It was the Jewish holiday of Purim and I craved hamantaschen. Purim is the annual commemoration of events described in the Book of Esther in the Old Testament when the Jews were under Persian rule. (You can read the synopsis here – and actually, the book of Esther is probably shorter).
These little jam-filled triangular cookies supposedly took their shape from the tri-cornered hat that Haman, the “bad guy,” supposedly wore. (If this is true, then I have no idea why these cookies are called hamantaschen, which means “Haman’s pocket”… unless he used his hat as a depository? If any of you are in the know, please do share!).
This recipe I followed, taken from The Great Hadassah Cookbook (Edmonton, Hurtig Publishers Ltd., 1982), was found on the web. I made three fillings (prune & walnut, apricot, and cherry), all loosely based off the recipes that accompanied the cookie dough from the cookbook. I liberally adapted these so they are more of my own creation.
What prompted my craving for these cookies was a picture of Hungarian beigli and strudels stuffed with poppy seed filling – a traditionally pastry, which I enjoyed when I was in Budapest during Christmastime. I even tracked down a local market here in Kansas City that sells poppy seeds in a quantity more than the little over-priced jars in the spice aisles in the local *brand* market… ironically, I abandoned the poppy seed recipe at the last minute in favor of the three fruit-based fillings… next time.
Dough (makes about 22 cookies)
½ cup (125 ml) butter
1 cup (250 ml) sugar
2 (500 ml) cups flour
2 tsp. (10 ml) baking powder
2 tbsp. (30 ml) milk
2-3 drops of pure lemon extract
Cream butter and sugar, and add egg. Sift flour and baking powder together and add a little to creamed mixture. Add milk, then remaining flour. Mix in flavoring. Roll dough out 1/8 to ¼ inch (2.5 to 5 mm) thick. Cut into rounds, dot each with a spoonful of filling (see below), form into triangles, and bake at 375 degrees (190 C) for 15 to 30 minutes until delicately browned.
* Cook’s note: the dough is very soft. I would suggest refrigerating it for at least an hour before trying to roll it out. My friend also shared an excellent tip that I will pass along to you: roll the dough out between two sheets of wax paper, flipping the dough over (as you would on a normal roll) and peeling and re-positioning the wax sheets on each turn (to ensure an even roll). This reduces the amount of flour you have to use, and therefore, keeps the cookies a lighter. For the final cut-outs, simply dust a very light coat of flour – just enough to keep the dough from sticking to your cutter.
Poppy Seed Filling (I didn’t try this recipe)
1 cup (250 ml) poppy seed
1 cup (250 ml) milk
1 oz. (30 g) butter
2 tbsp. (30 ml) honey
1 tart apple, grated
Bring poppy seed and milk to boil, add butter and honey, and boil until thick. Cool, then add grated apple.
1 lb. (450 g) dried apricots
1 cup (250 ml) honey
1 tbsp. (15 ml) orange rind, grated
3 tbsp. (45 ml) orange juice
Soak apricots overnight in water to cover. Drain, then puree. Combine with honey, orange rind and juice.
Prune & Walnut Filling
I adapted this recipe by adding walnuts, which are optional. I’m not usually a nut-guy, but I thought it would be a nice addition to help cut the cloying richness of the prune… it ended up being everyone’s (including my) favorite of the three.1 lb. (500 g) prunes, pitted1 cup (250 ml) raisins
2 tbsp. (15 ml) lemon juice
1 tsp. (5 ml) lemon rind, grated
½ cup (125 ml) sugar
1 tbsp. (15 ml) honey
1 cup walnuts, chopped
Soak prunes overnight in cold water, or for two hours in hot water. Drain. Chop prunes and raisins. Mix all ingredients thoroughly and blend in a blender until roughly pureed. Mix in the walnuts.
I love cherry fillings, so I created this recipe on my own. I know the addition of raisins sounds strange, but it worked – you can’t really tell they’re in there.
2 1/2 cup (675 ml) dried pitted cherries
1/2 cup (175 ml) raisins
3 tbsp. (45 ml) lemon juice
1 juice, preferably cranberry
1/8 cup sugar
Combine juice, cherries, and sugar in saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer on low until the juice has reduced into a syrup. Remove from heat and cool. Pour into a blender and add lemon juice and raisins. Blend until roughly pureed.