Purim is almost here. This story is from the Book of Esther and is yet another tale of “they tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat” and in this case, “let’s drink.” This batch of hamantaschen was practice for the 4 dozen I am making next weekend for Temple Or Rishon’s Purim celebration.  When the story is read aloud, every time Haman’s name is spoken a grager (pronounced grogger, hence the poor headline pun) is sounded.

Thanks to Tori Avery for an excellent recipe and instructions. I made a few additions, but it is hamentaschen99.9% pure Tori. I added another filling to Tori’s fig and caramel apple, when Fran found a cannoli-chocolate chip filling. Talk about a cultural melting pot!

HAMANTASCHEN

INGREDIENTS

  • 170g (¾ cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 150g (⅔ cup) sugar
  • 55g (1 egg,) room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4g (1 tsp) grated orange zest
  • 200g (2¼) cups flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1-5 tsp water (if needed)

METHOD

  1. Slice room temperature butter into small chunks and place in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add sugar to the bowl. Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar together for a few minutes till light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg, vanilla, and orange zest to the bowl. Beat again till creamy and well mixed.
  4. Mix with the electric mixer on low speed till a crumbly dough forms.
  5. Begin to knead dough with hands till a smooth dough ball forms. Try not to overwork the dough, only knead till the dough is the right consistency. If the crumbles are too dry to form a smooth dough, add water slowly, 1 teaspoon at a time, using your hands to knead the liquid into the dough. Knead and add liquid until the dough is smooth and slightly tacky to the touch (not sticky), with a consistency that is right for rolling out. It can easily go from the right consistency to too wet/sticky, so add water very slowly. If the dough seems too wet, knead in a little flour till it reaches the right texture.
  6. Form the dough into a flat disk about 1” thick and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator to chill for 3 hours to overnight.
  7. Before you begin to assemble the hamantaschen, choose and make your filling and have it on hand to work with. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly flour a smooth, clean surface. Unwrap the dough disk and place it on the floured surface. The dough will be very firm after chilling.
  8. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to ¼ inch thick. At the beginning, it will be tough to roll out– you may need to pound it a bit. A heavy rolling pin works best. As you roll, cracks may form on the edges of the dough. Repair any large cracks with your fingers and continue rolling.
  9. When the dough reaches ¼ inch thickness, scrape the dough up with a pastry scraper, lightly reflour the surface, and flip the dough over. Continue rolling the dough out very thin (less than 1/8 of an inch thick). The thinner you roll the dough, the more delicate and crisp the cookies will turn out– just make sure that the dough is still thick enough to hold the filling and its shape! If you prefer a thicker, more doughy texture to your cookies (less delicate), keep the dough closer to ¼ inch thick. Lightly flour the rolling pin occasionally to prevent sticking.
  10. Use a 3-inch cookie cutter (not smaller) or the 3-inch rim of a glass to cut circles out of the dough, cutting as many as you can from the dough.
  11. Gather the scraps and roll them out again. Cut circles. Repeat process again if needed until you’ve cut as many circles as you can from the dough. You should end up with around 35 circles (unless you’ve kept your dough on the thicker side, which will result in less cookies). (I ended up with 25 circles, less than ¼ of an inch thick.)
  12. Place a teaspoon of filling (whichever filling you choose) into the center of each circle. Do not use more than a teaspoon of filling, or you run the risk of your hamantaschen opening and filling spilling out during baking. Cover unused circles with a lightly damp towel to prevent them from drying out while you are filling.
  13. Assemble the hamantaschen in three steps. First, grasp the left side of the circle and fold it towards the center to make a flap that covers the left third of the circle.
  14. Grasp the right side of the circle and fold it towards the center, overlapping the upper part of the left side flap to create a triangular tip at the top of the circle. A small triangle of filling should still be visible in the center.
  15. Grasp the bottom part of the circle and fold it upward to create a third flap and complete the triangle. When you fold this flap up, be sure to tuck the left side of this new flap underneath the left side of the triangle, while letting the right side of this new flap overlap the right side of the triangle. This way, each side of your triangle has a corner that folds over and a corner that folds under– it creates a “pinwheel” effect. This method if folding is not only pretty– it will help to keep the cookies from opening while they bake.
  16. Pinch each corner of the triangle gently but firmly to secure the shape. If any cracks have formed at the places where the dough is creased, use the warmth of your fingers to smooth them out.
  17. Repeat this process for the remaining circles.
  18. After your hamantaschen are all filled, place them on a lightly greased baking sheet, evenly spaced.
  19. Place them in the oven and let them bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, till the cookies are cooked through and lightly golden.
  20. Cool the cookies on a wire rack. Store them in a tightly sealed plastic bag or Tupperware.

CARAMEL APPLE HAMANTASCHEN FILLING

INGREDIENTS

  • 1½ lbs. Granny Smith apples (about 4 medium apples)
  • 170g (¾ cup) sugar
  • ⅓ cup dulce de leche
  • Salt to taste

Dulce De Leche (makes 1¼ cups)

  • 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
  • 1/8 tsp salt (or more to taste)

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Pour can of sweetened condensed milk into a ceramic pie plate or dish. Sprinkle the milk lightly with about 1/8 tsp of salt (for a more salted caramel flavor, use 1/4 tsp salt).
  2. Cover tightly with foil. Place the filled pie plate into a large roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with water till it reaches about halfway up the sides of the pie plate.
  3. Place the roasting pan into the oven. Let the mixture cook slowly for 75-90 minutes, check the water level every half hour to make sure it hasn’t dried out too much. Add water as needed.
  4. At 75 minutes, begin checking the color of the dulce de leche. When it reaches a rich light brown caramel color, you’ll know it’s ready. The longer you let it cook, the thicker and darker it will become.
  5. Take the pie plate and roasting pan out of the oven. Carefully remove the pie plate from the hot roasting pan. Take off the foil.
  6. Whisk the dulce de leche mixture. Use warm, or allow to cool to room temperature depending on your intended use.
  7. Store in the refrigerator. The sauce will keep for up to 4 weeks when refrigerated.
  8. Peel and core the apples. Shred them into fine shreds using a hand grater or food processor shredding attachment.
  9. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and 3/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil.
  10. Add the shredded apples to the boiling water and return to a boil.
  11. Reduce heat to medium and let the mixture simmer for 25-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, till most of the liquid evaporates and the mixture resembles a very thick applesauce. When the mixture is ready, it will start to sizzle lightly in the pan and clump together when you stir it. Don’t let the mixture burn, but do let it get quite thick.
  12. Stir in the dulce de leche; add salt to taste. The salt adds depth and gives the flavor of a salted caramel. It also offsets the sweetness a bit.
  13. Note that the filling is quite sweet on its own (it may initially taste “too sweet”), but it bakes to perfection when used for filling hamantaschen. Let the mixture cool.
  14. Refrigerate mixture for at least 1 hour before using it to fill hamantaschen; this will thicken it and make it easier to manage when filling.
  15. Use about 1 tsp of filling per cookie.

FIG HAMANTASCHEN FILLING

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ½ scant cups chopped, stemmed, dried black figs (about 9 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup (177 ml) pomegranate juice
  • ⅓ cup (66 grams) sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 star anise, or ¼ tsp crushed fennel seeds
  • 1 cup water

METHOD

  1. In a saucepan, combine the figs, juice, sugar, zest, star anise (or fennel), and 1 cup of water and bring to a boil.
  2. Simmer over low heat until the figs are softened and the liquid is syrupy and is reduced to about 1/2 cup.
  3. Let the figs cool in their syrup, then puree in a food processor until smooth. [If you dislike the taste of star anise, you should remove it before pureeing, but if you do, leave it in.

CANNOLI FILLING:

  • ¼ cup ricotta cheese
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips

METHOD

  1. Make the cannoli filling: In the bowl of a mixer, beat all ingredients except the chocolate chips till light and fluffy.
  2. Fold in the chocolate chips and refrigerate, covered, till needed.
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