Purim 2016: Hamantaschen Go Gourmet

Creative fillings aren't just the realm of Hanukkah soufganiyot anymore. Check out these modern hamentaschen recipes.

Hamantaschen for Purim.
Vered Guttman

Hamantaschen in Israel are going gourmet, just like soufganiyot before them. Take a stroll through the many pastry shops in these days before the Purim holiday, and you will notice nothing short of an amazing variety of small, decadent, sablé pastry hamantaschen filled with such inventive options that can only compete with the soufganiya craze that takes over the country for Hanukkah.

Dates, halva, and poppyseed are considered classic fillings for these little trianglar pastries. But now you can find much more: Think cherries and marzipan, strawberry and pistachio, and passion fruit macaroon. Not to mention the savory hamantaschen, such as feta and walnuts, caramelized sweet potatoes, and goat cheese with chestnuts.

As for me, my favorite will always be the poppy seed hamantaschen  but I’ll be the first to admit that these three unconventional options easily make the cut.

Salted peanut and caramel hamantaschen

Mahlab is a wonderful Middle Eastern spice, made of ground cherry pits. It is used mainly in baked goods, and adds an earthy and irresistible umami. Mahlab is available in most Middle Eastern stores and online. Substitute with vanilla extract if you can’t find it.

Yields about 40 hamantaschen

Ingredients:

12 oz. (about 2 cups) roasted salted peanuts

2 oz. (1/2 cup) rolled oats

2 cups sugar

1 cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons mahlab (see note above) or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 batch hamantaschen dough (see below)

1/4 cup poppy seeds for topping (optional)

Directions:

1.    Chop peanuts in a food processor using the pulse button to create rice-size crumbles. Set aside.

2.    Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add rolled oats and toast, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes until golden brown. Transfer oats to a bowl. Reduce heat to medium, add sugar and let it caramelize for a few minutes without stirring. When the sugar melts and becomes golden on the sides and bottom, stir it a little to let the rest of the sugar become golden. As soon as it all melts, reduce heat to low and slowly add heavy cream. This will make the sugar bubble vigorously, so be careful. The sugar will form medium-size chunks at this point, so keep on cooking on low heat, stirring constantly, until it all melts and the caramel is smooth. Add butter and mahlab, mix and remove from heat. Mix in peanuts and rolled oats, transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool. Cover mixture with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3.    Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Have a round 3-inch cookie cutter at hand.

4.    Lightly dust the work surface with flour. If you’re using poppy seeds to decorate the dough, scatter a few spoonfuls on top of the flour.  Roll out the first half-portion of dough as thin as possible (to a thickness of about 1/16 of an inch). Dip the cookie cutter into flour and cut out circles of dough. Gather and roll out the remaining dough as needed.

5.    Use a teaspoon to mound a small amount of the filling into the center of each circle. Lift and pinch the edges of each circle in 3 points spaced evenly apart, to create a triangle; the filling will be partially exposed in the center. Arrange on the baking sheet, spacing them an inch apart. Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for an hour and up to a day.

6.    Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the pastries are beginning to turn light golden at the edges.

7.    Transfer the pastries to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Hamantaschen for Purim.
Vered Guttman

Halva and Nutella hamantaschen

Halva, a tahini candy made in the Levant, is available at some national chain supermarkets, at Jewish stores and at Middle Eastern markets.

Yields about 40 hamantaschen

Ingredients:

8 oz. halva, crumbled

16 oz. (about 1 cup) Nutella

2 egg yolks

1 batch hamantaschen dough (see below)

Directions:

1.    Put crumbled halva, Nutella and egg yolks in a bowl and mix well.

2.    Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Have a round 3-inch cookie cutter at hand.

3.    Lightly dust the working surface with flour. Roll out the first half-portion of dough on the floured surface as thinly as possible (until about 1/16 of an inch thick). Dip the cookie cutter into flour and cut out circles of dough. Gather and roll out remaining dough as needed.

4.    Use a teaspoon to mound a small amount of the filling into the center of each circle. Lift and pinch the edges of each circle in 3 places spaced evenly apart, to create a triangle; the filling will be partially exposed in the center. Arrange on the baking sheet, spacing cookies an inch apart. Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for an hour and up to a day.

5.    Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the pastries are just turning light golden at the edges.

6.    Transfer the pastries to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Confetti hamantaschen

Rainbow sprinkles on the outside, cream cheese frosting inside.

Yields about 40 hamantaschen

Ingredients

8 oz. cream cheese

1/4 cup heavy cream

6 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding powder

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 batch hamantaschen dough (see below)

3 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles

Directions:

1.    Put cream cheese, heavy cream, sugar and instant vanilla pudding in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with balloon whisk and mix just until smooth. Add egg and yolk and mix again to combine. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and keep in fridge for one hour.

2.    Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Have a round 3-inch cookie cutter at hand.

3.    Lightly dust the work surface with flour. Scatter a few spoonfuls of rainbow sprinkles on top. Roll out the first half portion of dough until as thin as possible (until about 1/16 of an inch). Dip the cookie cutter into flour and cut out circles of dough. Gather and roll out the remaining dough as needed.

4.    Use a teaspoon to mound a small amount of filling in the center of each circle. Lift and pinch the edges of each circle in 3 places spaced evenly apart, to create a triangle; the filling will be partially exposed in the center. Arrange on the baking sheet, spacing cookies an inch apart. Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour and up to a day.

5.    Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the pastries are just turning light golden at the edges.

6.    Transfer the pastries to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Hamantaschen dough

Yields about 40 hamantaschen

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 cup powdered sugar

Pinch salt

1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) cold butter 

2 eggs

Directions:

1. Combine the flour, powdered sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor.

2. Cut cold butter into chunks, and add to the bowl.

3. Pulse to create crumbs.

4. Add the eggs one by one, and pulse just until crumbs are formed.

5. Transfer to a large bowl and quickly knead with your hands to create a dough.

6. Divide the dough in two; form into 2 disks and wrap in plastic wrap.

7. Refrigerate for an hour and up to a day.