|Photo by Rachel Dedrickson|
When I was younger, my favorite Jewish holiday was not Hanukkah. It was Purim.
Purim is a festival that commemorates the liberation of the Jewish people living throughout the ancient Persian Empire (stolen from Google definition search results – uh huh!).
Traditionally, kids dress up as one of the biblical figures in the Purim story and go to synagogue in their costumes. Queen Esther, King Ahasuerus, Mordechai, and Haman are the usual characters that frequent the temple.
I remember I would dress up as Queen Esther or Queen Vashti. Mom would put bright red lipstick on me and I would get to wear gauds of costume jewelry. I assume any six-year-old girl would find such an occasion exciting. I can still picture the gold coined necklace, iridescent beads, and the large clip-on earrings that hung like weights from my little ears.
Aside from the jewels and makeup, there are always baked treats that certainly make Purim festivities complete. Hamantashen (המן־טאַש; HOM-EN-TASH-EN).
Hamantaschen are three-cornered cookies filled with jam or poppy seed paste. Their shape is sculpted after the three-cornered hat claimed to be worn by the holiday’s villain, Haman.
I don’t celebrate or dress up anymore, but I stumbled on a hamentashen recipe at Smitten Kitchen, and realized Purim is on March 19th this year. I had to revisit these treats. They bring back so many memories of being a little kid, and who doesn’t want to be a little kid again? (Remember? Little kid status = frequent nap times + shameless sugar consumption + no bills. Um, yes please!).
I have not made hamantashen since my Sunday school days, when they’d take us on a ‘field-trip’ to the synagogue’s kitchen (note: 15 feet away from our classroom) and let us shape our cookies with the dough that had been labored on by some kind Jewish mother.
Fast forward almost fifteen years later, and my hamentashen took a lot more effort! Exhibit A is below:
Unfortunately, my hamentashen exploded like jam bombs in the oven. Apricot, raspberry, and blueberry puddles decorated my cookie tray. The outcome? A colorful mess and deliciously, disfigured cookie pancakes. They don’t come close to resembling Haman’s hat.
Anyway, baking blunders aside, these are fun little cookies. They just might entice me to get my butt to synagogue this year to see all the giggles, costumes and jewels. Why I ever gave up my favorite holiday baffles me.
But…I’m definitely going to have to make a second attempt in the kitchen.
From Smitten Kitchen
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 1/3 cups plus 4 teaspoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Various jams – I used raspberry, blueberry, and apricot.
Cream butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add sugar and mix for one minute longer, then egg, vanilla extract, orange zest and salt, mixing until combined. Finally, add the flour. The mixture should come together and be a tad sticky. If it feels too wet, add an additional tablespoon of flour.
Form dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
To form the hamantashen, roll out the dough on a well-floured surface until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter (3 inches is traditional, but very large; I used one that was 2 1/2 inches), cut the dough into circles. Spoon a teaspoon of you filling of choice in the center. Fold the dough in from three sides and firmly crimp the corners and give them a little twist to ensure they stay closed. Leave the filling mostly open in the center. Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Cool on racks.
Yields about 22 2-inch cookies.
|Photo by Rachel Dedrickson|