Well, now that we’re done with all the corned beef and Guinness we can move in to important things: hamantaschen, for Purim this weekend!
I grew up down the road from an excellent Jewish bakery – Kaplan’s on Hope Street in Providence, RI. The owners have since retired, but I still remember Mrs. Kaplan’s hamantaschen and babka. These days bakeries often keep hamantaschen all year around, but the Kaplans only brought them out in spring as a special Purim treat. And I would go totally nuts for them. My reaction was similar to that of Allie at Hyperbole and a Half to cake.
Hamantaschen, for those of you who are seriously confused by Yiddish right now, are triangular sugar cookie pockets traditionally filled with poppy seed paste, nuts and dried fruit, or preserves. They’re linked to the Jewish holiday Purim. I’m not going to go into the full Purim story right now (you can read up on it here), but the basic gist is: the Good Queen Esther used brains and beauty to save the the Jews from Haman, the King’s murderous anti-Semitic Prime Minister. Hence the “Haman” in hamantaschen, which are supposed to represent Haman’s ears. Grisly in a really Old Testament way…but still very tasty.
I started out intending to do a really traditional poppy paste filling, but then this article in the New York Times
inspired me to get creative. The dough recipe is old school – from The Complete American Jewish Cookbook, of course – but I whipped up a delicious ginger-almond frangipane for the center.
The cookies are actually very simple to shape and fill: you start by rolling your dough out to 1/4-inch thickness.
I cut out circles about 4 inches in diameter because I like nice big hamantaschen. Using a plastic container. Classy.
The you dollop a heaping teaspoon of filling in the middle of the circles.
Finally, we get to the folding. Hamantaschen recipes often tell you to pinch the corners of your triangles together; this method has mixed success. I’ve found that the folding method works far better and keeps your cookies from falling open while baking. The key: fold the corners over, like so:
Until you have a nice, pretty sheet of triangles.
Hamantaschen (Makes 12 large cookies or 18 small)
For the Dough
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla or brandy
For the Filling
1/4 c. sugar
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla or brandy
1/2 c. ground almonds or almond meal
1 tbsp. flour
3-4 tbsp. chopped candied ginger
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
2. Use your mixer’s paddle attachment to cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated.
3. Add one tablespoon of milk, beat briefly, then mix in half the dry ingredients. Finish up with the second tablespoon of milk and the last of the dry ingredients.
4. Form the dough into a ball, press it into a 1-inch thick disc, and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
5. While the dough is refrigerating, make the filling by blending all filling ingredients in a food processor.
6. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out on a well-floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness.
7. Cut out as many 4-inch circles as you can (reserve the scraps, form them into a ball, and repeat the rolling and filling process with this dough to get as many cookies as possibe).
8. Dollop a heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle. Fold the sides of the circle up to form a triangle, and fold the corners of the triangle over each other to seal the pockets. Use a spatula to place the cookies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
9. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the cookies start to turn golden brown on top. Enjoy!