Wabi-sabi is a Japanese philosophy that embraces the imperfect, ephemeral, and incomplete. I'm always screwing something up, but it often comes out more beautiful, more instructive, and more fun for it. Come make mistakes with me!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hamantaschen (that's the three-cornered Purim cookies, for the goyim)

What makes these cookies an adventure is that I only make them once a year.  That's a lot of time to completely forget all the good tweaks I come up with every time, but naturally never write down.  Plus, they take forever and are super-messy.  All in all, a recipe for yummy, sticky insanity!

Essentially, these are a heavy dough, shaped into a triangle that holds a sweet filling, usually prune or poppy seed.  The shape is meant to resemble the hat or pocket of Haman (boo! hiss!), the villain of the Purim story.  The dough has to be very hearty (read: tons o' butter) in order to keep its shape and hold in all the fruity goodness.  These are some serious cookies.

Anyway, I figure if it's a mitzvah (commandment / good deed) to share hamantaschen with my friends on Purim, I must get good-Jew points for sharing the recipe, too.  This is from my Purple Book, aka the book of family recipes my mom put together for me when I went to college.  It is my bible and you will see more of it!

Makes about 40 cookies.

Ingredients for dough:                                       Ingredients for filling:
1c softened butter                                            1c pitted prunes
2c sugar                                                           2/3c raisins  
4 tsp baking powder                                        1/2c coconut
5c flour                                                            2/3c chopped walnuts
4 tsp orange juice                                             (I cut this in half and used
2 tsp vanilla                                                      store-bought fillings in other

The dough is pretty simple to mix up - lots of butter, lots of flour, and a little orange juice for sweetness and moisture.  It's the classic cookie technique - cream butter and sugar together, add eggs. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Alternate mixing in dry ingredients and OJ.  Done!  It does need to be refrigerated for half an hour at least.  Since I forgot to get prunes for the filling, in this case "half an hour" meant "overnight, plus the time it takes me to get to Pick n' Save the next day."

After an eon in the fridge, the dough was pretty dried out and crumbly.  I was worried for a few minutes, but a little extra juice and some water brought it right back.  Hooray!  Time for fillings!

I bought a couple of "pastry fillings".  I don't really know what that means, but I couldn't find the prune butter my recipe called for.  My mother confirmed that this will work as a substitute.  Then I got fancy and decided to get 2 other flavors (just to use straight from the can, good lord I am not making 3 of these).

So the first thing to do is to rehydrate prunes and raisins.  Put them in a pot, with enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and let them simmer for 5 minutes.  I know, it looks a little gross and all that dried fruit makes you think of your Great-Grandma Myrtle.  Don't worry.  This will be DELICIOUS.

 My recipe calls for blending things up in a specific order.  I don't really worry about it and just dump everything in the food processor. You can also dice up your ingredients by hand. So in no particular order, add the prune butter, coconut, walnuts, and dried fruit.

Grind 'em up!

 Until it looks like this:

And that's your filling.  Taste it!  It's sweet and sticky and deep and earthy.  The hubs says too many walnuts.  Note to self: less walnuts next year.

Now the real fun begins! Roll out the dough and cut out 3" circles.

I have not suddenly developed uber-manly hands.  My husband is the family dough-roller-and-cutter. To the folding!

Add a teaspoon or so:

Fold up the edges:

 Pinch for a good seal:

 Scoop out any extra.

At this point, you may be saying to yourself "that's easy! What's all the fuss about?"  This cookie has the strange distinction of being quite simple - if you have unlimited counter space and three ovens.  If not, a little creativity is now in order.  Here's how we wound up:

Yes, I'm balancing the cookie sheet on the flour container so my hubby has enough room to roll out the next portion of the dough.  There's already a pan sitting on top of the oven, and one baking.  Amazingly, nothing went flying.  This time.

And that's not even taking into account the disaster area that used to be the rest of my kitchen:

Anywho, bake:


Normally I don't do a good enough job of sealing the ends, and one or two come open and spew fruity goo all over the cookie sheets. Apparently I was feeling particularly pinchy today, since even the ones that unfolded a little did not do so in a catastrophic manner.

Oh, and remember those store-bought fillings? The apricot and the cherry?  Yeah ... me either.  Well, actually, I did use all of the apricot.  Cherry's not really a standard flavor for these, and I never did actually get around to using it.  Expect a "what to do with leftover cherry goo" post one of these days.

Just a final laugh - "hamantaschen" has completely foiled Blogger's spell check.  It keeps trying to change the word to "Schenectady." Sorry for any unintended New York references that crop up in this post.


  1. I keep trying to turn hamantaschen baking with Lisa into a friendship tradition, but it never seems to work out. She canceled on me this year after I'd already made the dough, so I ended up making them with my boyfriend, which made for two non-Jews making hamantaschen after Purim was already over. This year I tried a cream cheese dough that I found over at http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/03/hamantaschen/ and they worked out relatively well. To keep them from splitting open during baking, I popped them in the freezer for 15 minutes before putting them in the oven. By far the best-looking hamantaschen I've ever made. I've got a post about them in the works, but I'm a couple days behind on my blogging.

  2. What a great blog, love it!!!