Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Sisterhood of the Flat Hamantaschen - Cookies for Purim!

Yesterday marked the start to the Jewish holiday of Purim, and for me that's always meant Hamantachen. The jam-filled tri-cornered cookies would always make an appearance in my neighborhood bakery around this time when I was little, and I'd clamor for my mother to get them for me. They were made pretty big, the cookies were about the size of a small fist, and set out while they were still warm. The cookies themselves were buttery and tender, and the jam (or poppy seed) filling was so gooey and tasty. 

My family isn't Jewish, so we didn't celebrate the actual holiday, but I had read about the history of Purim via one of the bastions of my childhood knowledge: Highlights for Kids magazine. Basically, Haman, the advisor to King Ahasuerus, tried to knock off the all the Jews, but was thwarted by Queen Esther and her cousin Mordecai. Obviously, this is something to celebrate, and much drinking and feasting ensues. Hamantash (the singular, of course) either refers to Haman's three-cornered hat or the shape of his ears, depending on who is retelling the tale. 

I'd always wanted to make some of my own, and I figured that now was a good a time as any. I enlisted my friend Rachael, one of my favorite Jews, to help me and share in the cookie goodness. After looking through a bunch of recipes, I decided to use one from Smitten Kitchen because it used cream cheese in the dough...and that made me curious. The recipe for the dough is also super easy. 

I am...the Hamantaschen whisperer. 
Ugh, I shouldn't take photos sometimes. I'm such a creeper. 

ANYWAY. The dough only needs cream cheese and butter, one egg, sugar, orange zest, flour, and salt. It was pretty sticky, so I used a couple of pinches of flour to get it into a ball. The recipe said to let the dough hydrate and chill in the fridge at least an hour....I think we left it alone for 45 minutes before we got impatient and set to rolling it out. 

Look at those flecks of orange zest and little chunks of butter! We knew this dough was gonna be GOOD. I rolled it out to about a 1/4 inch thickness, and used a drinking glass to cut out circles. We didn't have circular cutters on hand, so unless we wanted to have pumpkin-shaped cookies, we had to improvise. 

To fill our cookies, we decided to use two different types of preserves: apricot and strawberry-blackberry. For each cookie, we used a little less than a teaspoon of preserves. Place the preserves directly in the middle of the dough circle, then pinch your circle to create three points. You can use a little water or an egg wash (one beaten egg + a little water) brushed around the edge to make sure the points stick together easier.

Rach is wearing orange nail polish in honor of the Syracuse Orange basketball team. She loves 'em. 
She used the apricot preserves, and I was in charge of the strawberry-blackberry. 
The cookies baked in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until the dough was golden and the preserves were bubbly.

Our first tray of hamantaschen:

Maybe we should have let that dough stay in the fridge a while longer?

Oh dear. 

But wait!

There was a cutie to be found in the bunch. 

We let them cool, and then dug in heartily. The cream cheese added a lovely tenderness to the cookies, almost like another Jewish favorite, ruglelach. I loved the inclusion of the orange zest, which gave a little zip to the dough, without overwhelming the filling. 

We had some dough left over, and after a brief sojourn in the fridge, we rolled it out for more hamantaschen....

Flat as damn pancakes. I think only one (on the far right), was the only one that came close to looking sort of normal, and not like a gaping maw. 

Whatever. With a glass of milk, they were still crazy delicious and we had a blast making them. Happy Purim, everyone!

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