      This dessert reminds me of what my mom would make with the left-over dough when making pies. She would roll out the scraps and ends of the dough, fill with cinnamon and brown sugar, roll up like a jelly roll and cut into pieces. There were usually enough to give each of us kids one or two so we don't keep bothering her about getting into the pies early. There was a method to the madness I guess.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @aleereviews: Thanks very much, aleereviews! I hope you do. It's guaranteed to please! :D

    • aleereviews profile image

      aleereviews 4 years ago

      Sounds delicious! I'll have to try this recipe out myself.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @aka-rms: Thanks so much, Robin! I'm sure they'll become a favorite in your family, too. :)

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      Robin S 4 years ago from USA

      These look terrific! I'll have to test this one out.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Lady Lorelei: Oh, L, if you are a pastry addict you will go wild over this luscious delights! I'm so glad you are tempted to try my grandmother's rugelach recipe. You're in for a huge treat, my friend!

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Diana Wenzel: Thank you so much for your wonderfully kind comment, D! It gives me great pleasure to know that you will be enjoying this heirloom family recipe, my friend.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Nancy Hardin: Thanks so much for your kind words, Nancy! There's no such thing as bad rugelach, and I'm sure the ones made by your local bakeries are yummy. But I've eaten more than my share of rugelach over the years and these are just head and shoulders above any others I've tasted. :)

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Brite-Ideas: Thanks, Brite-Ideas! They really are divinely delicious. Can't wait for you to try them! :)

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @David Stone1: Dave, I'm delighted that my grandmother's rugelach recipe brought back happy memories for you!

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Jogalog: Thanks, Jogalog! They really are the perfect little party food. Very elegant and amazingly delicious. Don't be surprised if everyone asks for the recipe. Just send them here. ;)

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      Nope but I can sense a whole pile of calories that are anxiously waiting to jump onto my bones. This recipe looks amazing and I am such a pastry addict.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      Thanks for sharing the joy. Wonderful to have your family's treasured recipe. Appreciate the gift.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Yes and I love rugelach! But I must say, you've made my mouth water for a taste of your Grandma's recipe! There are bakeries here in town who carry these, among many other delights, but I bet not one of them could touch, taste-wise, the recipe you've given.

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      wow - do these sound fantastic!

    • David Stone1 profile image

      David Stone 4 years ago from New York City

      My mother never imagined I'd cook anything, but my Polish mother-in-law used to make her version of this delicious treat. Those were the good old days, and I always managed to eat more than anyone else.

    • Jogalog profile image

      Jogalog 4 years ago

      I've never had them but I love little pastries and I think these would be great for a party.