Thursday, March 20, 2008

Fancy Shmancy Hamentaschen

Chag Purim Sameach! (that means Happy Purim for those not yet in-the-know, which I'm happily fixing)

Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, hamentaschen are fun cookies to make and yummy to eat. They're three cornered filled cookies made by rolling out dough, cutting circles with a cookie cutter, placing about a teaspoon of filling in the center of each, and pinching three points together while leaving some filling exposed. You can go crazy on fillings. In the past, I've made some pretty fancy fillings, such as a Marcy Goldman chocolate peanut butter one or a homemade apricot filling, which required stirring dried apricots over the stove with a bunch of other ingredients. You could also go the easier route and buy fruit preserves, chocolate chips, poppy seed filling, etc...

This year, I decided to make one fancy, one easy. For fancy, I went with a chocolate filling, made by mixing together, basically, the ingredients of a brownie over a double boiler. The recipe is from Alice Medrich in A Year in Chocolate. You know the recipe has to be good when it comes from the First Lady of Chocolate, creator of Cocolat, and inventor of the large truffle. Gosh, writing all this, I'm feeling so grateful to Alice for her contributions I think I should send her a thank you letter!

As for the easy filling, I bought a jar of apricot preserves.

The dough recipe I selected is from the incredible Carole Walter in her Great Cookies cookbook. It is one of my cookbook bibles. I had never tried her hamentaschen recipe and so it was about time. Of course, as predicted, the result blew me away. The dough is fantastic. It's soft and chewy, as opposed to pretty standard dry, crumbly types like you often see in bakeries.

Test your knowledge of Purim with this 12-question quiz.

Recipe by Carole Walter in Great Cookies
Makes 40 2 1/2-inch cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup (1 1/3 sticks) cold, unsalted butter or margarine, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks (save the egg whites)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large egg whites, lightly beaten with 2 teaspoons of sugar

Make the dough:
1. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the work b owl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse two or three times to combine. Add the butter and pulse five times, then process 5 seconds to form meallike crumbs.
2. Place the eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla in a small bowl and mix with a fork to combine. Pour the mixture into the processor and pulse four or five times, then process for 1 minute, or until dough begins to clump together. Pour out onto a lightly floured surface and, with floured hands, form into two disks, wrap with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 3 days. (This dough may be frozen for up to 4 months.)

Shape the hamentaschen:
3. Position the shelves in the lower and upper thirds of the oven. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Dab the corners of the cookie sheets with butter and line them with baking parchment.
4. Place a pastry cloth on a pastry board or other flat surface. Cover a rolling pin with a pastry sleeve. Dust the pastry cloth and the sleeve with flour. Roll the dough to a thickness of about 3/16 inch. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut circles of dough and place them on the cookie sheets.
5. When all of the dough has been cut, place about 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling in the center of each circle. Brush the perimeter of the circle with the egg wash. Using a dough scraper, lift the dough to partially cover the filling, spacing it at one-third intervals, like a tri-cornered hat.

Bake the cookies:
6. Brush the tops of the formed cookies with the egg wash, then bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown. To ensure even browning, toward the end of baking time, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front tto back. Remove from the oven adn let rest on the cookie sheets for 2 or 3 minutes. Loosen the cookies with a thin metal spatula and transfer to wire cooling racks.

When rerolling the scraps, do not gather them in your hand. Stack the scraps on a 12-inch piece of plastic wrap, bring the four sites to the middle, and using the plastic wrap as an aid, press the pieces of dough together, forming a small rectangle. Refrigerate before rerollilng.

Store in an airtight container, layered between strips of wax paper, for up to 5 days. These cookies may be frozen.

Chocolate Filling
Recipe by Alice Medrich in A Year in Chocolate
Makes enough for 3 dozen cookies

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, cold
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Melt the butter with the chocolate in the top of a double boiler. Stir frequently until the mixture is melted and smooth. Remove the top of the double boiler from the heat. Stir in the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring in the first until incorporated before adding the second. Stir in the flour and beat with a spoon until the mixture is smooth and glossy and comes away from the sides of the pan, about 1 minute. Scrape into a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until needed.

Step-by-Step in Pictures

Making the dough...
Time to chill the dough for at least an hour...
Making the chocolate filling over a double boiler...

Filling and shaping the cookies...



Anonymous said...

Your hamentaschen look delicious! I made dough that was identical except it had only one egg and one stick of butter. I bet your cookie was delicious, and richer. YUM! I will have to try it and compare the difference.

Anonymous said...

That was an epic post.

Every time I come here I get hungry.

D&David said...

YUMMY! I shared one of your Hamentaschen with my friends at work and they LOVED it!

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