Telly Monster Would Approve: Hamantaschen

I still remember the first time I tried hamantaschen, at a friend's Purim party in law school (yes, as an Asian woman born and raised in Nebraska, I did not lay eyes on this pastry until I was in my mid-twenties). For years now, I have been meaning to try making my own hamantaschen -- but I always forget to check my calendar to see when Purim is coming up. Until this year! Since I happen to own a copy of The World of Jewish Desserts by Gil Marks, I didn't look any further for a recipe.

The cookie dough is made from butter, sugar, eggs, milk (or orange juice or water), lemon zest (optional), vanilla (or lemon extract or almond extract), flour, baking powder, and salt. After you mix the ingredients into a dough, you need to chill it for several hours before rolling it out and cutting it into three-inch circles. While the dough was still sticky after chilling, it was fairly manageable so long as I kept it well floured during rolling. You put a dollop of filling into the center of each circle of dough, fold up the sides to form a triangle, and bake.

I made both prune and apricot filling, using two variations of the lekvar recipe from The World of Jewish Desserts. Both start with a pound of dried fruit. You soak the fruit in water for two hours, and then simmer the fruit for 30 minutes until it is soft. Then you add sugar (or honey), lemon juice, and lemon zest, process the mixture until smooth, and heat it again until it thickens. The apricot lekvar reminded me a lot of filling from the rosemary apricot bars in Baked Explorationsin terms of its consistency and concentrated flavor.

It took me a while to get a hang of the folding technique for these cookies. I used a #60 scoop for the filling, and it was slightly too much filling for the amount of dough -- but I decided to try and make it work, since using a scoop is so much faster and more precise than spooning on filling freehand. After a few iterations, I worked out a successful technique -- moistening the edges of the dough with water before pinching them together to seal the corners, and then pushing in any bulges (resulting from the overly-generous amount of filling) to straighten out the sides.

I really enjoyed these cookies, and I would definitely make them again. The cookie portion is dry and firm, and the texture is the perfect complement to the filling.  The lemon in the dough and in the filling brings a lovely brightness to the cookie's overall flavor. Between the two varieties, apricot was my favorite -- intensely flavorful and fruity. At the end, I was quite happy that there was so much filling in the cookies, since the fillings were so tasty.

My intense focus on forming my hamantaschen into nice triangles with closed corners and straight sides made me think of Telly Monster from Sesame Street. For those of you who grew up with the show (or watch it with your children), you know that Telly loves triangles; he's a member of the Triangle Lovers' Club, led by the Grand High Triangle Lover. If the Sesame Street Triangle Lovers don't serve hamantaschen at their meetings, they definitely should!

Recipes: "Hamantaschen" and "Prune Lekvar," from The World of Jewish Desserts by Gil Marks.