My second year of university was the first time I made hamantaschen on my own. My roommates and I hosted a Purim party, baking dozens of cookies and requiring our guests to attend in costume if they wanted to sample. I hadn't dressed for Purim since I was little, when I wore the typical costumes of princess and the dreaded Haman. That year, when I was nineteen, I wore the Raggedy Anne costume my mom sewed for me when I was eleven.
The party was wildly successful. In the hours before our guests arrived no less than six lovers of hamantaschen packed into my yellow kitchen. I remember little but the mess, mixing the dough in a massive plastic red bowl, and my dear friend Sophie - whom I hardly knew then - brewing the poppy seed filling on the stove.
I had never fathomed of making the poppy seed filling from scratch. Left to my own devices - clueless as to where one could buy the filling, or even buy poppy seeds for that matter - I would have stuck to trusty apricot, always a pleaser. But Sophie's assured assembly has forever inspired me. Not a Purim goes by when I don't make my own.
My roommates and I thought that every Hamantaschen had been devoured that night. Months later, though, on the morning that we all moved out, after we sort of scoured the kitchen and moved out the table and couch we kept in there, a sole triangular cookie surfaced on the floor, completely intact and looking as tasty as ever. I like to think that someone stashed it in a secret spot, saving it for later. I know that's a whimsical notion, but the cookies, they're that good.
This isn't the same dough that I first made years ago, but it's one that I have used since and have come to love for its balance between bready and light. Using whole wheat flour isn't vital, but adds a certain texture and color that I appreciate in a hamantaschen. Don't skimp on the orange juice and zest, which create a refreshing tang and complement just about every fruity filling I can conceive.
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into chunks
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp grated orange zest
1/4 c orange juice
filling of choice - apricot and orange jam, prune butter, and poppy seed are traditional
In a medium bowl, sift together dry ingredients the flours, baking powder, and salt.
In a larger bowl cream the butter and sugar using a hand mixer until they are light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, zest, and juice and mix until combined, using either a wooden spoon or the mixer. Add the dry ingredients little by little and mix until just combined. Cautiously add a little water or orange juice is the dough is too dry. The dough shouldn't be sticky, but it should hold together and feel smooth. Form the dough into disks and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before rolling.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface roll out one disk of dough on to about 1/8 inch thick, keep the other refrigerated until ready to use it. Using a cookie cutter, drinking glass, or jar (I used a Bon Maman jam jar) cut out about 3-inch circles. Keep the scraps covered and refrigerated until you're ready to use them again.
Fill the circles with about 1 tablespoon of whichever fillings you have selected. Fold up two side, pinching ends together, and then the third to make a triangle shape with a pocket in the middle. Transfer gently to a baking sheet. Bake until golden, 12 -15 minutes.
yields about 3 dozen
Poppy Seed Filling
1 c poppy seeds
1/2 c milk
1/2 c honey
1-2 tbsp lemon zest, and several drops of lemon juice to taste
1/2 c golden or sultana raisins, optional
If using raisins, soak them in water overnight. The raisins are not necessary but add texture and sweetness. If you're feeling extra industrious, combine the soaked raisins with the poppy seeds in a small blender and blend briefly or mash them using a mortar and pestle until the raisins have broken down.
Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook at a simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the liquid has boiled off. Let cool before filling the cookies.