These bite-size, crescent-shaped cookies, made with cream-cheese dough and filled with raisins, nuts, and jam, originated in Poland. Rugelach (which means "little twists" in Yiddish) is traditionally baked for Hanukkah.
Cream Cheese Pastry: Using an electric mixer or wooden spoon, cream the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl until soft and well blended. Stir in the salt and confectioners' sugar. Add the flour a third at a time, beating well each time.
Gather the dough into a ball and place it on a floured surface. With floured hands, knead the dough 3 or 4 times to smooth it. Divide the dough into 2 balls. Place each on a large piece of plastic wrap, flatten it into a 3/4-inch-thick disk, wrap it in the plastic, and chill it for at least 2 hours before rolling it out.
Filling: Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly greased aluminum foil. Set the sheet aside.
Combine the walnuts, raisins, sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor and pulse the machine repeatedly until the mixture is finely chopped (or finely chop the nuts and raisins by hand, then stir together the ingredients). Transfer the mixture to a small bowl.
Working with 1 disk of pastry at a time, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle on a sheet of lightly floured waxed paper, dusting the dough with flour to prevent the pin from sticking. If the dough is too stiff to roll, let it set a few minutes to soften slightly. When you're done rolling, slide the paper and pastry onto another baking sheet and chill for 10 minutes before proceeding. Meanwhile, roll out the other pastry disk the same way and chill it on a baking sheet. (If you don't have enough baking sheets, you can complete the first batch before starting the second.)
With the chilled pastry still on its baking sheet, smear 2 tablespoons of raspberry preserves over the dough, leaving uncovered a 1/2-inch border all around and a 2-inch circle in the center (this will help prevent jelly from oozing out). Cover the preserves with about half of the nut and raisin mixture, spreading it evenly.
Using a pastry wheel or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 12 wedges, as you would cut a pie. Starting at the wide point, roll up each wedge like a carpet. Place the rugelach point down on the lined baking sheet. Pull the ends down, just a little, to form crescents. Chill the cookies on the baking sheet for 10 minutes while you heat the oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, assemble the second batch of rugelach and chill it.
Lightly brush the chilled cookies with milk and sprinkle on a bit of sugar. Bake the rugelach on the center oven rack, one sheet at a time, for approximately 18 to 20 minutes, until light golden. Cool them briefly on the sheet, then transfer them to a wire rack with a spatula. Makes 24 cookies.