March 6, 2012
If you know me or you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably know at least one of the following things about me:
a) I was a religious studies major in college (this is also how I met Jill).
b) I was raised Hindu, but attended an Episcopal school for twelve years.
c) I remain a practicing Hindu, and have taught at a Jewish school for the last five years.
The end result of all of this is that I find myself open to and appreciative of the religious traditions of others—I like hearing and learning about how others practice, observe, and ritualize—and I believe that, even if a tradition is not my own, it can bring value to my life.
Which is why I’m blogging about hamantaschen.
These cookies are traditionally made to celebrate the holiday of Purim which commemorates the heroism of Queen Esther, who foiled the evil Haman and saved the Jewish people in her husband’s kingdom from being killed. Hamantaschen are always triangular, supposedly to resemble the three-cornered hat that Haman wore. As a Jewish friend & colleague put it, “Haman is just so evil. We must eat his hat.”
adapted from Epicurious
Fun fact: Hinduism & Judaism both operate on a modified lunar calendar, allowing holidays to stay in the same season of the year (spring, fall, etc.) while shifting exact date. This shared calendar often results in shared holidays or neighboring celebrations, and this year the Hindu holiday of Holi, which is a bit raucous, a cause for the blurring of societal norms (in the form of throwing colored pigment at each other) and celebrates the springtime, falls on the same day as Purim, which is also a bit raucous, a cause for the blurring of societal norms (in the form of outlandish costumes), and celebrates a brave woman. Best of all, both religions know how to celebrate with food.
My hamantaschen recipe calls for dried cherries & cranberries, but more traditional fillings are apricot, prune, and poppy seed. And chocolate-filled hamantaschen are most popular with the kiddos!
for the dough:
2/3 cup butter or margarine
½ cup sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
½ tsp. vanilla
2 ½ – 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
You can make the dough in the food processor, a stand mixer, or by hand. Cream the butter and sugar, adding the egg & egg yolk and mixing until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and process until a ball of dough forms (you may need to add a sprinkling of water).
Cover the dough and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
for the filling:
1 cup dried cherries
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup walnuts
1 green apple: peeled, seeded, & chopped
½ cup water
juice of 1 lemon or ½ orange, plus zest (optional)
4 T sugar
Simmer the dried fruit, water, fruit juice/zest, & sugar in a covered medium saucepan for 10-15 minutes. Fruit should be soft but still firm, and liquid should have reduced considerably. Move off the heat, keep covered, and let the reconstituted fruit cool a bit.
Process the dried fruit mixture, chopped apple, & walnuts in a food processor until the mixture is spreadable.
Once the dough is ready, flour a work surface and roll about a quarter of the dough out at a time, to 1/8” thickness. Use a biscuit cutter or water glass to cut the dough into circles with an approximately 2-inch diameter. Drop 1 tsp. of the filling into the center of each circle, then dip your finger in cool water and run it around the edges of each circle.
Gather the dough toward the center, pinching together in three corners to form a triangle. Place the assembled cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet, baking for 12-15 minutes or until the dough is golden brown in places.