Hamentashen

March 20th, 2011  |  36 Comments

Craaaaack.

No, that wasn’t the sound of eggs cracking. That was my ankle giving out. A sprain.

I wish I could say it came from something cool, like a ski trip, but it came from the everyday act of walking to a bus stop. Apparently, putting one foot in front of the other has become too much of a challenge for me. All it took was one “off” step and now I’m sidelined for a month.

At times like these, I thank the powers that be that I no longer work in a restaurant kitchen. Boy, do they frown on calling in sick. Since the kitchen culture is all about being a badass, summoning your inner Navy Seal for every shift, and pushing through even the most overwhelming situations, if you call in sick, everyone treats you like you’ve kicked their dog. The only acceptable excuse is death. And even then, you better prove you are. (The other added incentive is that you typically don’t get paid if you don’t work your shift.)

Every single body is so heavily depended upon, one missing person puts the whole operation into a tailspin. We didn’t ever want anyone to do that to us, so we didn’t do it to them. Even if we were pulsating with 103 degree fever, we’d come in. I’ve seen people work with a cold. The flu. Big, seeping burn-boils all over their arms. Hangovers. Stitched up knife cuts on their hands. Lopped off fingers, courtesy of the meat slicer.

Surely, you don’t want to hear that some drippy-nosed kid is tasting his way through the mise-en-place that could be served to you, the patron, later that evening, but that’s the way it is, the norm. Sorry.

I remember once shredding the crap out of my finger on a madoline outfitted with a special attachment during a busy service. That’s when I learned that fingers gush like The Niagara. Blood seeped through bandage after bandage. The plastic “Finger Condom” every restaurant provides filled up like a water balloon. And yet, I kept making plates. I ignored the finger.

What on earth would I have done with a bad ankle, then? Gone in anyway, I guess, pulled up a stool, and directed the energetic kid to get me a case of lemons.

It seems like a luxury now to let an injury heal from the comforts of home. And somehow it doesn’t seem to stop me from baking. From afar.

That’s where a doting mother comes into the picture. One phone call and she was recruited to get on in there and make one of my favorite family recipes, my beloved humentashen. She baked, I barked orders and snapped pictures.

For some reason, we only make these cookies once a year, for Purim. Even long after I moved out of the house, my father would smuggle some of their freshly-made batch to my office each spring, just so I could get my fix. I guess it makes them seem more special to treat them like rare pearls. But really, they’re too good to wait for all year and deserve a spot in regular rotation.

And look at the unusual recipe. It uses 3/4 cups oil instead of butter. Likely, to keep Kosher. Still, the cookies end up with a tender yet toothsome bite. All that oil coats the flour when getting mixed, and inhibits the formation of gluten, so it’s very hard to overmix this dough. It’s one of those recipes you can make while gabbing on the phone. And all those yolks. They work to tenderize the dough, while the one lone egg white helps adds structural stability.

I can’t imagine making these with anything other than prune butter, usually found in ethnic sections of the grocery store, but I suppose any tart fruit butter should work. The filling becomes a mysterious marriage of tart and sweet, nestled in a pleasantly crumbly cookie triangle.

So good, they get run across the New Jersey/New York border like contraband.

Hamentashen

makes about 20 cookies

Dough:
6 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 lemon zest
2 tablespoons (28 g) brandy
3/4 cup (130 g) vegetable oil, such as canola
4 cups (600 g) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp (pinch) salt

Filling:
2 cups (500 g) prune butter
1/2 cup (90g) dried apricots, chopped
1 cup (125 g) walnuts, chopped
1 lemon zest

Egg wash:
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

Here’s what we need for the dough.

 

Into a big bowl go the yolks, one li’l egg, and sugar.

 

Stir ‘em up.

 

Stir in the zest, brandy and oil.

 

Then stir in the flour and salt in 3 additions. Here’s some…

 

…and a little more.

 

Soon enough, the mix gets too stiff for a wooden spoon to handle, so it’s easiest to finish incorporating with your hands.

 

And here’s the finished specimen. Wrap it in plastic, and leave it in the fridge for at least 2 hours, but we prefer overnight. All the flavors meld, the flour gets fully moistened, and the glutens relax.

 

Now it’s the next day, and we’ll first preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Let’s mix up the filling.

 

Throw it all in a bowl…

 

and mix it up into a mushy, coarse paste. Set aside.

 

Grab a piece of the dough, about a third, sprinkle the table and top of the dough with flour…

 

…and roll. Mom takes no prisoners, getting it done in a few swift presses.

 

She lets it be all rough and cracked. It’s all good.

 

Then cut with a cookie cutter, or in our case, an inverted cup measure.

 

Throw a heaping tablespoon of filling on each circle…

 

…pick one up and shape. Pinch one corner closed…

 

…then the other two corners. Some of the filling should peek out on the top.

Lay all the shaped cookies onto a parchment-lined sheet pan or a sheet pan spritzed with non-stick cooking spray. Keep rolling with the remaining dough, including the scraps, and carrying on with the filling and shaping, until all the dough is used up.

Whisk up the egg and water for the egg wash.

 

Then brush the sides of the dough with it. This will give us the coveted golden color.

 

Bake in the preheated 350 degree F oven until they are well-golden. This batch took about 40 minutes. You are going for a nice color, so don’t worry about the time, watch the dough. If yours need 10 more minutes, then so be it.

Let cool, if you can wait. These will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight container at room temperature.

Savor every last morsel because they may not be seen again all year.

Hamentashen

makes about 20 cookies

Dough:
6 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 lemon zest
2 tablespoons (28 g) brandy
3/4 cup (130 g) vegetable oil, such as canola
4 cups (600 g) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp (pinch) salt

Filling:
2 cups (500 g) prune butter
1/2 cup (90g) dried apricots, chopped
1 cup (125 g) walnuts, chopped
1 lemon zest

Egg wash:
1 egg
1 tablespoon water


1. In a large bowl, whisk up the yolks, eggs and sugar.

2. Stir in the zest, brandy, and oil.

3. In 3 additions, stir in the flour and salt. Use your hands to knead it and get it all together into a dough.

4. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

5. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and make the filling.

6. Stir together the prune butter, apricots, walnuts and zest.

7. Grab a piece of the dough, about a third, sprinkle the table and top of the dough with flour, then roll it out until it’s about 1/4″ thick.

8. Cut circles with a cookie cutter about 3″ in diameter. An inverted cup measure also works.

9. Top each circle with a heaping tablespoon of filling, and shape the cookies. Pinch one side closed, and then the pinch the other two corners. the filling should peek out of the top of the triangle.

10. Lay all the finished cookies out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Keep rolling the dough and scraps, and filling and forming cookies, until all the dough is used up.

11. Whisk together the egg and water, and brush the sides with the egg wash.

12. Bake in the preheated 350 degree F oven until the cookies are well-golden. This batch took about 40 minutes. You are going for a nice browning, so don’t worry about the time, watch the dough. If yours need 10 more minutes, then so be it. Let cool.

These keep for about 4 days in an airtight container at room temperature.






36 Responses to “Hamentashen”

  1. Looks so yummy!! The pastries that is – not the ankle! I hope you’re on the mend!

  2. CJ Vierow says:

    These look soooooo good and would NEVER last long enough to dry out or go stale–if they made it through one day it would be a miracle. I’m going to have to start searching for prune butter so I can make these.

  3. Glad to hear you’re not letting an ankle injury get you down, Irina ;p. But seriously, take care of yourself!! I’m lucky enough to have never had any serious injuries like broken bones etc., but I twisted my ankle last year and could barely get home from work despite taking a taxi. Makes us realize how much we depend on these flesh and bones functioning properly :). Your hamentaschen look fabulous! I want to try making some poppyseed ones.

  4. Zo says:

    Yegads! On the plus side…having a legit excuse to make other people bake for you is pretty awesome haha.

    There is something so comforting about traditional sweets…generally a lot better for you than the sweets of today! Would be interested to see how that dough worked with a bit of wholemeal flour, which would compliment the nuttiness of these quite nicely!

  5. Blankie Monster says:

    HA! That’s what separates a true leader from a stubborn mule! Directing how to make your cake and eating it too, despite the injuries! They look fabulous and so mouthwatering, I am willing to forget my pre-bikini season diet restrictions and whip up a batch all for me :) Do you have a special poppy seed filling recipe up your sleeve by any chance? My favourite

    Get well soon! Boy, am I glad you didn’t break it… *knocks on wood*

  6. Mrs Ergül says:

    Ok, you have me drooling! But prune better? I have never heard of it!!! But I will go look for it!!

  7. Michelle says:

    Oh, I know what you mean about getting hurt doing nothing extraordinary. I broke my foot when my babygirl was only a year old simply walking out to get the mail! What an annoyance! Hope you are back on both your feet soon.

    Your sweet mama did a beautiful job with these. They look wonderful!

  8. Ive never had Hamentashen before, but when I see them in bakeries I’m always impressed by the range of possible fillings. There’s a bakery/coffee shop in Park Slope that has some impressive Hamentashen; next time I’m in the area you’ve inspired me to pick up a few.
    Or I could make them at home : )

  9. Joyce says:

    Hi Irina,

    this is my first time reading about this gem of a snack. Can’t wait to make it and give it a taste! :)
    Fantastic post there.. :)

  10. JRC says:

    I recently found your blog and I love it. Your witty writing style and fabulous recipes. Keep up the good work and keep posting, (in spite of your bum ankle) and get well real soon.
    I love the look of this recipe and I’ll be trying it out this weekend. Thanks for creating a blog that feed the baking passion in me!

  11. Kathy says:

    First time to your blog. I’m so glad I found it. Beautiful photos and great instruction! I am looking forward to trying some of your recipes.

  12. Ms.Z. says:

    These look absolutely amazing. I will try to make them soon because I have a feeling they taste and smell awesome.

    What is prune butter though? Never heard of fruit butter before…

  13. PastryPal says:

    Ms. Z, prune butter is a prune preserve, usually sold in jars or cans, that has a smooth, spreadable consistency. This recipe explains how to make your own, if you’re so inclined.

  14. PastryPal says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments, always appreciated! And welcome Kathy and JRC!

  15. Happy to hear you’re comfortably healing. Your stories somehow make me wish to enter the culinary world even more. Those hamentashen look delicious. Been seeing them around, and now I’m curious!

  16. PastryPal says:

    Thanks Avanika. If my stories of kitchen mayhem make you want to do it more, then you are probably completely suited for the job.

  17. blogbytina! says:

    these look great! I was meaning to learn how to make these as a surprise for my husband for Purim…but…um…I didn’t. I will have to test out this recipe this weekend to prepare for next year ;)

  18. Suzanne says:

    Sorry to hear about your sprain — I hope you feel better soon! My grandma hurt her ankle while runninng for a bus — but she actually broke her ankle!

  19. I’ve seen these and wondered how they were made…thanks for the photo tutorial…always great to see. Rest up and take care of that ankle! :)

    Carmen

  20. PastryPal says:

    Carmen, thanks for your well-wishes!

  21. Georgette G says:

    Great post. Great photos. From now on I will also make my recipes with that much detailed photographs. The problem I have is that I am in a “moving” process, so it is not easy to find an uncluttered space in my kitchen, or sufficient light for focused photographs.

    Your Hamantashen (this is my spelling) looks nearly the same as mine, although mine is not made with oil and they are a bit smaller. I use my Mother’s recipe that I believe is one of the best she had. Although I love prune butter (BTW: are you a Hungarian origin?), which is a Hungarian specialty, but you must try to make these with poppy-seeds filling; it is out of this world. Not to mention, you will feel great if you can consume a few in one sitting (opium, you get it?)

    I would love to write a guest post for you; particularly, since you are having a problem with your ankle. Is that is the reason that you have nothing new since Purim? Please let me know if you are interested.

    Georgette G

  22. PastryPal says:

    Georgette — Thanks for your comment. I am originally from Russia, not Hungarian. I’ve had the poppy seed hamantashen, and do enjoy those, though prefer the jam filled ones. Maybe I haven’t eaten enough in one sitting (wink, wink)? My mother makes a poppy seed bread, like a babka, that I really like. Perhaps a future post in the making?

    Yes, I haven’t posted because of the ankle, but it’s much better now. This means I better get back in the kitchen!
    If you’d like to do a guest post, please email me at irina at pastrypal dot com or click the “contact me” button on the right, so we can talk details.

  23. Anna says:

    I’ve never had hamantashen, but I think I’ve seen them on blogs before – perhaps Smitten Kitchen? Yours look fantastic though, I’m intrigued. Hope your ankle makes a speedy recovery!

  24. Resting is all that you should be doing right now…. cause time heals all this … and meanwhile focus on things that you could do without much walking around.. baking is one … blogging is two…

    Wish you get well soon…

  25. Ms.Z. says:

    I just made these – AMAZING!!!

  26. PastryPal says:

    Ms.Z—Fantastic! Thank you!

  27. I did that last month! My sprain wasn’t from walking to the bus stop, mine was from walking through the new backyard on a measuring visit to our new house. I was pretty much just standing there. Ugh. On the upside, these treats look amazing. :) Hope you’re feeling yourself again soon!

  28. Okay, okay, I’m a little late but belated wishes. Sorry to hear about your ankle. All mended now?

    I’ve been wanting to make hamentashen for a while now. Have a cookbook here with the page tagged (has been for some years!). I really need to get myself into gear and give them a try. You make them seem so easy.

    Hope you’re well. Looking forward to seeing what you bake next! :)

  29. PastryPal says:

    Thanks Julia for the well wishes! You’d think this ankle was all better, but it’s more like 60%. This rotten thing will not heal!

    If you’d like to try hamentashen, I think someone with as much mastery under your belt will find them quite easy. Then, you may wish you tried them sooner :).

  30. Tara says:

    wow! your blog is amazing! So glad I ran across it. Thanks for all the great tips, recipes and fabulous photos.

  31. Inessa says:

    We are approaching that time of the year! Did you use the Love’n Bake prune butter as referenced by your link above, or with some other brand prune butter?

  32. PastryPal says:

    Inessa — I really have no idea what brand I used. I just get whatever is available!

  33. Chicklette says:

    Making these today and dont have brandy. Any ideas on what i might be able to use as a substitute?

  34. PastryPal says:

    Chicklette — You can sub any other clear liquor, like rum, whiskey, bourbon, grand marnier, etc. If you’d rather not use liquor, try orange juice. Hope you enjoy!

  35. Liora says:

    Love the recipie! I’m in the process of making them, (Overnight step) and I can’t wait to try them! I made another type using orange juce instead of brandy. It gives a good aroma and adds a flavor to the hamentashens. :)

  36. Tania Kleckner says:

    OMG – I can’t wait to make this recipe. It is just what I was looking for. One question – do you really bake the hamentashen for 40 minutes? That seems like a long time for a cookie.

    Thanks,
    Tania

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