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Foods often become synonymous with the holidays in which they are eaten, but there is no food, or cookie, that is as more symbolic thank hamantaschen for Purim.
Purim is a holiday that commemorates how the Jewish people escaped Haman, who was planning on killing all of the Jews within the Persian Empire. It is celebrated every year on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, which is February 28th this year.
Tradition calls for those celebrating to wear costumes, give to charity, eat hearty feasts and "drink until you can't tell the difference" between Haman and Mordecai, the hero of the Purim story.
Hamantaschen – triangular shaped cookies with a fruit jam or poppy seed filling – have become the official food of Purim, because they represent Haman's three-cornered hat (or Haman's ear depending on what version of the story you're keen to). Around Purim time in Israel it's hard to miss these (semi) sweet treats because every bakery is cranking them out.
This recipe for hamantaschen comes from Camille Cogswell, the pastry chef at Zahav, a James Beard Award-winning restaurant in Philadelphia that focuses on Israeli cuisine. The dough, which was developed by the mother of Steve Cook, co-owner of Zahav. is perfectly buttery and tender and the traditional poppy seed filling is earthy and not too sweet. Combine with candied citrus peel and dried fruit like apricots or cherries and you'll have a filling that really pops. If you have trouble tracking down candied citrus rind you can substitute it with the zest of one lemon or orange. The filling for this recipe is adapted by Joan Nathan.
- 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon water
Poppy Seed Filling
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup poppy seeds, ground in a coffee or spice grinder
- 1/4 cup dried fruit such as apricots or cherries, small diced
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
- 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/8 cup cup candied citrus peel such as lemon or orange, finely diced (a good substitution is the zest of 1 lemon or orange)
For the Dough
- Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Add the egg, milk, and vanilla and mix until just incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice.
- Add flour, salt and baking powder and mix until it just forms a dough.
- Place the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap, shape into a flat rectangle with your hands, and wrap tightly.
- Refrigerate for at least one hour or until firm.
For the Filling
- Heat the milk and sugar (and if using citrus zest instead of candied peel, add-in the zest) in a small pot over medium heat until the milk is warm to the touch.
- Add the poppy seeds and dried fruit.
- Hold the milk mixture at a simmer over low heat and stir frequently until the poppy seeds have absorbed all the liquid and the mixture has thickened , about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Add the lemon juice, Grand Marnier and butter, and continue to cook for 2 more minutes.
- Off the heat, stir-in the vanilla extract and candied citrus peel.
- Let the filling cool completely.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F.
- Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the chilled dough to 1⁄8 inch thickness.
- Using a3” round cookie cutter (or the top of a glass), punch out dough rounds and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Refrigerate until firm.
- Spoon about 1 1⁄2 teaspoons of filling in the middle of each round.
- Imagine three points around the circle – one at the top, two on the bottom sides, forming a triangle.
- With your thumbs and index fingers, fold the dough up around the filling, pinching together at each of the three points to form a triangular cookie. If the dough doesn’t stick together, lightly wet the inside edges of the dough with water.
- Refrigerate the tray of unbaked cookies until chilled.
- In a small bowl, beat the eggs and water together. Lightly brush the cookies with egg wash.
- Bake for about 8-10 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through until the cookies are golden brown.
- Let cool before serving.