Saturday, February 27, 2010

hamantaschen for purim

Purim is celebrated this weekend. With Purim come graggers (noisemakers), drinking and general merrymaking, and hamantaschen! I always think of the Jewish holidays as great opportunities to share our culture and traditions with the kids; they have helped punch down and braid challah, and make flourless cookies for Passover, and today, they helped bake hamantaschen. We brought the dough and fillings down to my parents' house, and it was great fun to see my mom supervise the rolling while Josh and my dad helped Boy-o and Bug Bug shape the cookies.

Flavors like apricot, cherry, prune, and poppyseed are traditional. We made apricot, cherry, and (non-traditional) chocolate chip. We also got fancy and made apricot-chocolate chip and cherry-chocolate chip as an experiment.

I don't have a standby hamantaschen dough recipe. Marcy Goldman's recipe, which we made today, tasted fine and did its job (held the triangular shape and didn't let the filling ooze out). I'd hang onto this recipe, but the dough is a little sweeter and cakier than I'd prefer, so I'll experiment more to find one I really love. The dough was particularly sticky - maybe because of the weather? - so I rolled and cut the cookie circles, and the kids filled them and pinched the corners into triangles. It actually turned out to be just the right amount of time for their attention spans, though I think it would be fun for them to try rolling/cutting with a more forgiving dough.

We used canned filling (I think it was Solo brand, which is kosher), though it's super easy to make your own. I had planned to make a prune-apricot filling - soften the dried fruits with boiling water for a few minutes, then puree in the food processor with a little sugar and perhaps a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten the flavor. Obviously, that's not an exact science, but I'm sure the Interweb is rife with recipes. Because each cookie takes only about a teaspoon of filling - and you have to resist the temptation to overfill the cookies - you don't need much to make quite a few cookies.

(Makes 4-6 dozen. Can easily be doubled or halved.)

1 stick butter
1/2 cup shortening (I know, but I swear you can't even taste it in the dough, let alone the cookie)
1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup orange juice or milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups (17 ounces) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Cream the butter, shortening, and sugar. Add the eggs and blend until smooth. Stir in orange juice or milk and vanilla. If the mixture looks curdled, beat in about a half-cup of the flour, but hang onto the rest of it; you're going to fold it in by hand so you don't overwork the dough.

Dump in the remaining flour, the salt, and the baking powder. Fold it in using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, until you have a firm but soft dough. Now, most recipes want you to chill the dough for several hours before the next step. Marcy just asks that you let the dough rest for 10 minutes. I let mine chill overnight (more for logistical reasons), but as I said above, it became very wet. Next time, I'll try it without chilling. The dough can be made in advance and refrigerated for a few days or frozen. Defrost it in the fridge (probably overnight).

When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F. Roll out the dough on a floured board. You want it about 1/8 to 1/4" thick. If it's too thin, it's hard to work with, so I aim for 1/4". Use a 2" or 3" round cookie cutter (or a glass - it's not fussy) to cut out circles. Transfer them to a parchment- or silpat-lined baking sheet, about an inch or so apart. I used parchment very successfully today.

Spoon a teaspoon of filling into the center of each circle (or a smattering of chocolate chips). Do not overfill. Dip your finger in a little water and run it around the edge of the circle. That's the glue. Starting at the top of one circle, lift the left and right sides of the cookie, folding slightly around the filling, and pinch together (until seamless) to make the top point of the triangle. Then lift the bottom of the cookie up toward the center and pinch together the sides on the bottom left and bottom right to make the other two points. I like to have some filling showing in the center.

I'm making this sound way more complicated than it is.

Some people prefer to fold the dough, and over at The Cupcake Project, Stef's got photos to show you how. I think this method probably works better with a stiffer dough. I made one this way, and it came out kind of ugly, but I'd definitely try it again. If you fold instead of pinching, I think it would look pretty to use a fluted cookie cutter.

Bake until they are golden brown. This took about 15 minutes at my mom's, but I'd say anywhere between 12-18 depending on your oven. Keep an eye on them. You can cool them right on the cookie sheet, or if you're baking more batches, transfer them to a cooling rack after a few minutes.

Oh, today we'll merry merry be, and nosh some hamantaschen!


Sandra Dee said...

How did the chocolate and fruit ones taste? Raspberry and chocolate chip would be a taster I'd try :-)

jami said...

Apparently, I'm a traditionalist when it comes to hamantaschen. I didn't like the fruit/choc chip ones OR the plain choc chip ones.