Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hamantashen or Hamantaschen? And Purim! And Yiddish! What a Spiel!


Hamantashen who? It seems no one can even agree on the correct spelling. So, before we get started on these sweet three cornered pastries-let's kibbitz a bit. Hamantashen (which in Yiddish means-Haman's pocket's) are eaten traditionally during the Jewish festival of Purim, which takes place in early March. The original story took place over 2500 years ago in Persia when King Ahasuerus reigned, Haman was his evil advisor, the beautiful, and smart Esther, and her Uncle Mordechai helped right the kingdom and everyone joined together to celebrate.

The Book of Esther is a story where good triumphs over evil and is celebrated with stories, food, drink and carnivals. Well, that's it in a nutshell. As children we used to look at it as a time to dress up in costume, the girls dressing as Queen Esther and the boys were often the evil Haman, the good Mordechai, or King Ahasuerus. We always attended the Temple carnival where we won goldfish as prizes. (Oy! the poor goldfish.) My children continued the tradition until I finally put my foot down and told them they couldn't bring home any more goldfish! The evening of Purim found us sitting through the Purim spiel where the Rabbis and staff enacted the story of Purim in a parody kind of way, the WHOLE megillah was read, and we beat on the floor and spun our greggors whenever the bad Haman's name was mentioned. Today we still do the same and it is also customary in some parts, to give gifts of fruit and cookies or nuts, and also to give to charity.The eating of hamantashen are all part of the fun. Purim is a joyous holiday and it is intended to be celebrated as such. So forget all your tsuris!


Now to the hamantashen...I am not a maven when it comes to this delicacy. Personally, I think someone took a little joy out of Purim when some Bubbe somewhere decided that we should turn circles into triangles, all to symbolize a very evil man's hat. Or pocket. That has even yet to be decided. I always wonder why there is a circle cookie cutter, but not a triangle? You see I was never very good at geometry, part of the problem maybe being that I was a good Jewish girl, being taught at an Irish Catholic high school, and the Brother teaching me had a French surname. It was also rumored that he couldn't see, or hear and maybe tippled from the bottle a little too often. In any case, I guess he was very kind to me, because somehow I did pass geometry and it may have involved looking at my neighbor's paper. But I did mention that the Brother couldn't see...

http://www.copykat.com/2010/02/21/hamentashen-cookies-for-spring/
So what does that have to do with turning circles into triangles? Absolutely nothing, except that I always find this a challenge. There are two Jewish recipes, one being kreplach, which is a Jewish meat stuffed ravioli, and the other hamantaschen, which are essentially rounds of pastry that are filled and then shaped into triangles. I am not good at turning circles into triangles. I said that already but I thought you should know. I do believe that my mother did me a great favor in never teaching me to make hamantashen. Of course, she never made hamantashen that I can remember. Little did I know, that there are not many Bubbes going around making their own. Temple sisterhoods make lots of money every year ordering hamantashen from the closest kosher bakeries. They then package them in little bags to sell at the Purim carnival to people like me, who never have great success making their own. Well, apparently some do because their photos are all over the internet. Mine are not among them.

Remembering that I write this blog (mostly for my children), I felt the need to put a hamantashen recipe on it. In preschool the kids would make their own hamantashen with refrigerated sugar cookie dough. They weren't bad. I, however, would try my version at home and often end up with pan that looked like this. What a shanda.

Photograph taken from kids on the internet.
You see, making hamantashen involves skill using either the fold technique or the pinch technique. My technique might be labeled the schmuss technique, because I say when the pinch or fold doesn't work, just schmuss those ends together until they stick! Do you remember I also mentioned that Purim involves drinking? Well, I figure that no one is checking to see what method you used to make your Hamantashen. Even ugly hamantashen taste good. And if one's vision isn't quite perfect, that could make those imperfect triangles look awesome. IMO!

That is evidenced here.

Just because you know how to make an angle DOESN'T mean you can.
Now these are made by an anal baker. Oh. Those are Duff Goldman's.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/duff-goldman/hamentashen-recipe.html
And these, well, these are not only creative, but perfect. This woman would never be allowed in my kitchen. She would cause me shpilkes.  But I do love her technique. Peace.

http://kitchen-tested.com/2014/02/20/rainbow-hamantaschen
Hamantashen were traditionally made in jam flavors, such as apricot and raspberry and also a delectable poppy seed version. My father and I loved those. Hamantashen are now made in every flavor known to man. There are now savory hamantashen with schmaltz fried onions. There are everything bagel versions. There are nutella and cookie butter varieties. Yes there is a red velvet one, a carrot cake one, and even a chocolate chip cookie or brownie stuffed inside a pastry one. I venture to say that someone, somewhere, has probably even made a bacon cheese version in a butter pastry, but we won't go there. Oy gevalt!


Speaking of pastry. That is one other little thing that throws a kink into this entire mishegas. Pastry can be made with butter, in which case the pastry takes on more of a rich pie crust type thing. It can also be made with oil, for those who keep kosher and don't want to mix dairy products with meat. That dough tends to be crispier. Then just to make things more complicated one could throw in some yeast, which makes a more cake like hamantashen. Now I didn't say this was easy, did I? You will find camps on both sides. Or some in the middle. I do prefer the cookie, pastry like version over the cake type. But, I would never refuse the cake type if I was offered one. I can kind of roll any which way when it comes to sugar.

These are definitely an oil based dough. You can tell because they are schmussed together.
This year I was determined to give it my all. I  read and read and came up with these. All in the name of research, she roars! With my love of chocolate I decided we (meaning me) needed to have a chocolate dough. I made an oil version dough with cocoa. It has a cookie like crunch and when filled with a Reese's peanut butter type filling and coated with caramel and chocolate glaze from Chocoley, well, this kind of takes me out of this hemisphere.  If you are ever in need of candy making materials or chocolate coating they are the nicest people to talk to and even give out recipes!


So feeling such naches under my belt, I  decided to continue the creative process and came up with this sweet, not so little, cinnamon type cream cheese filled hamantaschen. Perfect with that cup of tea, I'm getting ready to swill; or your favorite latte. Both are pretty, pretty good. Unless you want traditional, in which case, any jam filling will work with either dough. And don't eat too many or you might become a bit zaftig!


Now back to technique. I personally preferred rolling the dough and cutting it into rounds with my favorite blue glass. I found that so much easier than making golf ball sized balls and then schmussing them down to make a round. Then I had to shmutz them together to make triangles. Way to much schmussing and shmutzing in my opinion. And even though I liked the cocoa cookie flavor of the dough with oil, I loved the pastry, more tender pie crust type dough, better. Guess you will have to make both and find out. I also think one can fit more filling into the folded hamantashen than into the pinched, crimped type. Then again, you may be more skilled than I am. In that case, I say more power to ya!

The pastry, butter dough was easier to work with chilled. It rolled out like a charm. The use of powdered sugar also helped the roll out process. And though there was no cream cheese in the dough, it did remind me of rugelah dough.  Suffice to say, that today you've got a lot of choices in recipes. I'm writing up the cocoa, oil cookie dough and the Eastern European Cookie dough with butter, plus the two fillings-one peanut butter, the other cinnamon roll. You can use either filling in either type of dough. Choices of fillings are yours so feel free to study the above paragraphs and come up with your own creation. Each recipe makes about 3 dozen so there is no reason you couldn't have at least three varieties in each batch. And there is certainly no reason to make both recipes. (After reading this paragraph, I am feeling so farmisht!)

For folding directions see Tori Avey's blog. She is a professional. She makes money. I do not. I do this for FUN! Can't you tell? But I digress. You decide. It's Purim. And freedom is what it's all about! And last but not least, let your Bubbies kvell over your hamantashen.You know they would! I send mazel your way!


European Cookie Dough Hamantaschen
From: 1000 Jewish Recipes
Makes about 3 dozen
Time to make:1 1 /2 hours working time, 2-3 hours chilling and baking time
Ingredients:
2 3/4 c unbleached flour
1 c powdered sugar
1 t baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 sticks very cold butter, cut into about 32 cubes
1 t vanilla
1 large beaten egg
1 to 3 T of water

Directions:
Combine flour, powdered sugar, baking powder and salt in a food processor. Pulse briefly to blend. Add butter cubes through tube until mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Mix vanilla with beaten egg. Slowly pour into food processor while motor is running. Dough will come together quickly in a large ball. If the crumbs are dry, you may need to add through the tube, 1 -3 T of ice cold water to bring dough together into a ball.

Take out of food processor and pat down into a thick oval shape. Knead lightly to blend. Enclose dough into a sheet of plastic wrap and push it together into a large thick, flat disc. Refrigerate until very cold. You can do this in your fridge but with the weather we've been having lately, I just set mine out on the deck. It chilled in about 2 1/2 hours. I then brought it in and divided it into two pieces. Let it warm up a bit and then start working it.  I rolled it out gently between two pieces of plastic wrap and cut out rounds with a 3" glass. I then put a spoonful of jam or peanut butter or cream cheese in the middle of each round.

For folding directions see  Tori Avey's instructions. After folding, chill again and then bake at 350 for about 15-25 minutes until they are golden on the edges and the bottom. It is hard to be more exact because this all depends on how chilled your dough is. If your dough is to warm, it will spread and your schmushed edges will not hold together. You will end up with a delicious mess!


Cocoa Oil Dough:
Ingredients:
2 eggs
3/4 c canola oil
1 t vanilla
1 c sugar
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 c flour
3/4 c unsweetened cocoa

 Directions:
Beat eggs, oil and vanilla together.Mix baking powder, salt, flour and cocoa together in a large bowl. Stir in eggs, oil and vanilla mixture and stir well until you can press mixture together into  a giant ball. Place ball in plastic wrap and let chill about 15 minutes. Start breaking off pieces of dough about the shape of golf balls. Roll or press out into about 3" circles. Place your choice of filling in the middle. I found this dough harder to work with, so you may have to pinch and schmuss!

Place formed hamentashen on a parchment lined sheet and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes. Using the cocoa dough makes it hard to see if the edges are turning gold. These will get crisp upon cooling.

Peanut Butter Filling:
Ingredients:
1 c powdered sugar
1/2 c peanut butter
Pinch of salt

Directions:
Combine together with hands and knead the peanut butter well into the sugar. Freeze this mixture. When ready to use, break this into pieces and form into balls. Place those in the center of a dough round and bake according to directions. If you'd like you can drizzle with melted chocolate and caramel. Thanks to Chocoley for this!

Cinnamon Bun filling:
Ingredients:
2 T maple syrup or honey
1/2 t vanilla
2 T powdered sugar
4 oz of cream cheese
1 pinch of salt
1 T cinnamon

Directions:
Combine well and then freeze mixture. When this is frozen break off big chunks and form into balls and place in the center of the pastry round. Bake according to directions. I drizzled these with a powdered sugar glaze and sprinkled with cinnamon.

Other good things:
Chocolate Krantz Cake or Babka
Dark Chocolate Covered Candied Orange Peels
Halvah Stuffed Baked Apples
Browned Butter, Apricot, Cream Cheese Rugelah

My Yiddish Dictionary:
Kibbitz - have a chat
Whole Megillah - The Book of Esther is always read at Purim. It is a long story. So sitting through the Whole Megillah is a lot like looking at someone's photos from a three week trip abroad.
Greggor - a noisemaker
Tsurris - troubles. "That woman has more tsuris than President Obama."
Maven - expert. "She thinks she is a maven at everything."
Shanda - shame or pity.  "What a shanda those Democrats don't believe in free speech."
Schmuss - I made this up!
Schmutz - I made this up, too!
Mishegas - craziness. "If the Democrats hadn't made such a big deal over the speech there wouldn't be all this mishegas!"
Shpilkes - To be on pins and needles. "The Democrats may be sitting on shpilkes after this speech."
Naches - Pride. Usually used  to mean pride in one's children.
Farmisht - Confused. "The New York Times makes me feel so farmisht. I am so glad that the Wall Street Journal clarifies it for me!"
Oy Gevalt - Oh man. I can't believe it!
Kvell - To beam with joy. "I am kvelling at seeing these hamentashen not fall apart."
Mazel - luck
Zaftig - Pleasingly plump

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41 comments:

  1. Hilarious and informative. Now that's a winning recipe! Chag Sameach!

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    1. Thanks Daph and thanks for stopping by! That post took forever to write and now I'm feeling oysgeshpilt! I need a nap.

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  2. I started blogging for my daughters also..and now I know it is for me and all the great people we get to know.
    Loved this whole story..I am sending it to a friend of mine..
    Maven..:)
    Schmuss:) And Schmutz!Zaftig..
    I love your traditions..
    I have to Pin the sayings..
    We have many French ones..
    Unique to everyone our little special words.
    So the pbones would be..like Reeses almost:)

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    1. I used to love to write and blogging has let me do that again! It is fun "meeting" new people and I love discovering new things! Would love to hear the French expressions! Thanks for working your way all the way through it.

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  3. What a lovely post. I especially like that you pointed out it is for your children. How lucky they are to have their mother's words, recipes and most especially humor at their fingertips.

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    1. Karen, I never thought of that. I'm not sure my kids ever thought I was so humorous. Maybe now that they are older they will appreciate it more!

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  4. This is hilarious! Yes, attempting to schmuss these into perfect triangles would surely drive me to drink! But you persevered---and the chocolate-peanut butter combo looks sublime!
    P.S. Thanks for the Yiddish dictionary :)

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  5. Really funny. And an outstanding recipe. I don't care how you spell it, or how these look -- they're really, really good stuff! ;-)

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    1. Thanks John. Been feeling humorous lately! They are good stuff!

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  6. I did hamantaschen a few times, but only with poppy filling. This is a very informative and fun post, Abbe. I love esp. those cute rainbow ones.

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    1. Glad it was fun, Angie. It took forever and I wasn't sure anyone would read it!

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    2. Glad it was fun, Angie. It took forever and I wasn't sure anyone would read it!

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  7. Abbe, it's 'taschen', with 'sch', which is the German letter combination to pronounce it 'sh' (as in "rush") in Enlish: -)
    I enjoyed so much reading this post. I love the recipe, the sweetness of these little triangle treats.

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    1. And I enjoy your comments! Thanks so much for reading!

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    2. And I enjoy your comments! Thanks so much for reading!

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  8. I love everything about this post. Thanks for sharing your traditions, your wit, and this wonderful recipe! Love your dictionary :)

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    1. I'm glad Tricia! I always worry about sharing too much, but then again it is MY blog.

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    2. I'm glad Tricia! I always worry about sharing too much, but then again it is MY blog.

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  9. You are such a great writer, Abbe, and I thoroughly enjoyed your post and all of the humor in it. I knew some of the yiddish words but was happy to see the translations. My little bit of knowledge from dating a Jewish boy for a while in college. His mother, the maven, didn't approve of course, and no amount of mazel would have helped :-)

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    1. Thanks Susan! I really appreciate that! And are you sure you aren't Jewish? I'm kvelling over your use of Yiddish! You could be my best chaver!

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    2. Thanks Susan! I really appreciate that! And are you sure you aren't Jewish? I'm kvelling over your use of Yiddish! You could be my best chaver!

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  10. Honestly I never considered the shape. Though my partner has always said Purim was his favorite of the holidays as a kid. GREG

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  11. As someone who never really liked the jam filled hamentashen, I love that so many people are coming up with such fun options. Delish.

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    1. Very delish. Very delectable. Thanks, Karen!

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  12. The hamantaschen looks really delicious! I Like how it is called in Hebrew - Ozen Haman :-)

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  13. Love the book of Esther and the Purim celebration. I didn't know it was Purim today though till I saw the hamentashen on another blog. You did a great job of explaining the history and all the different versions.

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    1. Glad you could get through it, Chris! And thanks for stopping by!

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  14. So many variation of Hamantaschen...I sure learned a lot today by reading your post...you sure make it fun!
    Thanks for the recipes Abbe...hope you are having a great week :)

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    1. Fun is the name of the game! Thanks, Juliana!

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  15. This is a great post - and very interesting and entertaining!

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    1. Thanks Amy. Never thought I'd finish this one!

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  16. cool to learn the culture love this story

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    1. I love learning about other cultures, Rebecca! I used to sit my kids down and read photo books about holidays around the world. I loved it as much as they did!

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  17. You crack me up with your openness and honesty. I think I'd have troubles with circles into triangles too but I bet they taste fantastic!

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    1. Well, they do taste fantastic! After you bite one corner off, you'd never know! Honesty is the best policy. Well, not when it comes to geometry!

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  18. What delightful little cookies! Love that there are so many flavor possibilities!

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  19. I looked and looked for this post. I must have been spelling it wrong in search. I have now linked to this one from my post.
    I Love this post so much. So fun to read.
    Thank you so much for teaching me this precious cookie and for a fun filled afternoon.

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  20. Any time Ansh! Now I need you to teach me some great Indian recipes!

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