Cookie of the Month: Fulfilling Hamantaschen

Hamantaschen, another cookie with Jewish heritage, also falls into the “cookie pastry” category. I would dare say that these little tri-cornered pockets, filled with preserves or homemade fillings, almost seem of their own type of “cookie tart” and could find their place rightfully in that role on any teatime table.

I first tasted Hamantaschen — which are commonly served for the Jewish spring holiday of Purim — in a packaged form and was immediately smitten. A shortbread-like dough, in a unique triangular shape (said to resemble a three-cornered hat…for more on the cookies’ history, go to https://www.foodandwine.com/news/history-hamantaschen), filled to the brim with apricot filling. What’s not to love?

Every year, I vow to make them…then, per usual, somehow I get on to other things and remember how I forgot to make them later (TMI to my state of mind, sorry). But this year, with my “cookie-of-the-month” feature in place, Hamantaschen would have a priority in my springtime baking poster.

Some Hamantaschen recipes include butter; some are dairy-free (using oil). I picked a recipe from King Arthur Flour (https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/hamantaschen-recipe), that gave the option of using butter or butter-flavored shortening, if one wanted to make them dairy-free. I thought this was a good compromise. Since I am not Jewish, and mainly cookie-curious, I went ahead and chose to use butter.

My mantra of putting lemon zest in everything was satisfied with this recipe, which calls for two tablespoons.   It would add nice flavor to the cookie dough, which also included vanilla and calls for lemon oil. Since I did not have lemon oil, I decided to go with a wee bit of almond extract.

These flavorings are creamed with butter, sugar and salt to a fine fluffy consistency in the stand mixer.

Flour, baking powder and an egg-and-a-half (one egg and one egg white) are added to make a somewhat crumbly dough.

With a little handiwork, the dough came together to be pressed to form a ball.

I cut the dough in half and wrapped the two disks of cough in plastic to chill. Though the directions say to chill for an hour, I left mine in until the next day, when I would roll out, fill and shape the cookies.

I let the dough warm up slightly on the counter, then rolled it out on a lightly floured work surface to about 1/4-inch thick. Using my handy 3-1/2-inch cutter (I got a nice no -frills, utilitarian set of round cutters in a range of sizes), I cut circles of dough. Sizing it all up, It looked to me that the yield of this recipe would be far less than the four dozen promised by the recipe. I would likely end up with half that (just a forewarning).

I placed about six dough circles on my parchment-lined baking sheet.

While a poppyseed filling (using dried fruits and honey) is common for Hamantaschen, you can also fill them with preserves. I had found some apricot and pear (!) preserves at a local open-air market that I thought would be perfect for these cookies.

The preserves were thick and full of chunks of fruit. They nearly gleamed as I doled out teaspoonfuls on each dough round. Recommendations I read said it was best to under-fill than overfill each cookie.

The leftover egg yolk from the eggs used in the dough was beaten with water and used as a “glue” brushed around the edge of each dough round.

Iwas a little wary of the shaping (knowing my inability for precision in pretty much anything that requires uniformity and precision), but it was almost a natural and actually fun process. The cookies I’d eaten had a kind of pinched-together shape. I had also seen Hamantaschen that appeared to have folded corners. I chose to pinch three corners together, striving for some sort of uniformity, but mainly making sure there would be a solid pocket for the filling.

They turned out pretty well. I had also been concerned about the dough cracking, but it was sturdy enough and the molding went along swimmingly (sometimes these tactile practices, in our technological age, are pure heaven).

The little triangular pockets baked up to a light golden brown…no filling was lost and they pretty much held their shape.

When they were placed on the rack to cool, I decided to eat one warm. Oh, boy, these would have to make more than a one-time appearance in my kitchen. The tender, slightly sweet dough held just enough of the chunky preserves, like a perfect little tart, for holidays or anytime.

For the recipe, go to https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/hamantaschen-recipe.

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