One of the things I like most about The Boy's jewish roots is that it gives me an excuse to explore a whole new set of food traditions and holidays. I can't say I'm enthusiastic about all of them... but when it comes to desserts and pastries, it's a whole other kettle of fish (or is that gefilte fish?).
So for Purim this year, I figured I'd try my hand at making hamantaschen. Armed with a few recipes gathered from various authorities on proper traditional Jewish treats, I managed to cobble together a reasonable fascimile of the traditional triangle-shaped soft cookies, which are typically filled with fruit preserves or a poppyseed filling. I went a little over the top and made three kinds: fig jam, raspberry jelly, and homemade poppyseed paste... because I'm crazy like that.
And then, I got distracted with eating all those lovely cookies I'd just made and didn't get around to posting the recipe until now... a little over two weeks after Purim. Bad goy. No cookie.
Then again, hamantaschen are delicious enough that they shouldn't be limited to a once-per-year occasion. Why not try baking a batch this weekend just for the heck of it?
One note, before I forget: If you've been following along, you may have picked up that I'm a big fan of butter (if not, let's make this clear - I'm a BIG fan of butter). However, this is one case where margarine (and more specifically, the spreadable kind in a tub) is crucial to get the right texture. If you absolutely can't stomach the thought of using margarine, use ⅓ cup each of butter and oil instead - the goal is a soft, tender, almost-cakey cookie.
Makes approx 4 dozen cookies
1 cup sugar
⅔ cup spreadable margarine
½ cup fresh orange juice
Zest of 1 orange
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
Fruit preserves or prepared filling of your choice
1 egg, beaten (optional)
In a large mixing bowl, cream together sugar and margarine. Stir in eggs, orange juice and zest, and vanilla; mix well.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add wet ingredients and stir until you have a soft and slightly sticky dough. Roll into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 350C and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Divide chilled dough into 4 equal portions. On a generously floured surface, roll out each piece to about ⅛" thick (the dough will still be quite soft and sticky, so sprinkle generously with flour as you go to keep it from sticking).
Using a 3" circle cutter or the rim of a drinking glass, cut out as many circles as possible from the dough; gather up scraps, roll out again, and continue cutting out circles.
In the centre of each circle, spoon out 1 tsp of filling of your choice. Shape into triangles by folding up three sides over the filling and pinching tightly at the corners. Lift bottom side up center, above the filling. Brush dough with beaten egg before baking, if desired.
Place on prepared cookie sheets and bake in preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until cookies are barely golden.