Purim is a Jewish holiday commemorating the deliverance of the Jewish people from genocide, chronicled in the book of Esther. Esther is my favorite person in the Old Testament and Purim is one of my favorite holidays! The book of Esther is so inspiring. I’ve read books about Esther, done Bible studies that included Esther, watched every movie about Esther, and read the book of Esther many times.
When all my children were home, we celebrated Purim for several years, with much laughter and happiness. We usually came up with costumes and props from around the house and acted out the story, happily and loudly booing whenever Haman’s name was mentioned. We made groggers to add to the merriment. We colored paper dolls and one time made an elaborate puppet stage to act out the story. And we always, always made piles of hamantaschen cookies.
Hamantaschen can be a little tricky, but it’s fun to make. Here are a few tricks before you begin:
• The dough needs to be the right thickness when you roll it out. If it is too thick, it will crack instead of fold. If it is too thin, it will get holes and let the filling run out. About 1/8 inch thick is the right thickness. You can experiment with this dough until it feels right.
• Some people pull up three sides and pinch them together. This can be fraught with problems. If you don’t pinch it enough, the cookie will come apart and flatten out in the oven. It’s better to fold the cookies instead. Fold one third over, then another third and then the top down and make sure the corners are sealed. If you decide to pinch the corners instead, try a little beaten egg as glue.
• There are lots of filling options! You can find recipes on Pinterest (follow us while you’re at it!). Prune or poppy seed fillings are traditional. I decided to go simple with this recipe and use apricot jam. I have discovered that low-sugar spread does not work. You need a nice thick jam or preserve because it won’t melt and run out before the cookie gets done. You can also use Nutella or chocolate chips if you wish.
• This cookie dough is forgiving, meaning you can reroll it a lot. It’s better to divide it in four pieces and work with one piece at a time, while the remaining dough stays in the refrigerator. If you need to stop in the middle, put your dough back into the fridge to stay cool.
• The butter and eggs need to be room temperature. When you measure the flour, stir it to aerate, then spoon gently into the measuring cup and use a knife to level it.
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling dough
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup jam or preserves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl or your stand mixer, cream butter and sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla and mix. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture, mixing on low speed until combined. Mixture should look crumbly, but hold together when gathered into a ball. Divide in four pieces, pressing into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes – 1 hour. May be refrigerated longer, but you will need to let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes to soften.
Take one-fourth out of refrigerator and place on lightly floured counter. Roll dough to about 1/8-inch thickness, adding flour to counter as needed to prevent sticking. Cut with a 3-inch round cutter and place each piece 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet covered with parchment or greased. If dough gets too soft, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for a few minutes and then continue rolling and cutting. Place 1/2 teaspoon of jam in the center of each round and fold to create a triangle, making sure corners are sealed. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes until edges are barely brown. Cool slightly on sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack. Let cool completely. Cookies may be kept for several days in an airtight container. Yield: about 5 dozen cookies.