For those of you unfamiliar with them, hamentashen are cookies that are made every year to celebrate the Jewish holiday Purim, which is next week. Purim is a holiday that usually falls in March and celebrates the Jews survival against a plot to destroy them in ancient Persia. What I have always loved about Purim is that the hero of the Purim story is Esther - a woman. The villain of the story is a man named Haman, who was an adviser to the king of Persia who planned to kill all the Jews is Persia (as described in the book of Esther in the Old Testament). As I remember the story, Haman wore a pointed hat and the triangle shaped cookie - hamentashen - was named after him. Purim is a fun holiday which is often celebrated by costume parties and pageants with the story of Esther. For many years now I have yearned for the hamentashen I ate as a kid - doughy with rich fillings of apricot, poppy seed and prune. I have not been able to find cookies like that anymore as the number of Jewish bakeries in Boston has dwindled to 1or 2. I never made them as a kid so the past few years I have been meaning to try, then March comes and goes and I don't get it. Finally this year I found the time. These are pretty easy cookies, and the ones I made were delicious, but did not quite replicate the ideal hamentashen of my youth (these are more shortbread consistency rather than doughy). Isn't that always the way, I will just have to try again next year!Hamentashen, adapted from Arthur Schwart'z Jewish Cooking
The most traditional hamentashen fillings are poppy seed and prune. I was looking for something a little more pederstrain so went with apricot (which is also pretty common) and cherry. I just used jam as the filling. This dough came together easily, but it was hard to get the cookies to keep their shape. For the second batch I made I refrigerated the cookies before baking for an hour, and that helped a lot.
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons butter, cold, cut into small cubes
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About half a cup of jam - your choice of flavor
2 egg whites lightly beaten with 2 teaspoons of sugar.
- For dough, in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pulse a couple of times to combine.
- Add the butter and pulse a few times to form mealy crumbs.
- In a small bowl beat the eggs, yolks and vanilla together until well combined.
- Pour the egg mixture into processor and pulse again a few times and then process for 10 seconds, keep pulsing until a dough forms.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured board and combine - press together into a ball. Divide in two and form two disks. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour, up to 3 days.
- When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350.
- Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Let the dough come to room temperature and then roll out on a floured board. Thickness should be a little more than 1/8 of an inch.
- Use a three inch cookie cutter to cut the dough into circles.
- When all the circles have been cut, put about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of jam in the center of each circle of dough.
- Brush the edge of the circle with egg wash.
- Use a dough scraper to make triangles - bring the sides together and pinch into a point. Then use a dough scraper to bring up the bottom, pinching the sides to seal the jam inside the triangle.
- Brush the formed cookies with egg wash.
- Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until lightly browned.
- Let rest in the sheet pan on a cookie rack for 2 to 3 minutes then loosen and remove the cookies with a spatula.