Are you familiar with Hamantaschen, the triangular shaped, generally fruit filled cookies you see popping up everywhere? If you are, you know how delicious they are and you probably have a favorite filling already, poppy, prune, apricot, raspberry... If you're not, the short Sunday school lesson is that they're mainly eaten during the holiday of Purim and are shaped to represent the hat of an evil man who tried to destroy the Jewish people many years ago and was himself destroyed instead. Whatever, you do or don't know, these cookies are delicious, traditional, easy to make and so much tastier than any you'll find in a bakery, I guarantee!
Every year, I make these with my kids. When they were little it was a very messy process, what with the jam, the flour, the folding and pinching of the dough, the mini-chocolate chips (some little people didn't like jam back then) and I was always thoroughly exhausted after the ordeal...I mean, fun family experience. And the results were often less than stellar. Sometimes, the perfectionist in me, baked a batch after they had gone to sleep. But still, I treasured those times...even the sticky jammy fingerprints! Now that they're older and not frantic to "get their turn", I realize how quick and easy it is to make these, which means I really don't have to save them for just once a year!
You start the whole process by making a simple hand-mixed, butter-based dough, that is lightly flavored with orange juice and chilled overnight. Then it's just a matter of rolling out the highly cooperative dough, cutting out circles, topping each with a teaspoonful of your favorite jam, jelly chocolate or even Nutella and pinching the sides together to make the triangles.
One little trick I've learned along the way to help keep the shapes neat and more perfectly triangular is to stick the ready-to-bake hamantaschen in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. That helps to set the dough and keep the filling from running out like this! (I forgot to freeze my first batch!!)
Not that it really matters in my house (there will always be people happy to eat the less-than-perfect-looking rejects!) but if you freeze the dough and don't overload on the filling, you will find yourself with some pretty "a"cute triangles!!! Sorry, that's the math nerd in me!
My favorites are cherry and fig- although I do love a good apricot filled hamantaschen too! How about you? To all of you who celebrate, Happy Purim!!
Makes about 2 dozen large cookies
Prep Time: 15 minutes for dough (plus overnight chilling); Rolling out and Filling Time: 20-25 minutes; Bake Time: 12-15 minutes
- 2 cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch slices and chilled
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- Finely grated rind of 1 orange (optional--I didn't use)
- an assortment of jams, jellies, apple/prune butter, mini-chocolate chips or chunks, Nutella, whatever you want to fill your cookies with
1. Into a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like a very fine coarse meal. Add in the beaten egg, the orange juice and the orange rind (if using) and mix well until the dough is moistened. Using your hands, clump together the dough and any dry mixture that has not been incorporated and form into a large ball, squeezing it together if necessary. Flatten the dough into a large disk and wrap well in plastic wrap. Chill overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
3. On a well floured board, using a well floured rolling pin, roll the dough out evenly to about a 1/8-inch thickness, turning it over and making sure it isn't sticking. Use more flour if necessary. Now, with a floured 2 or 3 inch circular cookie cutter or inverted drinking glass, cut out circles and place them on the prepared sheets. Gather the dough scraps together and re-roll, cutting out as many circles as possible until all of the dough has been used up.
4. Now place a teaspoonful of whatever filling you are using in the center of each circle of dough and fold up two sides of the dough, pinching them together where they meet. Then fold up the remaining side and pinch it to connect to the other two, forming a triangle, in which some of the filling is partially covered by the dough. If you find your filling mounded up very high, you may have overfilled it and the filling may run out during baking. Repeat with all of the other circles of dough. Make sure cookies are about 2 inches apart (they spread a lot during baking) and place the whole cookie sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes. Prepare the other sheet and place in the freezer too or wait until the first sheet comes out if you don't have sufficient room.
5. When cookies have chilled, place one sheet at a time in oven for 12-15 minutes, turning the tray around once during the baking process. Check early and often because these tend to go from light golden to dark very quickly. When cookies are golden brown, remove from oven and cool on sheet on a rack. Repeat with second sheet.
6. Cookies are best eaten on the same day they are baked but will keep for several days in an airtight container at room temperature.
Note: Cookie dough recipe adapted from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies. I left out the orange zest and increased the amount of orange juice used. I also added the chilling method because I find it's the only reliable way to ensure neatly baked cookies. The fillings can be whatever you want them to be. Just remember that the thicker the filling, the better luck you will have with it staying inside the cookie.