Apricot Rugelach

These rugelach get their sweetness from a filling of dried apricots and apricot preserves accented with a touch of ginger. We added some whole-wheat flour to the dough, but it's still extra flaky.

Apricot Rugelach
Active Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 10 mins
Nutrition Profile:

I didn't know I was Jewish until I was 12 years old. We were attending my mom's cousin's son's bar mitzvah, and I had so many questions. What was a bar mitzvah? Why didn't my mom have one? If I'm Jewish, as my mother now explained, does that mean I would have one when I turned 13 even though I've never attended Hebrew school? My mom hushed me during the ceremony but entertained my questions quietly when we sat down to eat afterward.

"A bar mitzvah is a ceremony for 13-year-old boys that signifies their religious adulthood," she said. "Girls can have one too, but it's called a bat mitzvah. I didn't have one because they were less common when I was a girl." She then went on to explain a plethora of Jewish traditions that sounded like she was speaking another language, but the only thing I remember was how silly I felt that I didn't know any of the people there even though they were all related to me. She then handed me a cookie that looked like a sweet version of a Pillsbury crescent roll and said, "I left all this behind when I met your father."

It took me two decades to realize she was talking about leaving the oppression of her Jewish mother so she could marry my Chinese father.

The thing about Jewish mothers is they manage to say everything you need to hear without opening their mouths. It's this magic talent that makes you feel smart and no-so-smart all at the same time. I knew I wasn't to pry anymore, so I asked about the cookie.

"These cookies are called rugelach," she said with a Yiddish accent. "They're made with a cream-cheese dough and filled with jam or cinnamon and nuts, then rolled up. My uncle Bernie used to have them at his Jewish deli in the Bronx called Schwellers. They're my favorite, but my mom used to not let me have them because she thought I needed to lose weight."

Believed to have originated with Eastern European Jews, rugelach, or "little twists" in Yiddish, is a cross between a cookie and a pastry. Its slightly crisp exterior is a foil to the soft, chewy interior, and the filling traditionally is cinnamon-sugar or chocolate. According to The World of Jewish Desserts by Gil Marks, rugelach was originally made with sour cream, but Joan Nathan, another Jewish food historian, thinks the marketers of Philadelphia cream cheese may have introduced their cream-cheese dough version in the 1950s. Rugelach are usually served at celebratory events, such as holidays or parties, and aren't associated with a single holiday per se, though I'm sure the traditions differ between families.

We never ate dessert at home, and while my mother always blamed my father for not liking sweets, now I knew the truth. My mother still had her mother's voice in her head all those years later. Plus, I've never had a sweet tooth either, so my mom decided dessert was just for birthdays.

My grandma didn't attend my parents' wedding ceremony. They had met in grad school at Columbia University in 1979, and when they said they were getting married, my grandma told my mom that maybe she should just try living with him for a bit. To which my mom said, "We already do," and while my mom and her mom stayed civil until the end, I'm not sure my grandmother ever got over the fact my mother didn't marry someone Jewish.

My parents had a penchant for being the odd ones in their families, the ones who couldn't blindly follow traditions, but they bonded over food. My dad took my mom to Chinese noodle restaurants where no one spoke English, and my mom took my dad to Jewish delis for matzo ball soup.

After years of dining with my parents at restaurants all over the world, I became a professional cook and recipe developer, much to the chagrin of my doctor parents. I most often reference my Chinese roots when I create recipes, because that's the food I primarily enjoyed growing up. But I'm obsessed with trying all types of foods. Knowing that I live to eat instead of eat to live, my mom recently brought home a bag of rugelach from the Whole Foods in San Diego. Apparently, they had a local baker who made them fresh and, in a moment of weakness, she tried one and said it was the best she had tasted since Schwellers.

One bite for me and I was back at the bar mitzvah. Much like a photo, food has a way of transporting us back to a time and a place. As I ate the rugelach, I decided to re-create them myself. I grabbed a notepad and jotted down a recipe for my mom. Simple, with a touch of whole grains and sweetened only by dried apricots and a touch of jam, this is my way of saying that her voice is always with me, and I don't mind it at all.


  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature

  • ¾ cup reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature

  • ½ teaspoon salt plus 1/8 teaspoon, divided

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

  • cup whole-wheat flour

  • ½ cup packed dried apricots (4 ounces)

  • 1 cup water

  • ¼ cup apricot preserves

  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger


  1. Beat butter, cream cheese and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl on medium speed with a stand or hand mixer until smooth and creamy. Add all-purpose flour and whole-wheat flour; continue mixing on medium speed just until a semi-stiff dough forms, scraping the sides as needed.

  2. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces, shape each into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm and cold, at least 1 hour or overnight.

  3. Meanwhile, place apricots in a small saucepan and add 1 cup water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the water has mostly evaporated, 15 to 20 minutes.

  4. Transfer the apricots and any remaining liquid to the bowl of a food processor. Process into a relatively smooth paste (some smaller chunks are OK). Add preserves, ginger and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until evenly incorporated. Transfer to a medium bowl and let cool to room temperature.

  5. Place 1 dough disk on a lightly floured work surface. Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll the dough into a 12-inch circle, about 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and top with a piece of parchment. Repeat with the second disk. Place on top of the other piece of dough. If the dough seems too soft to work with, chill for 15 to 30 minutes.

  6. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  7. Once the filling is cool, place 1 dough circle on a cutting board. Spread half of the filling (about 6 tablespoons) evenly over the surface of the dough up to the edges. Using a sharp knife, pizza cutter or pastry wheel, cut the dough into 16 triangular wedges. (It helps to first cut the dough into 4 equal quarters then cut 4 wedges from each quarter.) Starting with the long edge, roll the wedges up toward their pointy ends to make little crescents. Place the rugelach on the prepared pan, ½-inch apart. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

  8. Bake the rugelach until light golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

To make ahead

Store rugelach airtight at room temperature for 3 days or freeze for 1 month.


Parchment paper

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

79 Calories
5g Fat
7g Carbs
1g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 32
Calories 79
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 7g 3%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 1g 2%
Total Fat 5g 6%
Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Cholesterol 15mg 5%
Vitamin A 259IU 5%
Folate 12mcg 3%
Vitamin K 1mcg 1%
Sodium 70mg 3%
Calcium 11mg 1%
Magnesium 3mg 1%
Potassium 27mg 1%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

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