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Apple & Toasted Walnut Rugelach

A plate full of golden brown apple & walnut rugelach
Apple & Toasted Walnut Rugelach

My stepfather is famous in our family for his dislike of cinnamon. And yet, there are exceptions: he loved when his mother--my beautiful Grandma Virginia--would top apple butter with canned biscuits, bake them, and then flip them out. How can you go wrong with warm biscuits and apple butter?

Thinking about this combination inspired the filling for this rugelach. Spicy apple butter, chewy dried apples, and toasted walnuts make these crescent shaped cookies delightful. As the rugelach bakes, they fill the house with those nostalgic apple and cinnamon smells…

I think my stepdad just might make these cookies an exception as well!

1 stick (1/2 cup) of unsalted butter, softened

½ block (4 oz) of cream cheese, softened

½ cup sour cream

¼ cup sugar

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1-3/4 cups flour, plus more for rolling

Place the butter, cream cheese, and sour cream in a large mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer beat the ingredients on medium speed until light and creamy. Occasionally, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

With the hand mixer on medium, gradually add the sugar and beat for one minute. Turn the hand mixer speed to low and add the salt and vanilla.

Turn off the mixer. Sift the flour over the mixing bowl. With the mixer on low speed, mix until the flour and other ingredients are just combined.

Flour a cutting or pastry board and dump the dough onto the board. Roll the dough into a ball. Divide the dough into four equal-sized pieces. Pat each piece into a circle (it’ll be easier to roll out later) and wrap the pieces in cling film or waxed paper. Refrigerate the dough for an hour or up to 24 hours.

While the dough is chilling, prepare the filling:

1 cup of finely chopped dried apples

¾ cup of finely chopped toasted walnuts

½ tsp cinnamon

Pinch of salt

¼ cup dark brown sugar

1 TBS apple butter

Mix all of the ingredients together and set aside.

Assemble the Rugelach:

½ cup (8 TBS) apple butter

Filling mixture

1 egg beaten with 1 tsp cold water as an egg wash

Line two sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone baking mats and set aside.

Lightly flour a cutting board or pastry board. Place one piece of dough (leave the others in the refrigerator to keep cool). Starting from the center of the dough, roll away from you. Turn the dough one-quarter turn and roll away from you. Keep turning the dough and rolling, adding more flour if necessary, until you have a 9-inch circle about ¼” thick.

Using a butter knife, decorator’s spatula or your hands, lightly spread the circle evenly (to the edge of the dough) with 2 TBS of the apple butter. Be careful not to tear the dough.

Sprinkle one-quarter of the filling evenly over the apple butter. If there are any large chunks of dried apple or walnuts in the very center of the dough, remove them and place them between the edge of the dough and the center. This will make it easier to cut the dough and prevent the filling from blowing out when you shape the cookies.

Cut the dough into quarters and cut each quarter into thirds.

Starting from the outer edge, roll each cookie into a crescent shape. Place the cookies with the point side down on the parchment paper and put in the refrigerator.

Repeat with the remaining dough pieces and filling. You should have 48 cookies total.

Chill the cookies for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the cookies from the refrigerator. Lightly brush each cookie with the egg wash (this gives the cookie a nice golden shine).

Bake the rugelach for 20 – 25 minutes or until they are golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven. Place the cookies on a wire rack and let cool.

Don’t Freak Out!

1) The filling may not seem like a lot to spread between four discs of dough but since we’re making crescent shapes, this amount of filling works—you get a delicious bite and the rugelach looks pretty. However, if you don’t mind them looking a little messy, just double the amount of filling for even more deliciousness! I actually like the rugelach both ways: delicate and overstuffed!

Lightly filled (top) versus overfilled (bottom)!

Overstuffed rugelach: not that attractive but very tasty!

2) Don’t feel like making dough or waiting on it to chill? Just use a package of ready-made pie crusts (2 to a package), divide the filling between them, follow the recipe from there, and bake for 15 – 25 minutes.

However, read the ingredients before you buy: the pie crusts may not be kosher or vegetarian as they can contain lard.

3) Toasted pecans would make a delicious substitute for the walnuts.

4) If you are allergic to eggs, forego the egg wash. Just bake the rugelach as is or brush with a little cream or milk. The color will not be golden brown but the cookies will still be delicious!

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