February 27, 2010
Posted by Temma
Oy vey, I've eaten so many hamantaschen I could plotz. There's a huge pile of them sitting on my kitchen table, and that's even after I dropped half of them on the floor, like the klutzy schlemiel that I am.
... And now that I've pretty much exhausted all of the Yiddish that I know...
One of the foods my gram always seemed to have around were hamantaschen, even though they aren't normally a year round treat. She must have had a magical box hidden in the pantry that created the cookies from thin air, since I never saw her make them, but yet if you requested one, there it was! A neatly folded, buttery triangular cookie, stuffed with prunes and nuts or ground apricots - yum!
I guess I should explain what exactly a "hamantasch" is, for anyone out there without a Jewish grandmother. Hamantaschen are triangular cookies, typically filled with ground up fruit and nuts, although chocolate or poppy seed fillings are not unheard of.
They're made to celebrate the holiday of Purim, which is a festival that involves a lot eating and gifts of food; sometimes it also involves dressing up as various biblical characters. I just learned that it's also a drinking holiday, with one portion of the Talmud* saying "one should drink on Purim until he can no longer distinguish between the phrases 'Cursed is Haman' and 'Blessed is Mordecai.'"** They never taught me that in Hebrew school!
*A book of Jewish laws
** There are other books that promote a much more moderate approach.
I now present to you my jumbled memories of the Purim story, which have been laying unused in my brain since my early years:
There was a king, who married a Jewish woman named Esther, without realizing that she was Jewish. One of the higher ups in the king's court, Haman, got mad at the Jews for some reason, and convinced a bunch of people, and maybe even the king, that they should kill all of them. Esther found out about this, and went to the king, told him that she was Jewish and said that he better overrule Haman and save her people. Somehow a guy named Mordecai was also heroic, Haman was sentenced to the gallows, and now we eat pastries shaped like his triangular hat. THE END
If you would like a more accurate/in depth explanation of Purim, I suggest you check out this summary on Jewishfaq.org or the Wikipedia page.
Anyway, the important thing to remember here is the hamantaschen, because they are very tasty, and my gram's recipe for them is delicious- the pastry outside is buttery and smooth and the filling isn't overpoweringly sweet. I found 5 different recipes for hamantaschen in the recipe box, but decided to go with the one that she had 2 vanilla stained copies of. Maybe next year I'll share her quick cake mix based hamantaschen recipe.
Purim starts tonight at sundown tonight, and continues until Monday, the 1st, so I guess we better get baking!
1/2 LB (8oz) butter
6oz cream cheese
1 1/2 Cups sugar
3 TSP vanilla extract
1/2 TSP salt
5 to 6 Cups cake flour
6 TSP baking powder
1/2 Cup milk
2 (9oz) packets dried fruit (prunes or apricots)
1 1/2 Cups chopped walnuts
Zest from 1 orange
Pre-heat oven to 375.
For the dough:
Cream together the butter, cream cheese, eggs, sugar and vanilla.
Mix in the salt, baking powder, milk and 5 of the cups of flour.
If the dough is still very sticky, add the additional cup of flour. I actually had to add another 1/2 cup or so to get it to the right consistency.
Put the dough in the 'fridge while you make the filling, so it'll be easier to deal with.
For the filling:
Dump all of the ingredients in to the bowl of your food processor or blender.
Blend it until it is a big sticky gooey mass.
For the apricot filling, I tossed in a splash of orange juice as well, for extra sweetness.
Making the hamantaschen:
Remove the dough from the 'fridge.
Dust a dish cloth and your hands with flour.
Roll a walnut sized ball of dough.
Dust a rolling pin with flour.
Roll the ball out in to a nice thin circle.
Place a dollop of filling in the center- be careful not to overfill it!
Fold the edge in to a little corner, like in this helpful illustration that my gram made:
Fold the top part down to create the last 2 corners of the cookie.
Make sure to press the edges together well, so they don't flatten out while baking!
Bake for 14 minutes, or until gently golden.
The recipe yields about 40 hamantaschen, depending on how large you make them.
Hamantaschen freeze very well, so if you make too many of them (how could you have too many hamantaschen?) you can always freeze them for a snack later.
Labels: Cookies ·