Happy Purim! (well, close enough since it starts at sundown this evening). Today is a day to celebrate good triumphing over evil. Today is also a day for baking!
For those who are not familiar with Purim, it’s a Jewish holiday. It’s also my second favorite holiday, right behind Sukkot. If you want to read more about the history behind Purim and the story from the Book of Ester, both can be found here (link).
Hamantaschen are fruit filled cookies or pastries and are supposed to represent the intrigue associated with the holiday. “Hamantaschen” is a Yiddish word meaning “Haman’s pockets” and according to the article that I read while looking for the origins of the treats (link), the triangular shape “is said to represent Haman’s hat, Haman’s pocket, or, alternatively, the three Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
Every year for Purim I bake my grandma’s hamantaschen. I do this to honor both my heritage and my grandma (on my mother’s side). Grandma Debbie, who is now well over 90, gave me this recipe back when I was in college.
The fillings that go into hamantaschen can vary greatly, people use everything from fruit sauces or preserves to canned pie fillings. The most traditional filling is actually a poppy seed (mohn) filling, made with honey and either dates or raisins.
While I was looking up ideas for various fillings, I stumbled across another recipe that caught my attention (oh, shiny!). A filled pastry called Makhbouz that was labeled “Purim Pastry from the Land of Queen Esther”. It was described as a semi-circle filled cookie or pastry that contains a date, almond or cheese filling. It seemed interesting, so I decided to add it into the mix.
My first batch of Makhbouz was less than impressive. It was slightly dry, not at all sweet, and well… boring. I was not impressed with the original recipe, but it had potential. Adding some sugar to the dough, more leavening and swapping out the very bland fillings for a sweet date and honey mixture was a vast improvement.
I also tried out a sweet ricotta cheese filling, which was good on it’s own, but not flavorful enough for the cookies. I’m thinking it would be wonderful to make cheese blintzes with though, or crepes, which have been added to the list as a “try that out later” recipe idea.
For the hamantaschen, I decided to use homemade apricot filling, lemon curd, traditional poppy seed and raspberry jam.
I should have done homemade raspberry filling, since the raspberry “spreadable fruit” that I purchased was a poor choice and the result was a dozen ruined cookies. I won’t be doing that again.
The lemon curd, which was a last minute idea (my original was lingonberry jam, but the specialty store was out) turned out to be fabulous. I haven’t worked much with lemon curd, but it bakes very well into desserts and I’ll be playing with it more in the future for certain.
Both hamantaschen and makhbouz shall be enjoyed this evening by many.
Perhaps even by you, if you feel so inclined to gather up the ingredients and make some of your own!
Me? I’m going to enjoy some cookies and locate some music to listen to, since like every other time that I go on a Jewish cooking spree, I’ve got the song “Dayenu” stuck in my head on repeat…
Grandma Debbie’s Hamantaschen
- 4 1/2 (20 oz) cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp & 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 eggs
- Juice & zest from one medium orange (~1 tbsp each)
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 large egg, beaten for glazing cookies
Yield: 5 dozen cookies
- 3 cups (13.2 oz) all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 6 tbsp butter
- 3 eggs
- 6 tbsp Greek yogurt
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
Yield: 3 dozen cookies
Preparation – for both:
Step 1: Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium sized mixing bowl and whisk together until well mixed, then set aside.
Step 3: Next, add in the eggs (and yolks) and mix until well blended. Grandma said not to add them in one at a time, so I don’t. You can do that if you want but I’ve never noticed a difference with this recipe.
After adding the eggs, if you’re making hamantaschen, add in the vanilla, orange juice and zest and continue to mix.
If you’re making makhbouz, add in the yogurt and vanilla.
Step 4: Reduce your speed to low and add in the flour mixture, continue to mix only until it is completely combined. You should have a soft, slightly-sticky dough. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour, about 1/4 cup at a time, until it reaches the correct texture.
Step 5: Once the dough is mixed, transfer it to large mixing bowl and cover it with saran wrap.
For makhbouz, set it someplace slightly warm and let it RISE for an hour. That’s correct, rise, like a yeast dough would. It will just about double in size by the time an hour is up.
While you’re waiting, prep the fillings.
Step 6: Preheat your oven to 350° F and while you wait for it to heat up, assemble the cookies!
Cut into rounds using a 3″ cookie or biscuit cutter (in a pinch, you can use a drinking glass) and transfer the circles of dough to a baking sheet.
Place 1-2 tsp of filling in the center of each cookie while on the sheet – don’t try this before you put them on the sheet, they are hard to transfer. I generally go with a heaping teaspoon.
Fold & then pinch each cookie to form three “corners” (you know, a triangle), leaving a little of the filling showing in the middle.
Make sure the corners are sealed tightly, so that the filling can’t escape and ensure that the cookie has a nice triangular shape.
Cut into rounds using a 3″ cookie or biscuit cutter.
Fill with your preferred filling, such as the date/honey found below or even something like chocolate chips.
Using your hands, or using a nifty dough press, close the pastries to semi-circle and seal.
If you’re doing this by hand, crimp them closed with a fork.
For BOTH: Brush the tops of the cookies/pastries with the beaten egg to give them a lovely shine. One egg is all it took for 8 dozen cookies.
Step 7: Bake!
For Hamantaschen: 14-16 minutes, until they are a light golden brown.
For Makhbouz: 20-22 minutes, until the tops are light golden brown.
- 12 oz (2- 6oz packages) dried apricots, diced
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 1/2 cups water
Preparation: Place all ingredients into a small saucepan, cook over medium- high heat until the filling starts to boil. Turn down the heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally and add more water if it starts to thicken too much before the apricots are broken down enough to be a chunky sauce. I recommend stirring and mashing with a fork as it cooks.
Yield: 2 cups
Date & Honey Filling
- 1 1/2 cups (12 oz) chopped dates
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Preparation: Place all ingredients into a small saucepan, cook over medium- high heat until the filling starts to boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and let it cook, on low, for 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally and add more water if it starts to get thicken too much before the dates are completely softened. I recommend stirring and mashing a bit with a fork as it cooks.
Yield: 2 cups
- DO NOT JUST PINCH your hamantaschen! Grandma and mom always pinched the corners, and half the time the ends split and you had filling all over the pan. Fold the edges over first, then pinch to get it pointy! This awesome tip brought to you by the Cupcake Project.
- For traditional poppy seed filling, I recommend a Google search.
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