It’s Purim again, and I’ve been busy making hamantaschen (again). You know, the little triangular pastries with jam-like fillings. Hamantaschen means Haman’s ears in modern Hebrew (and refers to the evil guy in the biblical Book of Esther, the one who, like many before him and many more since, keep trying to annihilate the Jews) and Haman’s pockets in Yiddish.

Trying to make these while following generations-old recipes for pastry is enough to make anyone think of annihilation. Climatic idiosyncracies (humidity levels, cold, etc) may warrant adjustment of various ingredients. In my latest experiment, a few of the pockets annihilated themselves in the oven because (I can’t help it) I decided to be adventurous 1) by deviating from a tried and tested recipe from years before because I was unhappy with the stiffish pastry and 2) by stuffing the darned pockets with new-fangled notions such as lemon curd and strawberry jam.

The pastry I experimented with today was more tender than ones I’ve tried before, and the hamantaschen filled with traditional apricot filling (which I also made) came out satisfyingly pointy-perfect.  The ones with modern fancy lemon curd and jam in them, however, looked like they’d been swatted with a spatula. (The splattenhaschen, however, were delicious!) Perhaps their higher sugar and water content caused them to overheat and disintegrate into the pastry 😦

No matter. I still had 20 beautiful apricot ones! With the two-third of pastry still left in the fridge, I made another 40 hamantaschen the next day, with both apricot and a homemade prune filling (for that, simmer a few handfuls of prunes with 2 tbsp of blackberry jam, 1/3 cup hot water and some lemon or orange zest till the prunes are tender. Add a little sugar if needed, then process, cool and fill those pastries!

The hamantaschen, if anyone allows them to, do improve with age 😀

For the pastry:

  • butter, 1 stick (110g)
  • sugar, 1 cup (could do with 1/2 or 3/4)
  • egg, 1
  • milk, 2 tbsp (or use orange juice)
  • salt, pinch
  • plain flour, 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups
  • zest, of an orange
  • optional – baking powder, 1 or 2 tsp (I used none)
  1. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the flour gradually, processing in bursts till you get a breadcrumby mixture
  2. In another bowl, whisk egg, milk with salt
  3. Add egg mixture to the breadcrumby butter/sugar and bring it together into round piece of dough
  4. This dough could be a bit sticky. Wrap it in plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge for at least an hour

Filling:

  • dried apricots, 1 1/2 cups
  • any citrus zest
  • sugar, 3 tbsp
  • about 1 cup water, more if needed
  1. Place all the above in a saucepan and simmer gently till the apricots are tender enough to be pulverized in a processor
  2. Process till smooth. Keep aside to cool
  3. Preheat the oven to about 350F
  4. Using a small, round biscuit cutter of about 1 1/2 to 2 inches, cut circles out
  5. Place a small amount of filling of choice in the middle, then shape into a triangle by lifting the pastry up as needed, pinching at the three corners
  6. Bake about 15 mins, till golden brown
  7. Allow to cool

Alternative fillings: poppyseed or prune are traditional, too, but applesauce may work. Jam was great on my pastry experiment last year, which I unfortunately didn’t document, and may work on a stiffer dough or one with yeast. When shaping the hamantaschen, doing it in a pinwheel fashion and tucking the last corner under the first (see the diagram on this page) may help keep the pastry’s filling intact in the last minutes of baking.

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