There are few Israeli desserts as loved as chocolate rugelach. They are sweet, have an incredible chocolate filling, and are made beautiful by a sprinkling of sesame seeds.
Best of all, these chocolate rugelach are dairy free! It is made without butter and cream cheese.
Shopkeepers had just finished putting their goods out and the aromas of fresh baked bread and goodies filled the air.
It is our custom that whenever we go to the market we buy nuts and pickled vegetables and nibble on them while strolling around.
This time though, before we could buy anything, we came across a stall that had fresh baked rugelach that were just being taken out of the oven. The smell was intoxicating.
As the baker placed them on the counter, we saw that they were smothered in simple syrup and sitting in a bath of chocolate that leaked out of them.
Needless to say, we got some right away!
They were gooey, sweet, and rich in deep chocolate.
Israeli rugelach differ from other types in a number of ways.
For one thing, they are always really soft and often gooey, are almost always filled with chocolate, and are usually sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Also, I’ve never seen any made with cream cheese and are usually dairy free.
While I don’t have a recipe for the gooey ones yet, this recipe is for soft ones, but trust me, you wont be disappointed.
Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. 10% of all profits are donated to charity.
WHAT YOU NEED
BREAD FLOUR VS ALL PURPOSE FLOUR
Bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose, which helps with gluten development.
Some recipes call for it if an especially chewy texture is desired. It will also produce a heavier and denser loaf.
All-purpose flour has a lower protein content, but can generally be substituted for bread flour.
I almost never use anything other than all-purpose flour, including in bread recipes. I like it because it’s inexpensive and extremely versatile.
HOW TO MEASURE FLOUR AND OTHER DRY INGREDIENTS
Using a dry measuring cup, scoop ingredients from the bag or spoon them into the cup.
Next, level off the ingredient by removing the excess with an upside-down butter knife.
The one exception to this is brown sugar. Brown sugar should be packed down, and then any excess should be scraped off as well.
DRY VS LIQUID MEASURING CUP
Ever wonder why measuring spoons often come with a set of measuring cups? I used to. I didn’t see why we needed a set when we could have one large measuring cup.
After a quick search, I had my answer. I discovered that the large measuring cup is used for liquids, whereas the set is used for dry ingredients.
As it turns out, if you try to measure dry ingredients with a liquid cup, the measurements get messed up.
First, you pour the flour or cocoa in, next you shake it around to get it level, and then you add more.
By shaking it, you are causing the powder to settle, and when you add more, you end up using more than called for.
WHY SIFT FLOUR and Other Powder Ingredients
There are a number of benefits to sifting flour and other ingredients like cocoa:
It removes any unwanted debris and you can get a more accurate measurement than when packed tightly in a bag.
It also removes any lumps that can get into the batter and be hard to break up later, or be missed altogether before baking.
If you sift the powdered ingredients together, it helps combine them and mix more evenly with other dry ingredients like sugar.
Types of YEAST
There are seven different types of yeast used for baking. However, only five are relevant to home bakers:
Wild yeast is found naturally in the air. This type of yeast is used for sourdough breads, and in order to use it, you need to make a sourdough starter.
Fresh yeast (a.k.a. cake yeast), block yeast, wet yeast, or compressed yeast is found in small, foil-wrapped cubes.
It is far less popular with home bakers because it’s highly perishable. However, it is still widely available for commercial use and is still used by home bakers in some countries.
The benefits of using it is that it’s easier to measure and has the most leavening power.
If you want to use fresh yeast in this recipe: for every 1 teaspoon of instant dry yeast, you’d need 17 grams (or .6 ounces) of fresh yeast.
Make sure to bloom it before using it in this recipe.
ACTIVE DRY YEAST
Active dry yeast looks like large grained powder, mainly used by home bakers in the States.
It has a much longer lifespan than compressed yeast, lasting up to a year at room temperature and more than a decade if frozen.
Unlike other types of yeast, it needs to proof first. This means it is rehydrated in warm liquid such as water or milk to activate it.
The main downside of using this is that a lot of the yeast is already dead, so you need more of it than other yeasts. This can cause an undesired yeast flavor.
If you want to use active dry yeast in this recipe, for 1 teaspoon of instant dry yeast you need 1 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast.
Make sure to bloom it first before using it in this recipe.
Instant yeast looks the same as active dry yeast. However, it does not need to be proofed before using.
Instead of having to be activated in warm liquid first, it can be added as is when making the dough.
It is more perishable than active dry yeast, lasting only 2 to 4 months at room temperature and for years in the freezer.
This is my favorite type of yeast to use because it lasts longer than fresh yeast, and you need less of it than active dry yeast.
Rapid-rise yeast is often specifically marketed toward users of bread machines. It’s essentially instant yeast with a smaller grain. The smaller granules allow it to dissolve faster in the dough and therefore rise faster.
While most baking experts believe that the bread flavors aren’t as developed by using this yeast, others feel it makes little difference.
WHY BlOOM INSTANT YEAST?
As mentioned above, active dry yeast needs to be bloomed (aka proofed) before use to activate it, but I also proof instant yeast. The reason for this is because it helps troubleshoot if any problems come up.
By blooming the yeast first, you know it is active. So, if the dough has trouble rising, you know it’s not the yeast.
This is particularly useful when you don’t have a “warm” place to let it rise.
How to Bloom Yeast
To bloom, place the yeast, warm water, and sugar together in the bowl. Stir and wait for it to activate.
You know the yeast is activated when foam appears on the surface. This can take up to 10 minutes.
Please note that hot water will kill the yeast and cool water won’t activate it. Lukewarm water is ideal.
If you are using fresh yeast, make sure to break it up with a fork once it is in the water.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE DOUGH TO RISE?
How quickly dough rises depends on how warm the place it is rising in is.
If you put it in the fridge for instance, it could take 8 hours or so. In the summer in Israel, it rises very quickly.
If you leave it on the counter in a comfortably warm room, it’s usually 45 minutes.
HOW TO RISE BREAD FASTER
I often find myself running late and need the dough to rise faster. Or sometimes, in the winter, I don’t have a warm place and the dough takes forever to rise. So, I let my dough rise in a warm oven.
What I do is preheat the oven to its lowest temperature and turn it off. Then, I cover the dough with a damp towel and place it in the oven.
This trick works for me everytime. On occasion, I may need to remove the dough and preheat the oven another time or two, but usually just once does the trick.
The downside to this process is that some bakers feel it doesn’t allow for flavors to really develop. Personally, I’ve never noticed much of a difference.
PUNCHING DOUGH DOWN
Punching is a bit of a strong word. Yeast is a delicate living thing, so you actually need to treat it with care.
What you’re really doing is lightly pressing down the dough through the center with your fist. This removes gasses that have formed during the first rise, allowing for a better crumb.
By doing this, you are also bring the yeast, sugar, and moisture back together which is important for the second rise as the yeast feeds on the sugar.
After you “punch” the dough, you should pull edges of the dough to the center. Once you’re done, take the dough out of the bowl, place it on a lightly floured board, turn over, and shape your dough into a ball.
If desired, you can knead the dough two or three times to release additional air bubbles.
LET THE DOUGH REST
While you don’t need to let the dough rest after punching it down, it is preferable to.
If you have the time, allow the dough to rest between 10 to 40 minutes. Ideally no less than 15 minutes.
This will allow the gluten to relax making the dough easier to roll out and shape.
I often allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes in the fridge with a damp towel. Chilled dough can be easier to work with.
THE SECOND RISE
The second rise allows the yeast to feed longer on the sugar. This allows the bread to become larger, have a better crumb, and develop a better flavor.
Also, if you were to let it rise only once, punch it down, shape it, and stick it in the oven, your bread would rise somewhat, but not enough for it to become fluffy.
Baking with Humidity
Humidity can have a big impact on how your baked goods come out.
This is because when humidity is extremely high (think 70 percent or more), baking ingredients like flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda soak up moisture from the air.
This can negatively impact the outcome of your cakes, cookies, yeast breads, and quick breads.
There are some things you can do to try to save your baking.
Try to counterbalance the additional moisture
To help counterbalance the additional moisture your dry ingredients soak up from the air, try reducing the amount of liquid in the recipe by about one-quarter.
If the batter or dough looks too dry once all the ingredients are mixed together, add an additional liquid tablespoon at a time until you have the desired consistency.
This is not usually possible to do for cookies, but it does work for cakes and breads.
Store Ingredients in the Fridge
If flour and sugar are stored in the refrigerator or freezer rather than in a cupboard or pantry, they are better protected from humidity.
As an added benefit, keeping these ingredients cool also helps keep them fresher longer, in addition to helping them stay bug-free.
For the best results, let them warm to room temperature before using.
Bake for Longer
If you bake your goodies for a few extra minutes, it can help the liquid to cook off.
To avoid overbaking, continue testing for doneness every couple of minutes for breads, quick breads, cakes, cupcakes, and muffins. Cookies, on the other hand, need to be checked every minute.
Use Air Conditioning
To help lower humidity levels on humid summer days, air condition the room for at least an hour before you start baking.
Cooler air isn’t able to hold as much moisture as warm air.
Store your baked goods in an airtight container
Humidity can also ruin your fresh-baked goods because when they are left out, they can absorb moisture.
To avoid this, store them in an airtight container or resealable bag.
BAKING WITH OIL
In general, oil in baked goods makes for a superior texture than those made with butter.
Oil cakes tend to bake up taller with a better crumb. They also stay moist and tender far longer than recipes made with butter.
Furthermore, since oil is lighter than butter, the texture of oil cakes is lighter too.
Also, given that oil is 100% fat while most American butter is 15% water, it creates a more tender crumb.
This is due to the fact that the extra water strengthens the gluten, resulting in a crumb that’s more dense.
Which Type Of Oil to Use
I use neutral oils like canola oil, safflower oil, and vegetable oil. However, it’s not unheard of for oils with stronger flavors like olive oil or coconut oil to be used.
If using olive oil, I recommend using pure olive oil for its milder flavor and higher smoking point.
Is it better to use canola oil or olive oil?
Canola oil is relatively cheap and, due to its lack of flavor and high smoke point is very versatile. This means it can be used in many different forms of cooking that require very high heat (such as baking, frying, grilling, etc.) without it smoking or burning and is ideal to use in baked goods which require a fat to make them moist while not affecting the flavor.
Olive oil, on the other hand, is known to be healthier and its stronger flavor makes it preferable in recipes such as focaccia which require its distinct taste. However, keep in mind its smoke point isn’t as high as canola oil’s and will burn more easily.
Baking with Oil Conversion Chart
If you want to convert your butter recipes to oil recipes, check out my baking with oil – butter to oil conversion chart.
Sugar may seem very basic if you’ve baked before, but I’ve been asked about it in the past – so I’ll explain.
There are many different types of sugar, including white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla sugar, powdered sugar, turbinado sugar, and demerara sugar.
When a recipe (any recipe, not just mine) says “sugar” without specifying anything else, it is regular white sugar.
White sugar (sometimes called granulated sugar, table sugar, or white granulated sugar) is made of either beet sugar or cane sugar, which has undergone a refining process.
It is the easiest to find and most commonly used.
Brown sugar is white sugar with molasses added to it.
It is commonly used in chocolate chip cookie recipes, and it’s rare for a recipe that calls for brown sugar not to also call for white sugar as well.
When a recipe calls for “brown sugar” but doesn’t specify what type (light or dark), it is referring to light brown sugar.
In my recipes, you can use whatever type of brown sugar you have on hand, whether it is dark brown sugar, light brown sugar, or demerara sugar – which is very common in Israel.
Just keep in mind that the flavor and color will be slightly different depending on what you choose to use.
Turbinado sugar is better known as “raw sugar”. But, despite this name, the sugar is not really “raw.”
Instead, it’s partially refined sugar that retains some of the original molasses.
The term “raw sugar” may also give off the impression that it is somehow healthier.
In reality, turbinado sugar is nutritionally similar to white sugar.
Demerara sugar is very popular in Israel and is especially delicious in tea, but is also used for baking.
Unlike white sugar, demerara sugar undergoes minimal processing and retains some vitamins and mineral.
However, it is still not much healthier than white sugar.
Vanilla sugar is not very common in the States. However, it is common in Israel and parts of Europe.
This is sugar that sat for an extended period of time with vanilla beans, giving it a vanilla flavor.
This type of sugar is common in the United Kingdom.
It has a grain finer than white (granulated) sugar and larger than powdered sugar.
Caster sugar is often called for in recipes for delicate baked goods like meringues, souffles, and sponge cakes.
You can use a 1:1 conversion rate between caster sugar and white (granulated) sugar.
Powdered sugar, sometimes known as confectioners’ sugar, is a sugar with a powdered texture.
This sugar is rarely, if ever, used for baking. Instead, it is used for dusting desserts and making frosting and icings.
In some countries, you can also find powdered vanilla sugar.
It is made the exact same way regular vanilla sugar is made. However, the sugar used is powdered instead of granulated.
Vanilla Extract vs Vanilla sugar
In my recipes, I don’t specify what kind of vanilla to use.
The reason for this is that in the States, vanilla extract is exclusively used.
Meanwhile in Israel, along with many European countries, vanilla sugar is common.
In most, if not all recipes, both vanilla extract and vanilla sugar can be used.
In recipes where vanilla sugar can be used instead of extract, you can replace them 1:1.
Replacing Sugar with Honey
If you’d prefer to use honey instead of sugar, you can do so with pretty good results.
Honey can be two or even three times as sweet depending on the honey, so for every 1 cup of sugar, you can use 1/2 to 2/3 cup honey.
Since honey adds liquid, you need to remove some to balance it out. For every cup of honey remove a 1/4 cup of liquid.
Also, it burns faster than granulated sugar, so you want to lower the baking temperature by 25 F or 4 C. In addition, check it early and often to avoid burning or overbaking.
WHICH TYPE OF COCOA TO USE
When a recipe calls for cocoa, always use unsweetened cocoa powder, unless specified otherwise.
This allows you to have better control of the sweetness of what you’re making.
There are three basic forms of unsweetened cocoa powder.
NATURAL COCOA POWDER
Natural cocoa powder comes from cocoa beans that are fermented, roasted, processed at a higher heat, and milled into a powder.
It’s bitter, with a very strong and concentrated chocolate flavor.
This cocoa powder is acidic and is often used in recipes calling for baking soda, because the two react with each other to allow your baked good to rise.
This is most commonly used, and should be used, in recipes that simply say “cocoa powder.”
DUTCH-PROCESS COCOA POWDER
Dutch-process cocoa powder starts with cocoa beans that have been washed in potassium carbonate which neutralizes their acidity.
Since Dutch-process cocoa powder is neutral, it does not react with baking soda.
When baking, Dutch-process cocoa is often paired with baking powder.
Dutch-process cocoa powder can also be used in place of natural cocoa powder in recipes that don’t require leavening.
These include sauces, hot cocoa, frostings, ice cream, pudding, etc.
If you only have Dutch-process cocoa powder on hand, you can substitute it for neutral cocoa powder.
Just make sure to add 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar, white vinegar, or lemon juice for every 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder called for in the recipe.
RAW CACAO POWDER
Raw cacao powder is different from natural and Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder.
It’s pure powder from the cacao bean and isn’t nearly as processed as both natural and Dutch-process.
Cocoa is processed at high heat, which destroys much of the nutritional benefits of the cacao seed.
Also, cocoa powder is often alkalized during processing to reduce acidity. The result is a product that’s less bitter and more soluble when added to liquids.
Cacao powder, on the other hand, is made of fermented – not roasted – seeds that are processed at low temperatures and then milled into a powder, ensuring its nutritional benefits and its bitter flavor are preserved.
You can use raw cacao powder in recipes that don’t specify Dutch-process cocoa powder, however it is best not to try to.
Compared to cocoa powder, cacao powder has a stronger flavor, it is not as absorbent as cocoa powder, and it is more acidic, so it will react differently with baking soda.
DO EGGS NEED TO BE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE?
The short answer is “no”. While a side-by-side comparison shows that baking with eggs at room temperature makes a better crumb, it’s not otherwise noticeable.
What are Eggs used for?
Eggs do three things in most recipes: they help bind the ingredients together, act as a mild leavening agent, and they add moisture.
EGG FREE OPTION
Eggs can be substituted with 1/4 cup of unsweetened apple sauce per egg. This means for recipes calling for 2 eggs, you’d need 1/2 cup of unsweetened apple sauce.
The reason applesauce makes a good binder is that it’s high in pectin. Pectin is a naturally occurring starch in fruits and berries that acts as a thickening agent and stabilizer in food.
This happens when combined with sugar and acid (if the fruit or berry isn’t naturally acidic).
Just keep in mind that it may change the flavor slightly.
ARE EGGS DAIRY?
No, eggs are not dairy. Dairy is milk and any food products made from milk, including cheese, cream, butter, and yogurt.
So, while eggs are an animal product, they are not dairy. In fact, eggs fall under the protein food group.
WHY IS IT TAKING LONGER THAN DESCRIBED TO BAKE?
Over time, the thermostat on ovens gets a little off, causing some ovens to run hot and others to run cool. This is why recipes tend to say things like “10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.”
So, if it takes you longer than expected that’s fine, don’t worry about it. Just keep baking until ready.
WHY DID MY RECIPE COME OUT TOO DRY?
Just like some ovens run cool, others run hot. If you’re oven runs hot, bake these at a lower temperature. Ideally, you should get an oven thermometer to know what temperature you’re really baking at.
Do not substitute the filling for Nutella or chocolate spread. Many recipes, even ones in Hebrew, recommend doing this. I tried it once while making babka thinking it would save me time. When I pulled it out of the oven the top looked great, but the flavor was barely noticeable.
I made some triangles too wide so they came out huge or too narrow so they had no shape. Also, I made the mistake of letting them rise too much so they were too round and too cakey.