Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hamantaschen 101, with Chocolate Filling

Haman's Ear, Haman's Pocket, Haman's Hat . . .

However you describe them, it's time for those triangle cookies again.

Here are the Top Five Rules of Hamantaschen:
  1. You have to allow time to chill the dough so it will roll out easily: four hours in the fridge or one hour in the freezer.
  2. Canned fillings are okay - as long as you make your own dough, you get all the points. I'm not a big fan of bought fruit fillings, but if that's what you grew up with, then crank up that can opener.
  3. You have to freeze the formed cookies to prevent them leaking, spreading and slumping. Do not defrost before baking.
  4. More filling is not better. Especially with poppy, a great glob of filling, is just unpleasant.
  5. However your grandmother made them is the right way. If you don't like your friend's recipe, don't insult her Bubbe by telling her.

Making Hamantaschen isn't hard, but it is kind of labor-intensive. Hardly worth the bother if you're only going to make a few, so my recipe makes 45. If you can't face that many, cut it in half. Math!
Hamantaschen Dough
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 cups all-purpose flour

This is your basic 1-2-3 cookie dough.
  1. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla and salt.
  2. Beat in the baking powder and flour on low speed, until fist-sized clumps of dough start to form around the beater.
  3. Pull the dough together into a ball, wrap or cover with plastic. Refrigerate for four hours or freeze for one.
  4. On a counter dusted with flour, roll the dough out to 1/8" thick. (See Note.) Use floured glass or cutter to form 4" circles. Slide a spatula under the circles and move them to the side while you finish cutting out the dough.
  5. Drop 1 teaspoon of filling into the center of each circle, and fold in sides to make a triangle. Pinch the corners to seal.
  6. Freeze on rimmed baking sheets lined with wax paper. When hard, store the cookies in freezer bags. Do not defrost before baking.
  7. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 (325 convection). Arrange frozen hamantaschen about 2" apart on baking sheets lined with parchment (or leave them unlined and scrub - up to you).
  8. Bake for about 17 minutes, until the edges just start to brown, but the center is still pale. Some fillings will cook faster than others. Cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container for two days.

Note: I find it difficult to roll the dough out all at once. I pull out one side at a time, pushing the scraps toward the center. I suppose this results in the dough being worked a bit more, overall. But this is a buttery dough that softens up pretty fast when you start to work it, so I prefer to leave a cooler mound of dough in the middle. Play around with it - you'll find the method that works best for you.

 Chocolate Filling
Adapted From Alice Medrich
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 oz. unsweeted chocolate
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda, if needed

If you've ever made one-bowl brownies, this recipe should seem very familiar.
  1. In a medium-sized bowl, microwave the butter and chocolate to melt. My microwave took two minutes, stirring at 30 second intervals.
  2. Stir in the sugar, vanilla and salt.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring hard to stop clumps cooking in the hot chocolate.
  4. Mix in the flour.
  5. Assuming you have no fear of raw eggs, taste the chocolate mixture. If it tastes highly acidic, stir in baking soda to adjust the flavor.
  6. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before filling cookies.
Traditionally, you're supposed to get so drunk on Purim that you can't tell Mordechai from Haman (i.e. you don't know the hero from the villain). I recommend you wait until all your hamantaschen are baked to begin drinking. Happy Purim!

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