Hamantaschen happen. And they start right about now.
If you are not a huge fan, you have not tried enough recipes. They vary.
I am extremely picky about hamantaschen, and have long championed a single type.
This has not lessened my curiosity and appreciation of the hamantasch as an art form, however. Below, I outline the major categories responsible for the infinite variety:
• Texture: soft vs. crunchy (or as I see it, cake-y vs. cookie-y).
• Fat: solid vs. liquid (butter, margarine, and the dreaded Crisco vs. oil, oil, oil).
• Leavening: yes or no (baking powder, soda or yeast vs. zero).
• Filling: traditional vs. whimsical
(the kind I like vs. the kind I put up with for the sake of wider participation).
• Taste: my mother-in-law’s vs. everyone else’s (icky vs. divine).
My mother-in-law’s recipe is unlike any I have seen or tasted. The secret is two-fold: grated carrots and more oil than you think possible. She uses so much oil, it leaks out of the hot, baking triangles and floods the pan. The cookies end up half-fried, and with crispy corners that can only come from being slightly overbaked in a sheet of oil. Perfection.
Warning: if perfection is your aim when baking hamantaschen with little kids, aim lower. Or at least aim in a different direction. Aim for a messy, frustrating, joyful, baking session that immerses your kid in Jewish holiday prep. Have the camera ready, but snap a picture before he or she realizes that to fold a triangle from a circle while at the same time keeping the filling from pooping out all over the cookie sheet is hard. The maneuver involves spatial thinking and fine motor skills that may be years ahead. Coach gently, but make sure you are not coaching a perfectionistic ideal. Freeform hamantaschen taste just as good as do tidy, equilateral triangles. Even the burned filling that will inevitably ooze out of weakly mitred corners is delicious (if you can scrape it off the pan before it bonds to the teflon forever). The point is to make them and eat them together.
If you want to cheat on the measuring and mixing, buy kosher PIllsbury sugar dough logs or the new sheets of ready to cut and bake dough. But really, ya’ll: Purim comes once a year, so can’t we plan ahead and make hamantaschen from scratch?
Still, if it comes down to a choice between store-bought dough and no hamantaschen at all, definitely cheat. No question about that. If insanity or at the very least, grumpiness is the take-home (or stay-home) message from a baking session, buy the dough and mess with it when you are more relaxed.
Fillings: you can’t beat lekvar. Just saying it sounds Jewish. Lekvar is prune butter, but if the word prune sends you or you kid into a fit of potty-talk giggles, call it dried plum butter. (After all, Little Jack Horner pulled out a prune, but we all say plum. Mother Goose had no access to fresh plums for Christmas pies.)
If you live in New York, you can go to Zabar’s and buy a tub of fresh lekvar. If you live anywhere else, you can make it. Just throw some pitted prunes into a glass measuring cup with water to cover, boil it, and let them sit for a while. They will be hot for ages, so do it a day or so early to avoid a frustrating wait and burned fingers. They can go in the fridge and plump till you are ready. Mix with a bit of lemon juice, and if no nut allergies are expected, throw in some walnut pieces. Blend smooth. Some people add cinnamon and sugar.
Easier fillings: apricot jam, cherry pie filling (smooshed a bit, to fit), poppyseed (mohn, bought in a can if you live where you can buy mohn in a can), any other jam. Lots of kids like chocolate chips, brown sugar cinnamon, and nutella, but I avoid these mutations. Still, whatever piques interest in any element of a Jewish holiday is great.
Here’s a link to lots of recipes:
If you have a favorite recipe or if you know of a good link, leave a comment.
Or, if you’d like to tell about baking hamantaschen with your own kid, holler.
Happy baking, y’all.