The Creamy Ingredient That Makes Rugelach Extra Decadent

Named after a Yiddish word meaning "little twists," it's believed that rugelach originated in Eastern Europe, per Slurrp. This popular pastry is a crescent-shaped, bite-size cookie, and is typically filled with either chocolate or fruit filling. While traditionally eaten around Hanukkah, rugelach have become staple cookies all year long in Jewish bakeries alongside its bigger brother, babka, according to MasterClass. Given that bakeries have become innovative with their fillings, be on the lookout for how they try to make these cookies even more exciting.

While they look quite difficult to make, rugelach dough is actually pretty simple and chances are you already have the ingredients on hand. Though it can be debated which version is better, the "Encyclopedia of Jewish Food" by Gil Marks (via Slurrp) notes that it is believed American bakers replaced the yeast — found in the original rugelach recipes — with another ingredient. This created the rugelach dough that can be commonly found today in American Jewish bakeries. The resulting dough came out even creamier and richer. So, what is the secret ingredient for an extra decadent rugelach?

Cream cheese adds a decadent tang

While most similar baked goods are made with butter, American-style rugelach is made with cream cheese. Cream cheese adds a bit of sweetness and a slight tang to the original recipe (via MasterClass). This being said, many Hungarian and Polish Jews, who found their way to Israel, are still making rugelach with laminated yeast dough, notes Haaretz. Regardless of which version you prefer, there is no denying that the addition of cream cheese creates a unique dough.

According to Epicurious, cream cheese makes dough easier to manipulate — which is important for a dessert like rugelach which gets filled and folded. In addition, the dough will be nice and flaky due to the milk solids in the cream cheese. If you're attempting to make some rugelach at home, MasterClass notes that room-temperature cream cheese is a must, otherwise, it will not mix in. For your first batch of this beloved pastry, we recommend trying this poppy-seed rugelach recipe!