So, hamantaschen and I have a bit of a love/hate relationship going. My first year at the Interfaith Families Project they put out a call asking for anyone and everyone to bake a batch of hamantaschen for the Purim Carnvial (more on Purim and what it all means on this page).
Well, I was flush off of my challah victory and was feeling pretty good about my baking. I should have known the old “pride before a fall” would come and get me! I looked through my husband’s cookbooks to try and find a hamantaschen recipe. The only one he had was in this (supposedly) cutesy book of all kinds of Jewish recipes, crafts and stories. I should have known better then to trust it.
So, I begin mixing together the dough and quickly start to have doubts. It seemed too dry and crumbly from the get-go and then it wanted me to add more flour? This was when I should have trusted my instincts, but it wasn’t my holiday, it wasn’t my type of baking and so the book must know better…right?
Ugh, so terribly and totally wrong. I threw out the dough before I even tried to roll it out, I knew it wasn’t going to work. Then, I had to have a stern talking-to with myself and convince me that starting over again at 10:00pm was NOT a smart move and I should go to bed.
I did go to bed, but I couldn’t let it go. Even though Purim came and went without my hamantaschen, I stubbornly decided that I had to tackle this recipe again. So, I went on a hunt and I found a recipe through this fabulous blog I read called “smitten kitchen” It seemed more promising, so I gritted my teeth and tried again.
What a difference! This time the dough came together beautifully, rolled out like I knew it should and baked up into delicious golden brown cookies. Sure, some of them came apart in the oven so they were more like pancakes then cookies…but from what I’ve read that is a problem that many people face!
So this year, I can tackle the hamantaschen with a little more love and a lot less hate. Also, if you noticed, I actually got them baked and this post up before the holiday! That is pretty good for me.
I don’t think cooking blog posts are necessarily supposed to have a moral or a self-affirmation message, but this one does. I came out of the first round of baking knowing that if I had gone with my gut I might not have had to throw out that batch. So, I say to you, TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. You are a much better baker then you think so go with what you feel is right.
8 tablespoons of room temperature butter
3oz of room temperature cream cheese
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
Favorite jam for the filling
Additional flour for rolling out the dough
Hand or Stand Mixer (not absolutely necessary but makes it much easier!)
Rolling pin (I’ve successfully used a large water bottle if you don’t have a true rolling pin!)
Small cookie cutter (As you’ll see from pictures, mine was a wine glass!)
Parchment paper (really makes life easier to line the pan with this stuff)
2. Pour in the sugar and mix for 1 minute.
3. Add the egg, vanilla, salt and orange zest and mix until combined.
* A note about the orange zest. If you have a microplane, it is the best tool for this job. However, the smallest holes on a cheese grater will also work! I find it frustrating to measure zest so I just eyeball it. For this recipe, I used an orange just a little bigger then a baseball and went twice around it!* 4. Once the mixture is combined, add the flour. I know it is a really odd measurement, but that was what it called for! Mix this until the dough comes together. It’ll be a bit sticky but should feel more like a cookie dough then a cake batter…if that makes sense. If it seems so wet and sticky that it won’t form a ball of dough, add another tablespoon of flour and mix it up.
5. Dump the dough onto plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge for an hour (if it stays in there longer it won’t hurt it)
6. Once the dough is chilled, get your assembly space ready. First, start the oven pre-heating at 350. Then, generously flour the counter and get our your rolling pin, cookie cutter, jam and a spoon. Finally, put parchment paper down on your baking sheet and have it at the ready.
7. Unwrap the dough and put it down in the flour. I found it helped keep things from sticking if I used my hand to flatten out the dough a little and then flipped it over and did the same thing to other side. This way there was a bit of flour on both sides of the dough.
8. Roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Don’t worry about getting out a ruler or anything, just eyeball it and stick to the thinner side if you are unsure.
9. Using the cookie cutting method of your choice, cut out as many circles as will fit on your dough. I would recommend sticking your dough back into the fridge between cutting and filling cycles or it will get distressingly soft and hard to work with!
10. Put a dollop of jam in the middle of each circle. How much is a dollop? Well, I would guess about 1/2 teaspoon, but you’ve just got to experiment until you find the right amount. Remember though, UNDER FILL. Your hamantaschen will NOT stay together if you put too much on there.
11. Now comes the shaping. Traditionally, hamantaschen are shaped sort of like a tri-cornered hat with a lot of the filling left exposed in the middle. It isn’t hard but, if you are like me, your results will be a bit uneven!You will want to take the circle of dough and pinch up two sides, giving them a solid pinch and even a bit of a twist to make sure they are closed. Then, take the last side and pinch and twist it also. It is really important that you crimp the sides closed and then give them a bit of a twist. Hamantaschen have this annoying tendency to slump in the oven, leaving you with more of a jam pancake then a cookie!
12. Put the cookies on the baking sheet. The nice thing about these is that they don’t spread out so you can put them pretty close together! Bake in the 350 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes. They should turn golden brown, although mine usually just look a bit golden around the edges and stay mostly yellow-ish on top!
13. Take the cookies out and let them cool on a rack. This step is critical because if you bite into one of these too soon you will have molten jam sticking to your tongue….not good!