Tuesday, February 18, 2014

World's Best Hamentaschen

The Jewish holiday of Purim is coming up in mid-March, and one of my favorite cousins is visiting me to escape the "thundersnow" occurring in Chicago, where she lives, so we decided we would bake. Her mother (my aunt) happens to be the creator of the "World's Best Hamentaschen" and she has so graciously provided this recipe to my cousin, and by proxy, to me. These are delightful shortbread/butter cookies that are triangular shaped and filled with things like apricot, raspberry, and nutella. What's not to like? They're traditional for this holiday and people go nutso for them!!! So without adieu...The World's Best Hamentaschen:

Total Prep Time: 30 minutes

Total Cook Time: 20-25 minutes

What you will need:

5 cups all-purpose flour (in red mixing bowl)
1 tbsp baking POWDER
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 and 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
a little extra flour to flour your rolling surface
a rolling pin
whatever fillings your heart may desire (examples include Nutella, Apricot pie filling, raspberry pie filling, cherry pie filling, prunes, poppy seed filling for the old school bubbes out there).
A cup with a 3" diameter opening, or some other round cookie cutter that is 3" in diameter

A brief digression about the fillings for these hamentaschen: My cousin swears that if you are going to use a fruit filling, Solo is the best brand to use. However, we could not find Solo raspberry filling, and I really wanted raspberry. So we tried the Duncan Hines "Comstock" brand of raspberry filling. We found it to be a bit runnier than the Solo, but otherwise, just as delicious. So don't be afraid to use the alternate brand.

Preheat oven to 350.

Ok, first step is mixing your flour with the salt and baking powder in one mixing bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon.

In a separate bowl, mix your four eggs, sugar, lemon juice and vegetable oil.

Next, add the egg/sugar mixture to the flour mixture, and mix well. NOTE: Although this turns into a sticky dough, do not be tempted to use a stand mixer or hand mixer. I have been instructed that this "over mixes" the dough and turns your hamentaschen into mediocre cookies.

At this point, go preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Come back to your cooking surface and lightly flour the countertop.

Pour the hamentaschen dough out on to the floured surface and begin rolling until it is approximately 1/4" thick.

Use your 3" diameter cup to make circles in the dough. Try and fit as many on the dough as you possibly can, but don't kill yourself. We'll do this several times.

My aunt sent along my very own "hamentaschen cup" for this demonstration
Remove all of the excess dough between the circles and toss it back in your mixing bowl. We're going to roll it up and roll it back out to re-circle cut after we make the first round of hamentaschen.

On each of your circles, take about 1/2 of a small spoon's worth of filling and place in the center of each dough circle.

You don't want to "overfill" because they will become runny and leaky, which does not qualify for "World's Best Hamentaschen."

Then, here comes the tricky part. You will pinch the corners of the circles together to make triangular shapes. My cousin instructed me by telling me that you don't want to "smash" them together, but rather, you just want the edges to meet. Like this:

Continue filling, squishing, and re-rolling your dough until you've gone through as much as you can, and place cookies on ungreased baking sheets.

Put in the oven for approximately 10 minutes, then switch racks so the cookies get a chance to bake evenly. Cook again for another 10 minutes, then check on them. If you have a lot of hamentaschen in the oven at once, you'll need a little more time (just a few minutes), but if there are only a few, 20 minutes can do it, depending on your particular oven. Just know that at 20 minutes, you better watch 'em like a hawk. Then, when they are lightly golden on the edges or creases, you know they are ready. Take them out of the oven, place on cooling racks with a spatula, then serve and enjoy!