Words by Arielle Weg, Photography by Ethan Weg
We don't celebrate Jewish holidays at my parent's home without cooking a traditional holiday dish. Friday nights are always time for braided bread, for Hanukkah we fry up potato pancakes, and for Purim we make hamantaschen, a delicious pastry with three distinct corners. Hamantaschen have been part of Purim celebrations for centuries and their shape is supposed to represent the three-cornered hat worn by the villain of the Purim holiday. The name, "hamantaschen" means poppy-seed filled pockets, a traditional choice for the filling, but any sweet filling can be used. The ones my mother and I made are filled with three different jams and chocolate chips.
The most important thing is that they maintain their shape while baking and don't open up. A few tips for that are to not overfill them, keep the dough as thin as you can, and close them up tightly pinched more that you might think. Using an egg wash or some water typically helps to keep them tightly closed.
While they will always be part of our family's celebration, you'll find they are so good that they are welcome anytime. This particular recipe is in the memory of my boyfriend's Polish grandmother. This was her recipe his family graciously shared with me.
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted margarine or butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup orange juice
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg white, beaten
Preheat oven to 350 ˚ F. Beat margarine at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add egg, orange juice, and vanilla.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to margarine mixture; stir into uniform dough. Shape dough into a flat disk. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 15 minutes. Roll out chilled dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut 3-inch circles with a cookie cutter or drinking glass.
Place ½ teaspoon of filling in the center and pinch together at the sides. Fold remaining side up to the center and pinch together at the sides. Put the tightly pinched hamantaschen 1 inch apart from each other on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Brush with egg white and bake for 15 minutes. Watch cookies carefully, some batches can take up to 35 minutes to cook thoroughly.
Makes about 4 dozen cookies.