Cinnamon pecan rugelach are buttery, flaky crescent-shaped pastries filled with a sweet pecan filling. Perfect for your next holiday cookie tray!
These tiny pastry twists are eye catching and delicious - perfect for enjoying with a cup of tea or coffee. Buttery and flaky with a sweet pecan filling, their flavor is reminiscent of a bite-sized cinnamon roll.
While they may look complicated, they're easier to make than you think! First, you'll mix together a cream cheese pastry dough (a stand mixer makes this easy!). Your dough is then rolled out into a thin circle and topped with a sweet cinnamon pecan filling. Last, your dough is rolled up into tiny crescents and baked to perfection.
Cinnamon pecan rugelach are the perfect addition to your next dessert tray for Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah, or Christmas. While technically a pastry, these tiny desserts would be right at home on your next cookie tray!
What is rugelach?
Rugelach is a small crescent-shaped filled pastry that originated in the Jewish communities of Poland. The name is Yiddish and roughly translates into "little twists".
Rugelach dough is often made with sour cream or cream cheese, making these pastries extra buttery and flaky. There are many sweet filling variations, including cinnamon, fruit preserves, raisins, walnuts, and chocolate.
While rugelach may look like a cookie, it is technically a pastry. It is most often served on Jewish holidays like Hanukkah, Shavuot, and Rosh Hashanah, though it's also a popular addition to Christmas cookie trays.
Ingredients and substitutions
Since baking is an exact science, I do not have many substitutions to offer. If you do not have the ingredients on hand to prepare the recipe as written, I suggest searching for a recipe that does include your ingredients.
I recommend only using block-style, full fat cream cheese for this recipe. I have not tested this recipe with low-fat cream cheese or whipped cream cheese.
Unsalted butter and salt can be substituted with salted butter if needed.
Pecans can be substituted with walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, or cashews.
I used dark brown sugar in my filling for richer flavor, but light brown sugar will also work just fine.
Your egg wash can be substituted with heavy cream, milk, or melted butter. Any of these substitutions will give your crescents a golden brown coating when baked.
Dough tips and tricks
The texture of your dough is extremely important in the success of your pastries.
- Room temperature ingredients make your dough consistent, creamy, and even throughout.
- Properly measuring flour is a frequent issue in baking. If you often have issues with cookies not spreading, or turning out extra thick and tall, you probably measured too much flour into your dough.
- To properly measure flour: use a kitchen scale, or use a spoon to add flour to your measuring cup, then level off with a knife. Scooping flour directly from the container with a measuring cup compacts the flour into the cup. This can add up to 25% more flour to your dough.
- Using parchment paper helps prevent your pastries from spreading too much while baking. A greased baking pan will guarantee your pastries spread more than they should, so I always suggest parchment paper (or a reusable baking mat) instead.
- Is your dough too sticky to handle? Dust your counter top, hands, and rolling pin with flour. Keep extra flour to the side and continually dust your dough as needed.
Assembling your crescents
First, you'll want to roll out your dough into a large circle. It's okay if the edges are rough - they're not noticeable once baked.
Then, lightly brush your dough with a bit of water and top with pecan filling, pressing down lightly. This helps your filling stick to the dough in the next step.
Next, you can either use a sharp knife or a pizza cutter and slice your dough into twelve pieces. Make this easy by slicing your dough into quarters, then slicing each quarter into three triangles, as shown below. Starting at the outside edge, roll each triangle up into a crescent shape and place onto your prepared baking sheet.
Last, lightly brush each pastry with egg wash before going in the oven. This will give your pastries a golden brown color when baked.
Can rugelach be made ahead?
Rugelach are best within 2-3 days of baking, and begin to dry out over time. Store your rugelach in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Can rugelach be frozen?
Yes, cinnamon pecan rugelach can be frozen! Store your baked rugelach in the freezer in a tightly sealed container for up to 3 months. Bring to room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
Rugelach dough can also be stored in a sealed container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, or thaw for up to an hour at room temperature.
Cinnamon Pecan Rugelach
- 8 ounces block-style cream cheese room temperature
- 8 ounces unsalted butter room temperature
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon milk
- Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, add cream cheese and butter to a bowl and beat until creamy and smooth. Add sugar, salt, and vanilla extract and mix until evenly incorporated. Add flour and mix on low until just incorporated (do not over-mix your dough).
- Empty dough out onto a well floured surface and form into a ball. Cut dough into four quarters, form into discs, wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a bowl, add dark brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans. Stir to combine and set aside.
- Working with one ball of dough at a time, roll dough out on a floured surface into a 9-10 inch circle (the edges will be rough, this is fine). Lightly brush the circle with water, then top with a thin layer of pecan filling (about ¼ of your filling on each circle), pressing gently to adhere to the dough.
- Slice each circle into four quarters, then slice each quarter into three even wedges (each circle makes 12 total). Starting at the outside edge, roll each wedge up into a crescent shape. Place onto prepared baking sheet with the points sides facing down.
- In a small bowl, whisk your egg and milk to make an egg wash. Brush each crescent lightly with egg wash. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned across the tops. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Dough can be prepared up to two days ahead of time, wrapped in plastic, and stored in the refrigerator. Or, dough can be frozen for up to three months. Tightly wrap in a layer of plastic and a layer of foil, or store in a freezer safe bag.
- Baked cookies will keep for up to 5 days (but are best within 2-3 days) in a sealed container at room temperature, or up to 3 months in a tightly sealed freezer-safe container in the freezer. Allow frozen baked goods to come to room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
- Egg wash can be substituted with milk, heavy cream, or melted butter.
- Dark brown sugar can be substituted with light brown sugar.
- Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking cookies, based on reader comments and questions!