Date and Walnut Rugelach with Tahini Glaze

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This rugelach recipe has spiced date and walnut filling wrapped in a scented butter and cream cheese dough and is drizzled with a sweetened tahini glaze.

Date and Walnut Rugelach with Tahini Glaze
Photo:

Frederick Hardy II / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Active Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
Total Time:
6 hrs 25 mins
Yield:
36 cookies

Rugelach, a 20th century adaptation of the filled, crescent cookies from Central and Eastern Europe known as kipfel, are popular year-round and often served for Hanukkah and Shavuot. 

This rugelach recipe from Faith Kramer starts with a cream cheese and butter-based dough that is scented with cinnamon and cardamom. Date, walnut, and spice filling come together in the food processor and are brightened with the inclusion of lemon zest. Date syrup added onto the dough during assembly deepens the flavor of the filling while providing additional sweetness. Keeping the dough and filling chilled will make it easier to roll out the dough, help the cookies hold their shape, and prevent the filling from leaking and burning. 

Kramer’s husband’s aunt, Karel Lee, was the family baker. A visit to her house always included plates of goodies she just happened to be making when they dropped by. Kramer never actually tasted her rugelach, but found her recipe when she inherited Lee’s recipe box. She found two recipes for the cookie – one typed and the other handwritten. The recipes were very similar with different fillings (one walnut and cinnamon, the other raisin and nut). Both feature a cream cheese dough as opposed to the original yeast-based dough still popular in Israel and elsewhere. Cream cheese dough became widespread in America after World War II and generations of cooks have made it the family standard. 

“When I started making rugelach, I looked to Aunt Lee’s recipe box for inspiration and technique (rolling out the dough sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar was directly from her notes) but I turned to Middle Eastern and Near Eastern Jewish cuisines for flavor,” Kramer says. “My not-too-sweet chopped date filling is reminiscent of the Levant and is flavored with cardamom and cinnamon. I also use date syrup (also known as silan, date honey or date molasses) to intensify the date flavor. A tahini glaze drizzle finishes the rugelach off with a touch of sweet sesame flavor that ties it all together.”

Ingredients

Dough

  • 2 cups (about 8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface and hands

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 (8 ounce) pkg. cream cheese, softened

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

Date and Walnut Filling

  • 2 cups walnuts, toasted (about 7 ounces)

  • 2 cups pitted dried dates (about 22 dates)

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 tablespoon ground cardamom

  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)

  • 1/4 cup date syrup (see Note)

Additional Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons date syrup, divided (see Note)

  • 1 large egg, beaten

  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

Tahini Glaze

  • 2 tablespoons tahini (ground sesame seeds)

  • 2 tablespoons boiling water, plus more as needed

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon), plus more as needed

  • 1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) powdered sugar, sifted and divided

Directions

Prepare the Dough:

  1. Whisk together flour, salt, cardamom, and cinnamon in a medium bowl; set aside. Beat cream cheese and butter with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce mixer speed to low; add one-third flour mixture. Beat on low speed until flour mixture is incorporated, about 20 seconds. Repeat process twice with remaining flour mixture, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Increase mixer speed to medium-high, and beat until Dough is as smooth as possible, about 1 minute. If necessary, knead Dough in bowl until it comes together.

  2. Roll Dough into a thick log on a well floured surface using floured hands. Cut into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball; flatten into a circular disk. Wrap disks separately in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

Prepare the Date And Walnut Filling:

  1. Process walnuts, dates, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and lemon zest in a food processor until nuts and dates are finely chopped but not a paste, 20 to 30 seconds, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Add date syrup, and process to combine, 5 to 10 seconds. Transfer to an airtight container, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Assemble the rugelach:

  1. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Working in 3 batches, remove 1 pastry disk from refrigerator. Place disk on a floured surface, and sprinkle Dough with flour. Roll Dough into an 11-inch round, lifting and moving Dough as you roll to prevent sticking. (It’s fine if the round is a little rough around the edges.)

  2. Brush Dough with 2 tablespoons of the date syrup. Using a dough cutter or back of a knife, cut Dough round into 12 equal triangles. Take one-third of Filling out of refrigerator. Spoon 1 tablespoon Filling onto each triangle, spreading and leaving about an 1/8-inch border at ends and edges of triangle. Starting from wide end of each triangle, roll up each piece to the point; place on prepared baking sheet, point side down. Chill rolled cookies until firm, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F.

  3. Lightly brush the top of each cookie with beaten egg, and sprinkle cookies evenly with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Bake in preheated oven until tops are golden and bottoms are browned, 25 to 28 minutes, rotating baking sheet from front to back after 10 minutes of baking. Check cookie bottoms after 20 minutes of baking, and if necessary, place baking sheet on top of another baking sheet to slow browning. Carefully transfer cookies and parchment paper to a wire rack, and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Baked cookies may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 days or frozen up to 1 month.

Prepare the Tahini Glaze:

  1. Whisk together tahini, boiling water, lemon juice, and 3/4 cup of the powdered sugar in small bowl. Gradually whisk in remaining 3/4 cup sugar until glaze is very thick. (Glaze should not be runny but still thin enough to be drizzled off the tines of a fork.) Add additional boiling water or powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time, as needed for desired consistency.

  2. Using a fork, drizzle glaze evenly over cooled cookies. Let glaze dry at room temperature, 1 to 2 hours. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, separating layers with wax paper or parchment paper.

Notes

  • If date syrup is not available, substitute 2 tablespoons honey and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. 
  • If dough has chilled for more than a few hours, test to see if it will crack when rolled out. If it cracks, let dough stand 10 to 20 minutes until it can be smoothly rolled out. Do not let dough warm up to room temperature.

To Make Ahead

Dough and walnut date filling may be made 1 day ahead of time. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, and place filling in an airtight container; store in refrigerator. Tahini glaze can be made 1 day in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container. Let glaze come to room temperature, and stir well, adding boiling water by the teaspoon as needed for desired consistency.

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