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When it comes to holiday cooking baking I'm all about the classics that remind me of childhood Christmases spent baking loads of traditional cookies with my mom. Her cookie trays always included rolled rugelach cookies filled with jam and nuts, and they were always one of my favorites of the season.
Rugelach is made with a pastry dough that is soft and tender thanks to the addition of cream cheese. To create vegan rugelach, I swapped cream cheese with thick coconut yogurt, which has a texture similar to Greek-style yogurt to labneh. To save time I recommend a quality store-bought brand of naturally thick unsweetened plain coconut yogurt, such as Coyo. You can also strain a runnier non-dairy yogurt to thicken it. To do this, line a strainer with a coffee filter or nut-milk cloth and set the strainer over a bowl. Scoop the yogurt into the coffee filter/cloth and let it sit in the fridge for 1 hour or more so the liquid drains from it. Use twice as much yogurt as the recipe calls for, as the amount of yogurt is reduced once strained.
The pastry dough of this vegan rugelach is very similar to the Vegan Kolache cookie recipe I shared 2 Christmases ago. I was inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh's rugelach recipe in their book Sweet and added baking powder to the dough, which makes it extra flaky.
I tried two different filling versions and found that using thick jam or fruit preserves is best to avoid the filling oozing all out during baking. The darker filling in the photos is made with thick fig preserves, which were excellent and super tasty. The lighter filling is made with apricot preserves which oozed out a bit more but were still very delicious. Plus the oozy bits make a sort of jam-toffee. Yum!
The jam layer is topped with a toasted nut (I used pecans but walnuts or hazelnuts are also good options) and cinnamon sugar mix. To make a nut-free version for my son, I omitted nuts and added dried currants. You can be creative with the filling combos and try different nuts and jams that you love.
I'm hoping to post 1 more of my all-time favorite holiday cookie recipes this week so stay tuned!
- 2 ½ cups 320g all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- zest of 2 lemons finely grated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup 230g cold vegan butter
- ⅔ cups 200g cold plain unsweetened thick Greek-style non-dairy yogurt *see notes
- ¼ cup non-dairy milk for brushing pastry
- ¼ cup 50g granulated sugar
- Pulse together flour, salt, and baking powder in a food processor for about 10 seconds to evenly combine the ingredients.
- Cut cold butter into ½" chunks and add to the food processor along with the vanilla extract and lemon zest. Pulse until mixtures resemble breadcrumbs, about 30 seconds.
- Add yogurt and pulse until the dough comes together into a ball, about 10 seconds. Do not over mix. The dough will be sticky.
- Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface, cut in fours, and form each piece into a disc. Wrap well and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight. At this point, the dough can be frozen to use at a later date. Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before proceeding.
- To prepare the filling, toast chopped nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the oven for 5 minutes at 400˚F.
- Cool nuts at room temperature and mix with brown sugar and cinnamon. The nut mixture can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight bag or container at room temperature until ready to use.
- Take one disc of dough out of the refrigerator and roll it to a ¼" thick round about 9 ½" in diameter on a well-floured surface. Dust dough, rolling pin, and surface with more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.
- Spread ¼ of the jam in a layer over the surface of the dough. Then sprinkle ¼ of the nut mixture all over the jam.
- Cut dough into 12 wedges with a sharp knife or pizza wheel. First, cut dough in half then in quarters, then cut each quart section into thirds.
- Use an offset spatula to gently pull a wedge out of the circle and then roll it up from the outer edge to the point. Transfer to a parchment-lined half baking sheet with seam side down.
- Repeat steps 8-11 with the second disc of dough.
- Brush the tops of the pastry with non-dairy milk and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
- Bake the first two sheets on the bottom and top third oven racks at 400˚F for about 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Turn sheets halfway through baking. The filling will ooze out a little during baking.
- While the first 2 sheets of cookies are baking, prepare the next 2 sheets by repeating steps 8-14.
- Allow cookies to cool on sheets for 1 minute before transferring them to cooling racks to cool to room temperature.
- Store cookies in covered containers or bags for up to 1 week at room temperature or freeze for up to 6 months. If frozen, thaw in the fridge then warm them back up in the oven before serving.
- Use thick non-dairy yogurt such as Coyo coconut yogurt or strain liquid from a runnier yogurt through a coffee filter or nut-milk cloth set in a strainer over a bowl to thicken it. Discard the liquid that collects in the bowl and use the thickened yogurt in the coffee filter/cloth.
- The thicker the jam the better as it tends to ooze out during baking. I found that the fig jam I used worked best, while apricot preserves were more runny.
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