Growing up with both Christmas and Hanukkah in your home can inspire some wonderful crossovers, especially when it comes to the treats. We’ve partnered with Michelle Lopez, founder of Hummingbird High, who is turning the recipes she grew up with into some delicious holiday fusions.
I’ve always associated the fall and winter holidays as a time for pie. Thanksgiving has pumpkin and apple pies, while Christmas has mince pies. As a little kid, I was always sad that Hanukkah didn’t have its own dedicated pie. That is, until I eventually realized that rugelach cookies are the Jewish equivalent. Because let’s face it — rugelach cookies are basically pie…but in cookie form!
What exactly do I mean by “pie in cookie form”? Rugelach dough is pretty similar to pie dough, but made with cream cheese instead of butter. Similar to pie dough, you use a pastry blender to cut the cream cheese into the flour to make a light and flaky crust. And like any good pie, rugelach and is filled with a delicious (and usually fruit-based) filling.
The main difference between pie and rugelach really comes in execution — instead of rolling the rugelach dough out and molding it into a pan like you would a pie, you roll the dough into crescents to make little croissant-shaped cookies. The filling gets spiraled into these crescents, ensuring that you have alternating layers of flaky, delicate crust and tasty filling with each bite.
So to pay homage to both the holidays that my family celebrated, I’ve created a fusion cookie that’s halfway between Hanukkah and Christmas. I spiked my family’s traditional rugelach recipe with spices like ground ginger, cinnamon and cloves to create a “gingerbread” rugelach dough.
And the filling? Cookie butter studded with mini chocolate chips. When combined with the light and flaky gingerbread rugelach dough, it’s absolutely and utterly addicting. Fresh from the oven and warm, the rugelach cookies are better than any slice of pie. I promise.
Gingerbread and Cookie Butter Rugelach Recipe
(makes around 32 cookies)
- A food processor
- A pizza slicer or pastry wheel
- A pastry brush
For the Gingerbread Rugelach Cookie Dough
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
For the Filling
- ⅔ cup cookie butter
- ⅓ cup mini chocolate chips
For the Glaze
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon cold water
- 2 tablespoons demerara sugar
Directions for the Gingerbread Rugelach Cookie Dough
In the bowl of a food processor with the blade in, combine one cup all-purpose flour, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt.
Pulse for a few seconds until the flour and salt are fully incorporated. Scatter 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter cubes and four ounces cold cream cheese cubes and pulse the machine for one to two seconds at a time, six to 10 times. Pulse just until the dough forms large curds, but don’t work it so long that it forms a ball on the blade. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and pulse one more time to get rid of any excess flour/inconsistencies.
Turn the cookie dough out on a clean, lightly floured surface and use your hands to gather it into a loose ball. Use a bench scraper or a sharp, serrated knife to divide the ball in half. Shape each half into a disk before wrapping the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerating for at least two hours, or up to one day.
To Fill, Shape and Bake the Cookies
When the dough has thoroughly chilled and you’re ready to bake the cookies, center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
Transfer ⅔ cup cookie butter to a medium, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Melt until the cookie butter becomes liquid, pourable and easy to work with. Set aside on a wire rack to cool as you shape the cookies.
Start with one disk of dough from the refrigerator. If it is too firm to roll easily, leave it on the counter for 5 to 10 minutes before you begin rolling. Lightly flour your surface and roll the dough into a 12-inch circle. Using an offset spatula, spread the softened cookie butter over the surface of the circle, going right up to the edges. Scatter the top of the cookie butter with ⅓ cup mini chocolate chips.
Once the cookie butter and chocolate chips have been spread evenly across the dough, use a pizza slicer or pastry wheel to cut the dough into 16 wedges by cutting the dough into quarters and then cutting each quarter into four triangles. Starting at the base of each triangle, roll the dough up so that the cookie becomes a little crescent shape, similar to a croissant. Arrange the crescents on one baking sheet, making sure the points are tucked underneath the cookies. Transfer the baking sheet containing the cookies to the refrigerator (and NOT the freezer!) to chill while you roll out the second disk of dough.
Repeat steps for the second disk of dough.
In a small bowl, whisk together one large egg and one teaspoon cold water. Remove the first tray of cookies from the refrigerator and replace with the second tray of cookies. Use a pastry brush to spread the eggwash glaze over each chilled crescent before sprinkling some demarara sugar over each cookie.
Bake the rugelach for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are puffed and golden, before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Remove the second tray of cookies from the refrigerator and use a pastry brush to spread the eggwash glaze over each chilled crescent before sprinkling some demarara sugar over each cookie. Bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool. The cookies are best served warm, around 20 minutes or so from the oven.
Want more recipes perfect for your Hanukkah celebration? Get the recipe for Sufganiyot, three ways.