These pecan pie rugelach satisfy a craving for classic pecan pie but with an emphasis on those who love an exceptionally flaky crust. They’re filled with pecans, natch, along with brown sugar, butter, maple syrup, and bourbon, all wrapped in a cream cheese dough.
Just when we thought pecan pie and rugelach couldn’t get any more satisfying on their own, we happened upon this lovely fusion of Southern and Jewish classics. Think spirals of rich pecan pie filling with caramel overtones spiraled between layers of buttery, flaky rugelach dough. Arguably even more irresistible then either tradition on its own. Dare you to stop at just one.–Angie Zoobkoff
Pecan Pie Rugelach
For the rugelach dough
- 2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour plus more for the work surface
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 sticks (6 oz) cold unsalted butter
- 4 ounces cold cream cheese cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) chunks
- 2 tablespoons bourbon (or substitute apple cider vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons ice cold water
Make the rugelach dough
- If making the dough by hand, combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Cut the cold butter and cream cheese into the flour with the back of a fork or pastry blender until the flour is crumbly. In a small bowl, combine the bourbon, vanilla, and water and then add it to the flour mixture, a couple tablespoons at a time, tossing and compressing the mixture gently with your hands until it forms a ball, being careful not to overwork the dough. If making the dough in a food processor, combine the flour, salt, butter, and cream cheese in the processor and pulse until chickpea-sized balls are formed. Pour in the bourbon, vanilla, and water and pulse just until a dough forms and starts to pull away from the edge of the processor bowl.
- Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
Make the pecan pie filling
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Spread the pecans on the baking sheet and bake until the nuts are fragrant and toasted, about 10 minutes. Keep a careful watch as the pecans can go from just right to burnt very quickly. Remove the nuts from the oven and immediately transfer to a plate to cool slightly. Turn the oven off.
- Pulse the cooled nuts in a blender or food processor until mealy but not finely ground or paste-like, about 30 seconds.
- In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk together the brown sugar, butter, maple syrup, bourbon, vanilla, and salt and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid thickens and starts to look like the foam on a just-poured beer and, when you stir it, you can see the bottom of the pan for a split second, 4 to 6 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the ground pecans and cayenne, if using. Let the mixture cool completely.
- When the dough has chilled and the nuts and sugar have cooled and hardened, preheat the oven once again to 375°F (190°C) and line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
Assemble the rugelach
- Lightly flour a rolling pin and a surface for rolling the dough. Remove the dough from the fridge, unwrap, and roll it out into a 1/8-inch (3-mm) thick rectangle about 15-by-8-inches (38-by-20-cm). Sprinkle half the nut mixture evenly over the dough, spreading the filling all the way to the edges.
- Starting on a longer end of the dough, grasp the edge of the dough and gently but tightly roll it into a log. Cut it into 12 equal widths to create spirals. Place the spirals on the baking sheet, with one of the seam sides down, and then place in the freezer while you do the same with the other half of the dough and filling mixture. Freeze the rugelach for no more than 10 minutes.
Bake the rugelach
- Bake the rugelach until the crust is golden and flaky, 20 to 25 minutes.
☞TESTER TIP: Leave your rugelach in the oven those extra 5 minutes only if you like your cookies to bear quite crisp edges.
- Transfer the rugelach to a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I have two other rugelach recipes and this one just rocketed to the top. There are several similarities, of course, but this pecan pie rugelach produced flakier dough and a richer, more flavorful filling. We loved the cayenne pepper option that gave the rugelach an extra pop that wasn’t overwhelming by any stretch. The real measure was that our kids, not fans of nuts in anything, ate these up like there was no tomorrow. And for these rugelach, there wasn’t!
The recipe does take some time and planning—the dough needs to rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight. We let it rest overnight.
Be careful toasting the pecans because they can go from just right to over-roasted very quickly. I did them for 12 minutes but next time I would cut that down to 10.
Rolling out dough that’s been refrigerated for an extended amount of time can be challenging but not impossible. I was concerned that I wasn’t going to have enough filling to spread over both pieces of dough but steadily working the filling over the dough made my worry unfounded. For these rugelach, you don’t need a super thick coating of filling since you roll the dough up. You just have to be careful since the dough is thin—you don’t want to tear it as you are spreading the filling. I baked the first batch for 20 minutes and the second for 25 and that extra 5 minutes was key. We ended up with a crisper pastry. But the 20-minute batch tasted as good and disappeared as quickly!
All my memories of autumn are wrapped in this pecan pie rugelach. Dark, sugary, caramel notes with salty, sweet nuttiness wheeled around an earthy whole wheat crust, this cookie kisses all of the senses. Rich and fragrant with a touch of bourbon, this is one of those haunting sweets you can’t help but sneak into the kitchen and nibble away at.
When baking, the pecan pie filling pooled a bit around the pastry, but while it was still warm from the oven I slid it into place and it cooled beautifully intact. I used the food processor method to make the pastry.
Originally published November 08, 2020