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Hooray for Hamantaschen

hamantaschen1Sunday is Purim, one of my favorite holidays in the Jewish calendar. What’s not to love? We celebrate the victory of good over evil, our kids dress up in costumes, and Eli and I do a puppet show together for the kids in our community. But before the holiday starts, we bake hamantaschen.

Hamantaschen are triangular cookies with a tasty filling in the center. The shape is meant to recall the allegedly triangular hat that Haman, the resident Purim bad guy, wore back in Persia. Whatever the origins of these cookies, they are delicious, fun to make and a wonderful activity to do with kids — if the recipe is good. The key to hamantaschen is in the dough, which needs to be rolled out, cut into circles, then pinched into a triangle. If the dough is sturdy, you’re in great shape. If not, it’s a disaster.

This recipe for hamantaschen has been my go-to recipe since before I got married. I’ve tried a couple of others over the years, mostly because I couldn’t remember which cookbook had the “good” recipe, and nothing works as well or tastes as good.

Hamantaschen (adapted from “The New Jewish Holiday Cookbook” by Gloria Kaufer Greene)

4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 3/4 cups flour (do NOT spoon lightly and level with a knife – it won’t be enough flour. I scoop with the 1-cup measure and then level with the knife)

Using an electric mixer (I use the paddle attachment), beat the eggs with the sugar until well combined. Add the oil and vanilla and beat to combine. Put in the baking powder and the salt, then gradually add the flour. When you’re done, the dough should be stiff enough that you can roll it into a ball and it will hold its shape and not stick to your hands (though it will feel sticky and leave behind a small amount of residue). If it’s very sticky, you need to add more flour (go easy – a couple of tablespoons at a time). Divide the dough in half and turn each piece out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap the dough and pat it into a disc. Put it in the fridge for at least a few hours, but I usually leave it overnight.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it soften slightly. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. Have a good, clean work surface ready for rolling out the dough, and sprinkle both the surface and the dough with flour. Roll the dough to about 1/4″ thick, then use a circular cookie cutter or biscuit cutter to cut the dough into rounds. I use a fairly small cutter – maybe 2″ or so – but you can use whatever you’d like. The bigger the circle, the bigger the cookie.

Arrange the circles on a baking sheet and put a small dollop of filling right in the center of each circle. I put my fillings into a pastry bag with an open tip and pipe them, which is much faster (and my kids always want a turn), but you can easily use a spoon. Bring together the top of the circle into a point by pinching with your thumb and forefinger. Then lift up the bottom of the circle using both hands and pinch simultaneously to form the triangle. If the dough is not sealing shut, swipe a little bit of water around the perimeter of the circle before pinching.

You can collect the leftover scraps of dough and roll them out again to cut more rounds. This is a very sturdy dough and can be handled extensively without losing any tenderness.

Arrange the hamantaschen about 1″ apart on a tray and bake until they just begin to turn brown. In my convection oven, it’s just over 10 minutes, but in a regular oven, it will be closer to 15-20. Cool them on the pan for 2-3 minutes, then transfer them to a wire cooling rack.

Filling ideas:
Dried fruit (we make apricot and prune – chop up 8 oz dried fruit, then bring to a boil with 3/4 cup fresh orange juice, 1/4 cup honey, 2 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp lemon juice. Simmer for 15 minutes until the fruit is very soft. Cool to lukewarm and process in a food processor until smooth. Taste and add extra sugar if necessary.)
Lemon Curd
Seedless raspberry jam
Cookie dough – I made the eggless dough from this recipe, then scooped into small balls and froze overnight. Use the frozen chunks of dough as filling and bake immediately so that the hamantaschen bakes but the cookie dough stays gooey.

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