Apricot Walnut Rugelach

April 27, 2011 at 7:26 pm 78 comments

Apricot Walnut Rugelach

It takes exactly two minutes to walk from my dorm building to the restaurant where I work.

I know this because I usually tumble out of bed, still sluggish from my afternoon nap, and throw my work clothes into a bag. I half-jog, looking down at my watch at every intersection. In the basement I twist my hair into a side ponytail and tuck a bundle of pens in my apron. I step onto the floor, barely on time.

You’d think I’d learn, but I frequently forget to eat before realizing my shift is in five minutes. Most days I arrive at the restaurant on an empty stomach, thoroughly unprepared for the physical and perhaps emotional stress a nine-hour waitressing shift demands. I’m not really supposed to snack while working, and I don’t have time anyway between running plates and dropping checks.

It takes me six minutes to walk back from the restaurant. I’m considerably slower on my feet by the time I’m through. Eight months experience and I’m still unused to the soreness that seeps into my body at the end of the night. Sometimes the rumbling in my stomach distracts from the tenderness of each step home.

Apricot Walnut Rugelach

One night, after a particularly taxing shift, I walked straight to my boyfriend I-’s room and pounded on the door, still in chocolate stained work clothes. “I really need to eat,” I said. It was 1:15 am on a Thursday but he shook off the sleep and grabbed his keys. “Wherever you want to go,” he replied, and then we were back outside.

I picked a dumpling house in Chinatown, one of my favorites. I like it because the food is steamy and succulent, I find the Korean pop music they play hilarious, and best of all, it’s open until 2 am. He wasn’t really hungry, and I over-ordered: fried rice, beef kabobs, eggrolls and dumplings. But just before the waiter grabbed our menus, I- added, “And an ice cream sundae too.”

For whatever reason, the sundae came out before the meal. Just a few scoops of store-bought vanilla ice cream, with a quick drizzle of chocolate syrup and a ruffled dome of spray-can whipped cream. For a second, I considered not eating it. But then my hand automatically reached for a spoon and dug in, beyond caring. I don’t know if it was hunger, exhaustion, or the happiness that overcame me sitting with I- in that empty restaurant, but the first bite comforted like cool watermelon juice in August. I scraped the spoon against the bottom of the bowl.

The food that followed was predictably satisfying, but when I look back on that night, what I remember is the sundae we demolished.

Unrolled Rugelach

Since then, I- texts me throughout my shifts – “Do you want Chinese, pizza, or Mexican when you get back?” Whenever I can, I try to bring him something back from the restaurant in return. Usually, it’s a cookie. The cookies at our restaurant are tangible temptation beneath a glass cake dome. They don’t often last, but if any remain at the end of the night, I snag a peanut butter cookie for myself, a sugar cookie for I-, and triple chocolate for I-’s roommate D-. Mine usually disappears in the six-minute walk back.

I’m a quiet fan of the cookie. They’re irrefutably a childhood staple, considering that at 19 years old, I experience nostalgia when I eat them. I think of the butter cookies my grandma and I made for holidays. The coconut sugar biscuits my Chinese teacher offered during recess. Gingersnaps return me to the 8th grade, sitting Indian-style on the kitchen floor with my nose against the oven’s glass window, watching the tops crack.

As much as I like them, I don’t bake many. I get bored scooping mound after mound, or I get frustrated with the capriciousness of roll-out cookie dough (it’s too soft! Too cold! Too sticky!) With that kind of time, I’d prefer to pipe buttercream onto cupcakes or delve into yeast-risen territory.

This rugelach, though? Worth it, worth it a million times.

Apricot Walnut Rugelach

As cookies go, these ones are a considerable amount of work. The dough needs to be chilled, requiring some forethought. Then you have to roll out, sprinkle toppings, slice, and bundle into crescent-shaped pillows of brown sugar and apricot preserves. An egg wash coat and dash of cinnamon before the rugelach bakes.

But the resulting cookie is pure heaven. The apricot preserves bubble and transform into a sticky sweet filling, alluring as honey and perfect with milk. The walnuts add just the right textural crunch. Throw in the moist chew of dried cranberries and the soft flakiness cream cheese introduces? An all around winner. Even better than those peanut butter cookies.

Maybe, when I get my hands on a real kitchen and kiss finals week goodbye, I’ll make these cookies for I- and D-. They might not know how much effort goes into them, or how long I spent with floured palms. All they’ll know is that it only takes two minutes to polish off an entire plate, and an afternoon to shake off the smile.

Apricot Walnut Rugelach

These cookies are easy to customize. Use raspberry jam and almonds, toss in mini chocolate chips, swap dried cherries or raisins for the dried cranberries. Be careful, because they are strangely addictive. I don’t know if it’s the buttery, delicate dough or the wonderfully chewy and crunchy filling, but the combination is incredible.

Apricot Walnut Rugelach
Just barely tweaked from Ina Garten
Makes 4 dozen cookies

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2-pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 9 tablespoons
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of a tangerine
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup apricot preserves, pureed in a food processor
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the cream cheese and butter with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Beat in 1/4 cup sugar, the salt, the vanilla extract and tangerine zest. Add the flour and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Transfer the dough to a well-floured board and roll it into a ball. Cut the mound into four pieces, wrap each quarter in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for one hour.

Make the filling by combining 6 tablespoons of the granulated sugar, the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, the dried cranberries, and the walnuts.

On a well-floured board, roll each quarter of chilled dough into a 9″ circle. Spread the dough with 2 tablespoons apricot preserves and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling mixture. Lightly press the filling into the dough, then cut the circle into 12 equal wedges. I used a pizza roller to cut the whole circle into quarters, then each quarter into thirds. Roll each wedge up into a crescent shape, starting with the wider end. Set the cookies, with the points tucked under, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Make the topping by mixing 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

Lightly brush each cookie with egg wash and sprinkle with the topping. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.

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78 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jihane @Sinful Sundays  |  April 27, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    I love your post and the beautiful way you have with words. You make me really miss college life– going out to eat at 1:00am, afternoon naps, serving jobs, etc.—i am jealous!

    Your rugelach looks great and I love how there are cranberries in there. :)

  • 2. Elissa's Dad  |  April 27, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    I used to be happy knowing you had a boyfriend but in a way I looked forward to you breaking up. At 18, now 19, you still have much to see, experience and learn before you are really ready for anything too serious or long term.

    As the months pass, you talk of I- here and there, I see more of him. It is still hard for me to consider you a woman, or I- a man. But I know you are becoming one, certainly not my little child anymore.

    I like this boy, I-. I have never met him or spoken with him. I only see him through your eyes and your words in your notes to me and here.

    It is bittersweet that he gets to eat them and he gets the hugs. I couldn’t be happier about that though. Maybe someday I will get to meet him. But if that does not happen, I am glad that you did.

    • 3. Joy  |  May 4, 2011 at 4:58 pm

      As the Mother of a Senior in college, reading this brought tears to my eyes.

  • 4. hsunamisweets  |  April 27, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Gorgeous, as usual. I love rugelach! They are the perfect cookie. So addicting too :)

    • 5. Chef Thomas Minchella  |  April 27, 2011 at 8:43 pm

      I really enjoyed reading your post. and like reading about other people’s experiences working in restaurants and enjoying food.
      P/S Coming from a chef, keep your hands out of the cookie jar!!

  • 6. Cousin Sharon  |  April 27, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Did you know that dad and my grandmother used to make these? They were one of my favorites. Yours look even better than hers!

  • 7. kate  |  April 27, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    I’ve been trying to think of what to make as a happy birthday/hooray for finishing day one of board exams/confidence booster/ultimate comfort food for my boyfriend on Monday and this is the perfect solution.

    p.s. Ugly, comfortable, supportive server shoes are the best investment ever. :)

    • 8. i heart salt  |  May 1, 2011 at 8:31 am

      YES!! INVEST in a pair of very good shoes! I have been in the front & the back of the house for over twenty years found Klogs (the brand) to be the most comfortable & sturdiest.

  • 9. Ashlae  |  April 27, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    I always love when you post! You’re one of my favorite bloggers to read. Thanks for checking in from time to time :)

  • 10. lipster  |  April 27, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    beautiful writing, as always. And any guy who is willing to drag himself out of bed and keep you company (however bleary-eyed) for a restaurant meal at 1:30 AM is a good one in my book.

  • 11. mollyparr  |  April 27, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Good luck with the rest of your semester and finals.

    Thank you for the wonderful post and tasty-looking cookie. I recently had some homemade rugelach that weren’t so much rolled into crescents as they were folded like a bowtie. Very disappointing. These rugelach are much more like the ones I grew up with. Yum!

  • 12. Manasi  |  April 28, 2011 at 12:21 am

    I love rugelach and have been dying to make them. I’m definitely going to try this recipe at some point.

    I know everyone says it, but I completely miss college while reading your posts–especially so because I went to school in Boston. I love that city so!

  • 13. Warm Vanilla Sugar  |  April 28, 2011 at 12:52 am

    I went through the same thing in university. You’re boyfriend sounds like a catch! I remember having to each late at night by myself and feeling kinda bad for it…you must have a wicked metabolism!

    These cookies sound simply delightful. I’m excited to try!

    • 14. Hannah @ Bake Five  |  April 28, 2011 at 3:08 am

      I think so too! Elissa, I’m happy to hear that you have such a wonderful boyfriend! (: that said, I enjoyed this post of yours thoroughly. Good luck with everything (especially the waitressing), and Im hungry to read more on your college life!

  • 15. Shirleen  |  April 28, 2011 at 5:26 am

    These sound moreish and marvelous! It’s going onto my to-do list. :-)

  • 16. Brian @ A Thought For Food  |  April 28, 2011 at 7:11 am

    I’m not much of a cookie person, but I can never pass up rugelach. Especially one as gorgeous as these!

    It’s wonderful that I is so thoughtful. E has learned the same thing about me… after a certain point, this boy needs to eat.

  • 17. Sis  |  April 28, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Your dad’s post is so awesome. What a great father-attitude…

  • 18. Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday  |  April 28, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Mmmm…I love rugelach. And these look delicious! Especially with the dried cranberries! I’ve never seen that before, it’s a nice touch!

  • 19. Cheryl  |  April 28, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Love rugelach. In fact I have isome in the freezer ready to slice and bake whenever I have a weak moment. My 2 children absolutely love them. I sometimes package them up and ship to my daughter. My daughter went to school in Boston. I made many trips to the campus back in the 90’s because I only lived about 50 miles from Medford. Good luck with your exams.

  • 20. cozydelicious  |  April 28, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Cookies are memories for me too, especially rugelach, which remind me of my granmother. Hers were the best – but yours look wonderful! I like the cranberries.

    • 21. Char  |  August 10, 2012 at 12:42 am

      I read your post and wished I’d wtirten it

  • 22. vincent  |  April 28, 2011 at 4:41 pm


    We bumped into your blog and we really liked it – great recipes YUM YUM.
    We would like to add it to the Petitchef.com.

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  • 23. pity  |  April 28, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    these are lovely! I love rugelach and yours look totally divine, cheers from london!

  • 24. J. @ kawaiikitchen  |  April 28, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Actually, I’ve never heard of rugelach before. But your description makes me want to bake and eat them straight away!

  • 25. Sarah H  |  April 28, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    I’ve never had rugelach but it looks DIVINE. I can’t wait to make some.

    I also wanted to let you know how much I love the blog. I recently uncluttered my inbox, unsubscribing from dozens of blog feeds and newsletters in order to streamline my precious computer work time since the arrival of a newborn boy. The day after the purge began I got an update from you and went to unsubscribe…and I couldn’t do it. I’ve never actually made anything from your blog (rough pregnancy) but I love your writing, I love reading the stories as much as drooling over the pictures and anticipating baking the recipes. I decided I needed a little story break in the middle of my day sometimes and your blog is the ONLY one that stayed. Thanks for the lovely afternoon ‘bites.’

    • 26. Elissa  |  April 28, 2011 at 7:42 pm

      Sarah H – This made my day! Thank you so, so much, I’m really touched :)

  • 27. Mare  |  April 29, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Elissa you write so beautifully!

  • 28. Victor @ Random Cuisine  |  April 29, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    As a PhD student, I enjoy doing experiments in my lab, very often when I get some amazing results I tend to forget about lunch and continue taking data. I only noticed that I’m very hungry once I’m done with my day usually around 7-8 pm, when I get home, I eat a like a lot, I even eat two desserts after dinner.

    Thanks for introducing rugelach. That’s so new and exotic for me.

  • 29. Charisse  |  April 30, 2011 at 7:47 am

    Hey there!!! Wow…I haven’t been by since graduation. I moved from Georgia to NY and got married and put my munchkin in kindergarten and happened to think of your blog last night when I was combing through some old printed out recipes.

    I looks like you are doing great and loving college life. How has the shift from Seattle to Boston been? I am seriously going to have to go back and do some catching up on what you’ve been cooking and how you are doing!!

    This rugelach looks amazing! I love apricot. It is DELICIOUS! I use it in everything I can. And that’s quite a bit of stuff.

    I moved my blog recently from charissej.blogspot.com to oatestosow.blogspot.com and would love to see you stop by from time to time. Have a great day!!!

  • 30. Robin  |  May 1, 2011 at 12:51 am

    I like your style, but sometimes the words you choose seem contrived. You don’t need to be so pretentious, just be yourself. Unless you enjoy sounding like a snob…if so; carry on.

  • 31. Elaine  |  May 1, 2011 at 2:40 am

    Robin, all writers test out different styles, especially when you’re young. I can’t bear to read some of the things I wrote when I was 17 and 18, mainly because they were extremely pretentious, yet I’m now a professional writer. Experimenting is part of all growth.

  • 32. Taylor  |  May 3, 2011 at 2:05 am

    I agree, I went through the same phase where I had to use the most uptight phrasing possible, in an effort to look “grown-up”. I didn’t realize how condescending I sounded, I just wanted to show off how smart I was!

    It wasn’t until several people told me I sounded pretentious that I even realized it! It’s a fine line between being descriptive and sounding as though you are blatantly showing off your vocabulary.

    I always cut my flowery phrasing in half to avoid the same pitfalls! Good to remember yet difficult to practice, for the overly ambitious youth. They are so eager to impress us!

  • 33. Lea  |  May 3, 2011 at 3:30 am

    Love it, the filling sounds great.

  • 34. Rachel  |  May 3, 2011 at 8:21 pm


    Thanks so much for inspiring me. I learened a lot from your violin cake. :)

    As always, you can find it and all my other stuff here. http://rachie–cakes.blogspot.com/2011/05/andy-ankylosaurus-cake.html

    Thanks! You’re amazing. :)

  • 35. Geni - Sweet and Crumby  |  May 3, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    The first time I made my own rugelach was memorable. So far, in all of my journeys through baking, nothing has sent me over the moon, floating about my kitchen more than hot out of the oven rugelach. I am such a mom…I read your beautiful post and all I could think about is why are you walking alone at 1:30am?! I don’t even know you but I feel protective. Be careful! :) Take care and keep the posts coming when you can. This is my favorite blog hands down. I made a rugelach on my blog using both Dorie and Martha’s recipes for different parts (dough and filling). Thought it was amazing.

  • 36. Tia  |  May 3, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    my mouth is watering! yumyum. you need to cross rugelach off your wishlist, now! :)

  • 37. jess  |  May 4, 2011 at 7:18 am

    i like your writing style! thats the main reason i read your blog. i mean your pictures are good, but its your writing that makes you stand out, which is rare for a food blogger. most of us just ramble on and on about our day or a recipe but you somehow turn it into a bedtime story.

    keep up the great work. sure, your writing may be littered with adjectives and descriptions but… that’s why they’re adjectives! to describe!


  • 38. Brooke (The Flour Sack)  |  May 4, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Your story made me smile! So fun to read. And those rugelach! Oh my goodness. It’s time that I try my hand at these little treats. I’ve always wanted to make them, but have just never gotten around to it. Your description has made me feel a sense of urgency, though, to get in the kitchen with some butter and flour! Yum! I think I’ll try the raspberry and almond combo first :)

  • 39. SeattleDee  |  May 4, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Once again your post is a treat for the recipe and the story… and this time for the poignant comment from your Dad. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • 40. Calvin  |  May 4, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    Hey Elissa, this is Calvin. Its been a long time, and I sincerely hope that you’re doing well. I always always always love reading through your posts because I can hear your passion and your person in every word.

    Let me know when you get home!

  • 41. Molly  |  May 4, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    I sure wish you print icon would print only the recipe and not all the many pages of comments. I love the recipes that you post.

    • 42. Hannah@ Bake Five  |  May 5, 2011 at 12:16 pm

      right after the recipe you’d see a print friendly version button. (:

  • 43. e  |  May 5, 2011 at 2:45 am

    Don’t ever let the naysayers get you down. You are Daring and Creative, and a fab vocab should be praised.

    With love from Los Angeles.

  • 44. Lynne @ 365 Days of Baking  |  May 5, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    I just came across your blog and truly enjoy reading your posts. You are a very gifted writer and it clearly comes through to your readers. Keep up the great work! You photos are wonderful, too.
    As the mother of a freshman in college, the post from your father brought tears to my eyes. It is obvious that he loves you so very, very much.
    I’m glad I’ve found you.

  • 45. Neil Butterfield  |  May 5, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    These cookies sound absolutely delicious, thanks for sharing.

  • 46. Foodiebia  |  May 5, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    Hooray another post! These look beautiful. I’ve always been too lazy to make this type of cookie but now you have me craving them!

  • 47. aya  |  May 6, 2011 at 3:31 am

    I like your post.. I enjoy reading your post while keep on looking to the photos of Apricot Walnut … It look so yummy.. Thanks for sharing the recipe :).Your article is well written and informative.. :D

  • 48. Brittany  |  May 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    The food you make always looks delicious but I love your writing even more! I usually skim blog posts but find that I always read every word of your posts. I’m excited to see what you do with your talents in the future :)

  • 49. Alexa T.  |  May 7, 2011 at 1:42 am

    Hey, now you can cross rugelach off your wishlist! ;)

  • 50. Neil Butterfield  |  May 7, 2011 at 3:53 am

    At Brittany, I agree. This is certainly a website to bookmark for future reference.

  • 51. The Bird Cage  |  May 7, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Dear Elissa,

    This looks fantastic and it just made the cast of my Mother’s Day show! I have only tried rugelach once, in NYC when a lady in a bakery actually gifted me one because she couldn’t believe I had never tried them! I really like their flakey texture and their not-so-sweet filling!

    Now, I would like your advice on some serious baking matter: I want to make an ice cream cake. What should I use as the “cake” component? I was thinking either Genoese or devil’s food cake, either imbibed in syrup (perhaps espresso-infused, but that’s another decision altogether!) before stacking. What would you recommend?

    Thanks Elissa!

    • 52. Elissa  |  May 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm

      The Bird Cage – Both sound great! I think it depends on what kind of ice cream you’re using. The syrup will help keep it moist. Chocolate cakes are great because you can find recipes for really moist, rich chocolate cakes that end up freezing well.

  • 53. Karissa  |  May 7, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    I loved reading this. :) Going out to eat at after 1am is something I would do (but mostly because I’m a night owl, not that I get out of work that late)…and you ordering dessert at the same time as ordering your food also reminded me of myself. I think everyone who reads your writing can relate to you in some way, to each story you tell. Thanks for sharing with us!

  • 54. Aundrea L.  |  May 9, 2011 at 11:58 am

    The site of these cookies makes my mouth water! So delicious! In just a few months im going to be a college student and I honestly cant wait to be working long hours then getting to go out for a midnight meal (:

  • 55. Kellie  |  May 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    You are such a great writer– you use so much detail! I will be starting college in the fall and this post really got me looking forward to college life!

  • 56. Leebot  |  May 10, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Your writing is fine — “yourself” comes across most definitely.

    Elissa’s Dad, as a grandma now I sympathize with your anxieties, but someone as pretty, talented and smart as Elissa is bound to attract the guys — and he might as well be someone who is at her beck and call as this one seems to be. ;-) (Well done, Elissa!)

  • 57. Lauren B.  |  May 10, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    This post made me really excited to begin college. I don’t know how you are able to balance school, work, a boyfriend, and this blog but I think you are pretty awesome! I am definately going to try to make these cookies.

  • 58. Breeana P.  |  May 10, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    What a great experience, that most of us can relate to. If you have the vocab., use it! It’s fun to share stories, recipes and conversation with people that appreciate you. I loved the part of your blog about the nostalgia you have while eating certain cookies, the smell, taste and the memory. Makes me want to eat cookies, but not bake them.


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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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