I know I promised you bacon fat spiced cookies last week, but that was before I realized that this week is Purim! Or rather, Purim began at sundown Monday night and ends at sundown tonight. So I decided to be a good Jewish girl and give you this recipe for hamantaschen this week instead.
Let’s all guess what Purim celebrates…that’s right, a time the Jews survived one of the many threats to their race. The villain in this particular story was named Haman, who supposedly wore a tri-cornered hat. So, much as Passover has matzo to remind us of the Jews wandering the desert, unable to allow their bread time to rise, and Chanukkah has latkes and sufganiyot to remind us of the miracle oil in the Temple, Passover has triangular cookies — to remind us of Haman’s hat.
Hamantaschen are delicious anytime of year, however — and you will, in fact, see them any and all times of year at most Jewish delis or bakeries. The triangular cookie is usually filled with prune, apricot, or raspberry jam, or poppyseeds (though just the other day I sampled some friends’ chocolate hamantaschen which were good, too). These really beautiful hamantaschen, from Emily Isaac at Trois Pommes Patisserie in Brooklyn (via New York Magazine), have been gussied up with a rhubarb filling and a more Frenchified, delicate cookie than the honkers you’ll find on Second Avenue. And while maybe I’d like to root for the old-fashioned kind, and certainly wouldn’t turn one down if offered to me, there really is no comparison to these: Soft, buttery cookie with a tart, bright rhubarb filling? This is not the hamantaschen I was making as a third grader at Beth El.
These seem troublesome, but they’re actually super-fun to make. Mine looked great when they went in the oven, but probably 1/3 or so exploded (one side of the triangle fell down) while in there. I have no idea why that happened, but they were still delicious. For more insight on hamantaschen history/technique, see this Washington Post blog, and to see Emily Isaac herself making them, check out NY Mag’s video.
One note on the recipe: the Trois Pommes version doesn’t have any sugar in the dough. I actually asked Emily Isaac about this one day when I was at Trois Pommes; she just kind of shrugged and said she doesn’t like desserts that are too sweet. I agree, but I might still add a couple teaspoons of sugar to this, just to give the wonderfully flaky cookie a little more flavor. Since I haven’t done it myself, I hesitate to recommend an exact amount, but if you try it, please let me know how it goes!
Oh, and also, NY Mag’s recipe for whatever reason doesn’t list how many cookies this makes. I don’t remember how many I made (again, if you make this, please let me know), but my photographic evidence suggests it was at least 16.
Adapted from Emily Isaac, Trois Pommes Patisserie, via New York Magazine
Makes…a good-sized batch (at least 16)
– 8 ounces soft unsalted butter (2 sticks)
– 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
– 2 cups flour
– Pinch salt
– 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1 teaspoon lemon zest
– a couple teaspoons of sugar (optional)
– 2 cups rhubarb cut into 1/4-inch dice
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup water
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1 teaspoon cornstarch
– 4 tablespoons graham- cracker crumbs or gingersnap crumbs
– 1 egg, beaten
– 2 tablespoons raw sugar
1. Cream the butter and cream cheese with a whisk or rubber spatula (make sure they’re soft, or this is going to be difficult). Add the flour, salt, vanilla, and lemon zest.
2. Form into a disk (about 6 inches wide, 2 inches thick), and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
3. To make the filling, cook the rhubarb in a small saucepan over low to medium heat with the water and half of the sugar for about 15 minutes, or until it completely disintegrates. Allow to cool, and mix in the remaining sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch, and crumbs.
4. To form the hamantaschen, dust the dough with flour and roll it out into a 12-inch circle about a 1/4 inch thick. Using a juice glass or other round cutter, cut the dough into circles. As you make each circle, place a teaspoon of the filling in its center and gently shape 3 closed edges around the filling, leaving a small opening. Freeze for 1 hour on a cookie or sheet tray that’s been sprayed with vegetable oil or lined with parchment (this is annoying because you have to be able to fit the cookie sheet in your freezer, but it’s important for the cookies to keep their shape).
5. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Brush cookies with egg and sprinkle generously with raw sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes.