I'm happy to report that I have finally
solved the big quandary about Purim. Not whether to dress up as the incoming queen, Esther, or the outgoing one, Vashti. (At
this point, for me, age automatically takes precedence over beauty.) Nor how to spell the name of the darn treats people eat.
(Hamantaschen? Hamentaschen?) I'm talking about how to keep the assorted fillings in my hamantaschen inside, rather than overflowing
like Mount St. Helens all over the baking sheet.
As you no doubt
know, I am referring to the small triangular pastries modeled after the three-cornered hat favored by Haman, the evil villain
of the Purim story, as told in the Megillah. Over the years, I have tried everything conceivable to keep the fruit preserves
jammed inside them: putting less filling in; closing the dough pocket completely, like a tightly shut purse; even cementing
the corners together with Crazy Glue. (Just kidding about that last one; even Crazy Glue isn't tough enough to keep it in.)
Then finally, last week, I happened to be handed a tip sheet in The Crown, my
town's very popular Jewish supermarket. The secret to perfect Hamantaschen was solved. No more messy baking sheets. No more
flat hats. As you will see below, it was an open and shut case.
2 sticks butter (I prefer salted)
¾ cups sugar
2 large eggs
4 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 - 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
Assorted fruit preserves (strawberry, apricot, raspberry)
Optional: Chocolate or chocolate chips, prunes, poppy seed filling if you can find it
Directions: Leave the butter out to soften, then
cream with sugar in large bowl or food processer. Add eggs and continue creaming until well mixed. Then add milk and vanilla.
Stir in flour gently, one cup at a time, along with salt, until all of the flour
is incorporated and a large ball of dough is formed. Divide dough into four equal parts (I put each into a small zip-lock
bag), and refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight if possible.
baking, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Then take out one portion of dough at a time and let sit for five minutes or so to soften.
Then roll out on a floured board until 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter or small glass, cut out circles
of dough and place them slightly apart on a well-greased cookie sheet.
small hamantaschen, use a cookie cutter or glass about 2 inches in diameter. For larger versions, choose one 3 to 4 inches
Once you have cut as many circles as possible, the remaining
dough may be gathered into a ball and rolled out again until done
a spoon, place the filling of your choice directly in the center of each round. For 2-inch rounds, use 1 teaspoon jam. For
3-inch rounds, figure on about 1 ½ teaspoons, or 2 teaspoons for a 4-inch round.
As for forming the traditional triangular shape, here's the big secret I never knew: After placing the filling in the center,
spray each hamantaschen lightly with water. (If you don't have a spray bottle, just dip your finger in a cup of cold water
and lightly trace it around the edges of the dough.) Then quickly fold three sides up to form a triangle, pinching the corners
tightly together. Make sure to leave a little of the filling exposed for identification purposes.
Fruit fillings are the most conventional, but feel free to get creative. This year, I tried using small squares
of Lindt Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt. It may not be traditional, exactly, but honestly? I'll choose chocolate over prune
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, until bottoms are lightly
browned. Remove from baking sheet immediately and allow to cool before eating... If you can bear to wait.
Makes approximately 4 dozen small hamantashen or three dozen larger ones.