While my days of coolly sauntering into the crepe papered community room of Kane Street Synagogue dressed as Esther are over, my undying enthusiasm for Purim pastry does remain. If you haven’t noticed, Jews go crazy for their hamantaschen. Going out on a limb here to say that it has nothing to do with the taste and everything to do with our ownership over it. (Gasp!) Yes, the same people who defend the taste (or no taste) of matzo (“It’s good,” we uphold, “just put some [fill-in-the-blank] on it”) are the same people waiting to spin a mean, metal grogger in your face if you so much as try to come between them and their three-cornered Haman hat. We’ve got poppy lovers; we’ve got prune lovers. We’ve got folders; we’ve got pinchers. For me, the filling and aesthetic matters zero as long as that hat strikes the balance between soft and crisp, and with just the right ratio of filling to flour. If I’m being honest, the community room never pulled this traditional cookie off. Too much dough, or too much filling, too cakey or just slightly burnt. I don’t know if they were homemade by congregants or if too massive an order from Lassen and Hennigs was placed, but I do know we ate them regardless of how so-so they always were. It wasn’t until this past weekend, preparing and baking them for the very first time with my mother and Amy F. that I realized: Adonai, this is a difficult dessert. Between my mother’s insistence that we fold the three corners and Amy’s negation that we pinch, the fact remained that our prunes and apricots were continuing to oven erupt, and our overall uncertainty over baking time wasn’t helping the matter. And yet, when my father coolly sauntered into the room (dressed as Paul Flatow) for the first of his many tastes, he had nothing but good things to say, defending the ooze, defending the burnt corners, defending it all. As expected.
(Makes about 35 hats)
Adapted from Shiksa in the Kitchen
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- the zest of 1 orange
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- your favorite jam(s)
In one bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, zest, and vanilla. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly spoon the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring continuously until you've got some dough on your hands. Knead until smooth and slightly sticky. Then wrap it tightly in saran wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350.
On a lightly floured surface, use a (lightly floured) rolling pin to roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick. Use a 3-inch cookie cutter or a 3-inch rim of a water glass (what we did) to cut circles out of the dough. Don't let your dough scraps go to waste! Roll those out and keep cutting circles.
Place a teaspoon of your favorite jam, or filling, into the center of each circle. (We used apricot and prune.) It's so important to go easy on the filling, otherwise you're looking at some pretty messy eruptions.
To fold: Carefully take the left side of the circle and fold it towards the middle. Do the same with the right side, creating a triangular tip at the circle's top that overlaps the upper left flap. You'll have created a triangular tip at the top. Take the bottom flap and fold it up towards the middle, tucking the left side beneath the left flap and the right side over the right flap. Pinch the corners to secure the hat.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the hats on it evenly spaced. Bake in the oven for about 12-15 minutes, just until the corners are slightly browned.
Advice: Don't eat them hot. Wait a few hours for them to soften up.