Hamantaschen go gourmet


Pictured above: Salted Carmel Hamantaschen

Purim is one of the most exciting holidays on the Jewish calendar, yet its signature food hamantaschen is not. Triangle shaped and traditionally filled with uninspired flavors, it’s no wonder this pastry is frequently disappointing. Fortunately, pastry Chef Paula Shoyer is on a mission to transform hamantaschen from bland and boring to tasty and tantalizing.

This year Paula will tickle Purim taste buds with recipes for a vibrant selection of colorful and, at times, exotic hamantaschen.

“I want Jews to celebrate holidays with the desserts their ancestors ate, yet improve upon the traditional recipes,” says Paula. “Thanks to social media, bakers often showcase their creations, and hamantaschen have become an Instagram hit.”

She studied at the elite Ritz Escoffier School in Paris, which she attended for fun while her husband was serving as the legal advisor to the U.S. Mission to the World Trade Organization from 1993 to 1997. “I thought I’d go back to law,” says Paula, who was an attorney in Washington, D.C., before the family’s move. “But people kept asking me to cook for them.”

Paula is the author of Healthy Jewish Kitchen (Sterling Epicure 2017), The New Passover Menu (Sterling 2015), The Holiday Kosher Baker (Sterling Press 2013) and The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Desserts from Traditional to Trendy (Brandeis 2010).

“I take traditional recipes and make them easier, more modern and natural,” says Paula. “I write cookbooks so that I can bring my recipes into your kitchen to inspire you to try something new, to cook from scratch and enjoy eating with the people you love while creating food memories that you can remember for the rest of your lives.”

A self-described “healthy chef, with a passion for pastries,” Paula says “healthy” and “pastry” aren’t mutually exclusive.

Understanding that a family cannot survive on chocolate babka alone, Paula expanded her repertoire into the savory arena, with an emphasis on easy and healthy dishes that don’t sacrifice on tradition or flair.

Paula offers several tips to customize hamantaschen:

  • Find a recipe for the dough you and your family will love. Check out Paula’s recipes, including one for gluten-free dough, in The Holiday Kosher Baker.
  • Add an extract or flavoring from high-quality liquors, coffee syrups or food coloring.
  • Knead seeds, chopped nuts, sprinkles or nonpareils into the dough.
  • Experiment with new and trendy fillings or those from your favorite desserts. Pies, sandwich cookies and almost any cream-filled dessert can provide inspiration.

For Purim, Paula has shared a variety of sweet and savory hamantaschen, including salted caramel, granola, vanilla bean and spanakopita. Following are some of Paula’s hamantaschen with a gourmet twist.

 

SPANAKOPITA HAMANTASCHEN

Purchased puff pastry (freezer aisle of the supermarket)

1 teaspoon kosher salt
10 ounces baby spinach leaves
3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Za’atar spice
3 tablespoons soy cream cheese
Salt and pepper
1 large egg, beaten
Sesame seeds

Thaw puff pastry according to package directions. Preheat oven to 400°F. Cover two cookie sheets or pans with parchment paper.

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil and add some salt. Add the spinach leaves and cook for 30 seconds. Drain. Once the spinach cools, squeeze out as much water as you can.

To prepare the filling, place the spinach on a cutting board and chop roughly. Place into a medium bowl. Add the chopped onion, lemon juice, oil, and Za’atar and mix well with a fork. Add the cream cheese and mash into the spinach. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

When the pastry is thawed, sprinkle a little flour on the parchment and unroll the pastry on top. Use a rolling pin to roll the pastry to smooth out the creases. Every few rolls, lift up the dough and sprinkle a little flour underneath.

Use a 3-inch drinking glass or round cookie to cut the dough into circles. Use a metal flat-blade spatula to lift the circle and place on another spot on the parchment. Brush the circle with the beaten egg. Place a generous teaspoon of filling in the center and then fold in the three sides toward the middle to form a triangle, leaving a small opening in the center. Pinch the three sides together very tightly. Place on the prepared cookie sheets.

When all of the pastries are shaped, pinch the corners tightly a second time. Brush pastries with the remaining beaten egg and sprinkle the sesame seeds on top and on the sides.

Bake for 25 minutes or until golden.

May be made 4 days in advance. Store in the fridge; reheat in the oven until crisp.

 

VANILLA BEAN HAMANTASCHEN

This is a variation on a recipe from my husband Andy’s grandmother, Celia Shoyer, from Romania. I like to fill this dough with raspberry jam, but feel free to use any filling you like.

Dough

3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup canola or vegetable oil
Seeds of one vanilla bean
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon baking powder
Dash salt

Filling

1 cup raspberry or other jam

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla bean seeds and vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder and salt, and mix until the dough comes together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for one hour to firm up. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two or three large cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats, or bake in batches. Divide the dough in half.

Take two pieces of parchment and sprinkle flour on one, place one dough half on top and then sprinkle a little more flour on top of the dough. Place the second piece of parchment on top of the dough and roll on top of the parchment until the dough is about ¼-inch thick. Every few rolls, peel back the top parchment and sprinkle a little more flour on the dough.

Use a 2- to 3-inch drinking glass or round cookie cutter to cut the dough into circles. Use a metal flat-blade spatula to lift up the circle of dough and place it on another part of the flour-sprinkled parchment paper. Place up to 1 teaspoon of jam in the center of the dough circle and then fold the three sides in toward the middle to form a triangle, leaving a small opening in the center. Pinch the three sides together very tightly. Place the triangle on the prepared cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and scraps, making sure to sprinkle a little flour under and over the dough before you roll.

Bake for 14 to 16 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned but the tops are still light. Slide the parchment paper onto wire racks to cool the cookies. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days or freeze for up to three months.

 

 

SALTED CARAMEL HAMANTASCHEN (DAIRY)

Dough

3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon orange juice
3½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting parchment and dough

Caramel Filling

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
½ cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon salt

To make the caramel, place the sugar and water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook on medium-high heat until sugar melts. After several minutes, the sugar will start to color. Stir the mixture so all the sugar browns. When it is a uniform amber color, turn heat to low, remove saucepan from heat and add the cream. The mixture will bubble up. Add the butter and salt and stir. Return to the heat and cook for 1 minute, or until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and let cool. Chill in the fridge for at least a half hour to thicken the caramel. Store in the fridge for up to five days.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment. You will bake in batches.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, oil and orange juice. Add the baking powder, pepper and flour and mix until the dough comes together. I like to use my hands for this because it kneads the dough well. Divide the dough in half.

Take another two pieces of parchment and sprinkle flour on one, place one dough half on top, and then sprinkle a little more flour on top of the dough. Place the second piece of parchment on top of the dough and roll on top of the parchment until the dough is about ¼-inch thick. Every few rolls, peel back the top parchment and sprinkle a little more flour on the dough.

Use a glass or round cookie cutter about 2 to 3 inches in diameter to cut the dough into circles. Place a little less than a teaspoon of the filling in the center and then fold in 3 sides to form a triangle, leaving a small opening in the center. Pinch the 3 sides very tightly. Place on the prepared cookie sheets. Repeat with the rest of the dough and re-roll and cut any dough scraps you have. Place the cookie sheets in the freezer for 10 minutes; this helps the hamantaschen hold their shape and not open up while baking.

Bake for 12 to 16 minutes, or until the bottoms are lightly browned. Slide the parchment onto racks to cool the cookies. If desired, drizzle any remaining caramel over the cookies. Store covered with plastic or in an airtight container at room temperature for five days or freeze for up to three months.

 

GLUTEN-FREE HAMANTASCHEN

I had experimented with gluten-free flour mixes without success until I tried King Arthur brand, a combination of white rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch and brown rice flour. These hamantaschen are whiter in appearance than typical hamantaschen. In addition, you need to bake them until they are browner on the bottom than other ones in this chapter. Wait until they cool before eating them because they are too crumbly when they’re still warm; they are much better after they harden up.

Dough

3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
3½ cups or 24-ounce package of gluten-free flour mix, plus extra for dusting

Filling

1 cup fruit jam or preserves, canned apricot or poppy seed pie filling

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla and mix well. Add the baking powder, xanthan gum, and flour mix and use a wooden spoon to mix until the dough comes together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for one hour to firm up.

Preheat oven to 350°f. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats, or plan to bake in batches. Divide the dough in half.

Take two pieces of parchment paper and sprinkle some gluten-free flour mix on one, place one dough half on top, and then sprinkle a little more of the mix on top of the dough. Place the second piece of parchment on top of the dough and roll

On top of the parchment until the dough is ¼ -inch thick or thinner. These cookies come out best when rolled thin. Every few rolls, peel back the top parchment and sprinkle a little more flour on the dough.

Use a 2- to 3-inch drinking glass or round cookie cutter to cut the dough into circles. Use a metal flat-blade spatula to lift up the circle of dough and place it on another part of the flour sprinkled parchment paper. Place up to 1 teaspoon Of jam in the center of the dough circle and then fold the three sides in toward the middle to form a triangle, leaving a small opening in the center. Pinch the three sides together very tightly. Place on the prepared cookie sheets. Repeat with the Remaining dough and roll and cut any dough scraps, making sure to sprinkle a little flour under and over the dough before you roll.

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until the bottoms are browned. Let the cookies cool completely on the cookie sheet. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days or freeze for up to three months.

 

GRANOLA HAMANTASCHEN

Dough

4 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
½ cup canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
½ cup whole-wheat flour
dash salt
1½ cups granola, pulsed in food processor for 15 seconds, until no whole oats remain

Filling

¾ cup apricot preserves
¼ cup raspberry jam
½ cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
2-3 tablespoons granola for sprinkling on top

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla and mix well. Add the two types of flour and salt and mix until the dough comes together. Add the crushed granola and mix well. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for one hour to firm up.

To make the filling, in a small bowl combine the apricot preserves and raspberry jam, chopped apricots and cranberries. Cover and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 3 large cookie sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats, or bake it batches. Divide the dough in half.

Take another two pieces of parchment paper and sprinkle flour on one, place one dough half on top, and then sprinkle a little more flour on top of the dough. Place the second piece of parchment on top of the dough and roll on top of the parchment to roll out the dough until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Every few rolls, peel back the top parchment and sprinkle a little more flour on the dough.

Use a 3-inch drinking glass or round cookie to cut the dough into circles. Use a metal flat blade spatula to lift the circle and place on another spot on the parchment, sprinkled with a little flour.  Place heaping ½ teaspoon of filling in the center and then fold in the three sides towards the middle to form a triangle, leaving a small opening in the center. Pinch the three sides together very tightly. Place on the prepared cookie sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough and roll and cut any dough scraps you have, making sure to sprinkle little flour under and over the dough before you roll. Sprinkle a little granola on top of the jam filling. Before you bake the cookies, pinch all of the edges a second time to seal them tightly.

Bake for 14 to 15 minutes, or until the bottoms are lightly browned. Slide the parchment onto wire racks to cool.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days or freeze for up to three months.

Recipes courtesy of The Holiday Kosher Baker, By Paula Shoyer

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