05 March 2015

Apricot or Prune and Pine Nut Jam in Hamentaschen

My friend, Amy came for a snowshoe outing and lunch the other day. As we were sitting over our soup and sandwiches, she was saying that Purim is here! Purim is a Jewish holiday that involves remembering Esther's success in defeating the evil Hamen's plot to crush the Jewish population in Persia of the 4th century BCE (nutshell story - for more info on Purim, do a Google search or read the Book of Esther in the Old Testament). Modern day Purim celebrations include games, tricks, costumes, and special foods that symbolize the Purim story and characters involved. Amy said that hamentaschen are a traditional treat prepared ... and they sounded tasty ...

Hamentaschen - translation- hamen's pockets. They are made in a triangular shape to symbolize Hamen's hat. There's a great deal of symbolism involved with the various fillings that can go into the little pastry-hats. I chose to save that reading for another day and just work with traditional apricot and prune fillings ... but I gave them my own twist. I am assured that many a Jewish family does put their own spin on the fillings for these little pockets of pastry. I added toasted pine nuts as a crunchy sprinkle atop the fillings. I also jazzed up the fruit fillings a bit. The apricot filing got an extra dose of honey to thicken it to jam-like consistency. The prune filling got three tablespoons of chestnut jam added instead of plum jam. It also got a packet of lemon scented sugar added. I have fallen in love with scented sugar packets.

The pastry dough used in this recipe is a sweet shortbread-type dough that is fortified with a healthy dose of vanilla extract. It's sweet and bakes to a crisp crunch on the bottom. Delish! It rolls out easily and is very manageable - as long as it is well-chilled and gently floured when being rolled out. The recipe comes straight from my cook book on Jewish fare.


Dough Ingredients:

½ c. unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ c. sugar
1 large egg
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract or almond extract
A pinch of salt
2 ¼ c. flour (divided)

Apricot Filling Ingredients:

1 c. dried apricots
1 cinnamon stick
3 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. thick honey

Prune Filling Ingredients:

1 c. dried prunes
Enough strong tea black tea to cover them
3 tbsp. chestnut jam or plum jam
1 packet lemon-scented sugar

Additional Ingredients:

⅓ c. pine nuts, toasted to a perfect golden, chopped
Confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling on finished cookies (optional)

Making the Cookies:

  1. Cream the butter and sugar in a deep bowl.
  2. Mix the egg, milk, and extract of your choice in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Set aside ¼ c. of the flour for sprinkling on the rolling surface and the dough. Mix the rest of the flour measure and the pinch of salt in a measuring cup.
  4. Alternating between flour mix and egg mix, add thirds of each to the butter cream and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon until a stiff dough is formed. Make sure every bit of flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth.
  5. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for a good hour or so.
  6. While the dough chills, make the fillings.
  7. Place the apricots in a small saucepan, adding just enough water to cover them. Sprinkle in the sugar and drop in the cinnamon stick. Bring the pan to a gentle boil, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  8. When the apricots are soft and most of the water is cooked off, use a slotted spoon to remove them to the bowl of a food processor. Add the honey and whiz to a jam-like consistency. Set the cinnamon and sugar water back on the stove and boil it down a bit. Toss that in with the apricots and honey and stir it to make a thick jam. Scoop it from the food processor to a bowl and set it aside.
  9. Make a strong cup of black tea. Drop the prunes into a bowl and pour the tea over top. Sprinkle in the lemon scented sugar packet. Cover the bowl for about 30 minutes. When the prunes are softened, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a clean food processor bowl and whiz to make a sticky jam-like paste. Turn the prune paste into a small bowl and stir in the chestnut jam (or plum jam). Set aside.
  10. Toast the pine nuts, chop them and pop them into a small bowl and set aside.
  11. When the dough is chilled, divide it in half and using the reserved flour, sprinkle a rolling surface. Roll the dough out to between ⅛ - ¼ inch thick and cut 3-inch circles.
  12. Place the dough circles on parchment lined cookie sheets.
  13. Drop a scant tablespoonful of jam on the center of each dough round. Sprinkle the top of the jam with the pine nuts. Then, pinch the dough up to make the dough look like a tri-corner hat. Make sure the dough is pinched firmly to hold its shape.
  14. Bake in a 360 ° F oven with the rack in the center position for 15 – 17 minutes or until the hamentaschen are golden around the edges and slightly crisped looking atop.
  15. Remove from the cookie sheets right a way to a cool foil-lined surface.
  16. Sprinkle cooled hamentaschen with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, if you like. Do this just before serving them.

Makes about 30 pastries.

Now ... remember what I said about Purim involving little tricks ? Well, one lucky person will grab one of these hamentaschen and get a mouthful of sweet but VERY spicy apricot chutney instead of the sweet apricot jam ... yuk, yuk. Can you find the Purim joke treat? Mazel tov ! Hope whoever has a sense of humor!

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