Hamantaschen in time for Purim

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LINCOLN – Purim is a deliciously sweet Jewish holiday, but its trademark cookie is a monster – and not only because it’s named for Haman, the unspeakable villain in the Purim story.

Year after year, Jewish home bakers search out new recipes and research techniques in an attempt to create a hamantaschen dough that doesn’t stick, is pliable enough to shape and is sturdy enough to maintain that shape and hold its filling.

But this year, there is a new recipe that is actually worth trying: Mushka Laufer’s non-dairy recipe yields a dough that is surprisingly smooth, silky and pliable.

Laufer, the rebbetzin at the Chabad House of Northern Rhode Island, in Lincoln, recently shared the recipe with women attending a Jewish Women’s Circle of Northern Rhode Island bake-off. 

Laufer’s simple recipe uses oil and apple juice instead of butter – a mainstay of American hamantash recipes – to produce a dough that holds together and is not sticky. Best of all, this dough doesn’t require the prolonged period of refrigeration common in American recipes.

At the Hamantaschen Bake-Off, Laufer served guests hamantash filled with everything from apricots and dates to brownies and halvah – yes, a halvah hamantash. (This seriously delicious cookie uses a different dough than the one given here – it’s made with tahini for a more savory taste.)

The dough in the Homemade Hamantaschen recipe below, which Laufer graciously agreed to share, is suitable for any sweet filling, from fruit to nut mixtures, pastry and candy.

Which brings us to that other difficult part of hamantash production: getting the cookies to hold their triangle shape as they bake. All too often, hamantaschen that are beautiful going into the oven come out round or with edges split open and the filling pouring forth to pool on the cookie sheet. (Fortunately, they taste great no matter how they look!)

I can only wish you good luck with this, because, honestly, I’ve never found a fail-proof solution in all my years of trying. Two bits of advice:

  • “Pinch, pinch, pinch,” Laufer says, emphasizing over and over that you must thoroughly squeeeeeze the corners of the triangles together.
  • Resist the urge to overfill. A rounded 1/2 teaspoon of filling should do it.

Homemade Hamantaschen

Ingredients

1 egg

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup oil

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon apple juice

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking power

1 1/2 cups flour

Filling of your choice

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat eggs and sugar together. Add remaining ingredients (except filling) and mix well (this is best done using your hands).

On a lightly floured board, roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter or a glass, cut circles.

Place 1/2 teaspoon filling in the middle of each circle. Shape circles into triangles by lifting up one side and folding toward the center. Fold the second side toward the first, making the top corner overlap the other side. Bring bottom flap up to the center to overlap the two sides.

Place cookies on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until just starting to brown. Yield: Using a 3-inch cookie cutter, makes about 18.

CYNTHIA BENJAMIN is an editor, writer and chef. She is a member of Congregation B’nai Israel, in Woonsocket.