Better Hamentaschen

by rivka on March 3, 2015 · 1 comment

in cookies and bars

Since we’ve already established that I’m entering the era of last-minute, hastily prepared dinners, it should follow logically that down-to-the-wire blog posts may happen as well. In this case, it occurred to me perhaps a bit too close to Purim that I should share an update to my hamentaschen recipe. At least one of the changes came about due to desperation — of the “ice storm, not enough butter in the house” variety — but this year’s cookies are the best in recent memory, so even if you’ve got loads of butter in the house (and lucky you if you do!), you might want to make them.

First change: swap out half the butter for an equal amount (by weight) of cream cheese. I’m pretty sure I’ve done this before, but it’s a winning substitution, as it makes the dough ever so slightly tangy and quite a bit more pliable.

Second change: no more splayed-open specimen. I think I’ve finally mastered getting my ‘taschen to stay closed. Two tricks: First, have a little bowl of water handy while shaping the hamentaschen. Dip your finger in the water, and make several circles around the perimeter of each dough circle before filling them (it’s easier that way), so that the dough gets moist and a bit sticky. Second, instead of folding the three sides upward, fold them over each other, like flaps. I made 60 ‘taschen this year, and only 2 flaps opened. Not bad.

Other no-big-deal changes I made: I used a food processor instead of a stand mixer, and it worked great. I also reduced the oven temp to 350, because some of my fillings were pretty high in sugar content and I didn’t want them to harden in the oven. 350 worked as well as 375 – this dough is flexible.

Fillings? This year I went with a theme, called use up the four jars of jam that don’t currently have a space in my pantry. Cherry-vanilla, peach-apricot, chocolate-raspberry. All highly delicious. Nice people that we are, we’ve only eaten a couple six.

Happy Purim, friends.

One year ago: Eggplant Pea Curry and Yellow Lentils with Tamarind
Two years ago: Nutmeg Muffins and Perfect Porridge
Three years ago: Beets with Pistachio Sauce and Moroccan Apricot Chicken
Four years ago: Best Almond Cake and Triple Ginger Biscuits
Five years ago: Caesar Salad and Chocolate Babka
Six years ago: Rice Paper Rolls and Coffee Walnut Cookies
Seven years ago: Raisin Pecan Bread and Leek and Onion Tart

Better Hamentaschen
Makes 75 cookies

5 1/2 tablespoons (2 3/4 oz.) butter
5 tablespoons (2 1/2 oz.) cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups flour, plus another 1/2 cup for rolling out the dough

Make the dough: In the bowl of a food processor, mix butter, cream cheese, and sugar until blended. Add the egg and lemon zest, and mix until combined. Scrape down the bowl.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, and pulse several times, scraping down the bowl if necessary, until dough starts to come together. This is a fast enough dough that you need not worry about creating gluten. Just pulse until the dough forms large clumps; the sound of the processor will change just as dough starts to come together.

Gather the dough into plastic wrap or a plastic bag, compress into a solid disk, and refrigerate 30-45 minutes (much longer, and it’ll be tough to work with).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat.

Sprinkle a work surface liberally with flour, and roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thick. Use a 2.5-inch cutter to cut disks of dough, and immediately plop the disks onto the lined baking sheet. When the work surface is floured, the disks will pop right out when you pull up the cutter. If not, don’t worry – just use a bench scraper or metal spatula to lift the disks and put them onto the baking sheet. Don’t worry about spacing the disks evenly; these hamentaschen don’t need much breathing room, and folded hamentaschen take up much less space than the disks.

This dough has very little liquid, so it lends itself well to re-rolling scraps. I generally work with half the dough at a time, and refrigerate the bunched scraps from one round while I bake the next batch. My oven only fits one of my cookie sheets at a time, but if yours fits multiple, feel free to shape and bake these in fewer batches than I did.

Once you’ve got a baking sheet full of disks, prepare your workstation: bring over your filling and two small spoons, and fill a small bowl with water.

Put a scant teaspoon of filling into the center of each disk. Use your finger to brush water along the edge of each disk, then fold three “sides” of the circle over each other as flaps (see above photo).

Bake cookies for 12-15 minutes, until tops are slightly golden. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before transferring. Meanwhile, fill your second sheet with cookies. By the time round 2 is ready to bake, round 1 will be cool enough to transfer, and that baking sheet will be free for batch 3.

Hamentaschen will keep in an airtight container for at least a week, probably more. They also freeze very well.

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