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This recipe comes from Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook. I like the way she gives context to the recipes, with examples of different choices bakers can make for fillings. Following that example, I tried a version that used dried cherries and sliced almonds in the filling mixture. It was a nice combination, and proved to be popular with our tasters. The filling is best made a day or two ahead, to allow the flavors to blend.
Nut or fruit filling
1/2 cup (4 ounces) water
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons orange zest
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) honey
2 1/4 cups (9 ounces) coarsely ground pecans, walnuts or chopped dried fruit of your choice, such as prunes, dates, cherries, or apricots
2 tablespoons cake or soft bread crumbs
2 tablespoons instant yeast
1/4 cup (2 ounces) milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
2 cups (4 sticks, 1 pound) unsalted butter, cold
3/4 teaspon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
7 cups (1 pound, 13 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
3 large eggs
Candied cherries and sliced almonds for garnish, optional
For the filling: Bring the water, cinnamon and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the zests and honey; return to a boil. Add the nuts and crumbs, stir well. Simmer on low heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool, and store in a covered bowl in the refrigerator until ready to use.
For the dough: In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk. In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, combine the butter, salt, vanilla, zest, and sugar. Beat at low speed for 3 minutes. Add the flour, beat at low speed for 4 minutes more. Add the sour cream, 2 of the eggs, and the yeast mixture. Beat at medium speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Divide the dough into quarters, then each quarter into 9 pieces to get 36 equal pieces. Roll them into balls, place them on a flour-dusted tray, cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Dust a work surface with flour. Roll each ball out into an oval about 2 1/4 inches long by 2 inches wide.
To assemble: Place 1 heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center of each oval. To make the three-cornered hat shape, lift the 2 longer sides of the oval over the filling, making a point at the top. Then fold the remaining short edge up to enclose the filling and make a triangle: there should be no filling visible.
Transfer the cookies to 2 lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets. Beat the remaining egg, and use it to brush the tops of the hamantashen. Let the cookies rise for 30 to 35 minutes, brush once more with the beaten egg. Let sit another 20 minutes while you preheat the oven to 375°F. Just before baking, place a slice of almond and half a candied cherry on top. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Yield: 36 cookies.