Friday, 10 February 2012

Hamentashen anyone?



When I was a little girl I loved Purim - it was my favourite holiday, second only to Channukah. 

Being a (Jewish) Day School student, we got to dress up for Purim, and the girls would dress up as 1 of 2 characters: Queen Esther or Queen Vashti.  Either way, I was going to get farpitzed (dressed up to the nines) like a princess and wear make-up!  It was like an emotionally-safe Toddlers and Tiaras day - Mom would make me up with eyeshadow, blush and lipstick before I went to school and I would sashay around school like this all day - proud as a peacock.   This holiday beat Halloween hands down because we celebrated indoors, and our costumes were not hidden by heavy coats, boots and mittens. 

But that was not it.  We got to bake with Mom - making the family hamentashen recipe passed down from her grandmother "Bubbie Gertie".  I have never tasted anything like them, and they are the only hamentashen I enjoy.  There is something special about the dough...it is soft and chewy but in no way soggy.  Carlo describes them as "pillowy goodness" in cookie form.  The filling is Bubbie Gertie's special recipe too.

We would assume our regular place at Mom's kitchen table, each armed with a rolling pin and a glass.  Ready, set, go!  The bake-off would begin.  We would roll the dough, cut out circles with our glasses, place a teaspoon of filling in the middle of each circle and pinch them into form.  We gingerly placed them on the baking sheets and waited anxiously for what felt like an hour, but was really just 10 minutes, while the hamentashen baked and turned a light golden brown.  The scent of sweet dough filled with honey apricot puree would spread throughout the house, and soon we'd have a full house waiting in front of the double ovens for the timer to "ding".  

After 4 or 5 dozen hamentashen we'd feel a little tired, and close up the bakery.  The best part of this recipe is that both the dough and the filling would keep in the fridge for a long time.  The dough for up to 2 weeks and the filling for double that - except that the finished product was so delicious that a quadruple batch never lasted more than a day or 2, and then it was back to table to bake some more.  This is such a fun project that the whole family can enjoy, but it loses its appeal rather quickly.  That is where Rolly Polly comes in!  When we tired of cutting, filling, pinching and placing the individual hamentash, we would change things up by rolling out a large rectangle of dough. Then we'd spread a thin layer of filling across the rectangle, leaving 1 short edge free of filling to seal the roll.  Slowly we'd roll the dough, building it into a proper roll, and then carefully transfer it onto a baking sheet and place in the oven.  Once it was done, we'd let it cool and then cut it into slices...mmm mmm good!

Not much has changed...except that I am now the Mama making the hamentashen with my kids, and I am the one who resorts to Rolly Polly when I have had my fill (excuse the pun) of hamentashen.  Mom used to make them with us, and I remember a couple of years ago, before she moved into care, she came to bake with us.  Even in her deteriorating condition, she was still teaching me how to perfect the hamentash, correcting my pinching technique.  I close my eyes and I can see her placing her long, beautiful fingers expertly along the edges of the dough circle, effortlessly pinching them into perfectly shaped and sealed triangles. 

I will add photos of my home-made hamentash once I actually whip up a batch, but for now, I am posting the recipe for Herta, a friend from Norene's Kitchen, who is looking for a recipe like her Romanian grandmother used to make.  I think this may be it!  Herta, please be sure to let us know if your search ends here.

Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food! B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

PS - for a step-by-step pictorial on hamentashen making, click here.

Mom and Bubbie Lou's original handwritten recipe cards
Bubbie Gertie's Hamentashen

Dough Ingredients:
4 eggs
¾C granulated sugar
¾C oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Filling Ingredients:
2C (16 oz / 1 lb) dried apricots
1C honey
1 tbsp orange rind and juice from orange

Dough Method:
Combine ingredients, roll into a ball, cover with wax paper, place in plastic bag and refrigerate overnight. 

Filling Method: Soak dried apricots in water overnight.   Drain and blend with other ingredients. 

Preparation:  Preheat oven to 350°.  Roll dough, on floured surface, into a thin sheet.  Cut circles with cup, drop dollop of filling in centre of each circle and pinch sides to form a triangle.  Bake on greased (or parchment-lined) cookie sheet until golden (10 to 15 minutes in regular oven OR 8 to 10 minutes in convection oven)