Hamantaschen

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Caroline here, hijacking the Backstage Baker’s blog to share a recipe I’m baking right now.

I’ll celebrate any holiday if it involves baking.  And today is one of my all-time favorite holidays – Purim – because it features the delectable pastry (pictured above) called hamantaschen.  (For those unfamiliar with them, hamentaschen are a sweet pastry/cookie filled with apricot, prune or poppy seed jams.)

Now, in case you don’t know, Purim is a Jewish holiday.   Described in the book of Esther, it celebrates the escape of the Jewish people from the annihilation planned by the evil Haman.  Long story short (and the long story involves people named Ahasuerus, Xerxes, Zeresh and many, many others) Haman was hanged on the very gallows that he’d built to exterminate the Jews, so Purim is a joyous holiday, full of festivities, costumes and fun.  I’m not quite sure why triangular pastries have such significance – some say they represent Haman’s ears, others that they resemble the pyramidal dice Haman used to decide the day of destruction, and still others say they look like popular hats worn back in 500 BC.  Regardless, they are unique and delicious!

Hamen Taschen
(Note, you’ll get the best results if you can refrigerate this dough overnight.  I’ve only been that organized once, but it really is worth it.)

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice (extracted from above orange)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Apricot, prune, poppy seed fillings (you can find these in the baking section of your grocery store)

Method:

1. Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.

2. Add orange zest, orange juice, vanilla extract and 2 eggs.

3. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.  Slowly add to butter mixture until just combined.

4. Divide dough into thirds, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.

5. Remove each chunk of dough one at a time and roll to 1/8” thickness.  With a 3” round cutter, cut out as many circles as possible and place on a cookie sheet. Whisk remaining egg and brush on edges of circles.  Put one teaspoon of filling in the middle of each dough circle and fold in sides to form a triangle.  Pinch the corners well to ensure the pastry keeps its shape when baking.  Put in refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill.

6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Bake until golden, 12 – 15 minutes.  Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then remove to racks.

Makes about 40.

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