Purim is just a few days away! This (minor) Jewish festival is a rowdy celebration of the events in the Biblical Book of Esther, and is one of a number of such festivals best summed up by, “they tried to killed us but failed! Now, let’s eat!” As well as feasting and drunken revelry, plus giving charity to the poor, it’s traditional to wear fancy dress – Kipper is very excited this year to be an astronaut. I’m still working on my own costume…
Like many other Jewish festivals, Purim has its own special food – hamantaschen. These are triangular cakes or pastries, with a sweet filling, often made with poppy seeds but more recently with dried or fresh fruit, jams, or even chocolate. The baddie in the Purim story is Haman (who tried to kill all the Jews – boo! hiss!) and the triangular shape of the hamentasch is supposed to represent either his ears, or possibly his hat. In Israel, these seasonal delicacies are called “oznei Haman” which means “Haman’s ears”.
So, now that the RE lesson is over with, let’s get on with the cooking. I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but my recipe, below, makes some of the best hamantaschen I’ve ever tasted. The brown sugar crust is crisp on the outside, tender within, with a delicious caramelly brown sugar flavour. The fruity jam filling is not overpowering, and the whole thing is a world away from those ubiquitous dry crumbly hamantaschen that do the rounds every year. These brown sugar hamantaschen were also quick and pretty easy to make. I will be tempted to make these again in ‘year round’ shapes, well before next Purim.
I made mine in the Kenwood mixer, but I think they wouldn’t be too difficult by hand, as long as your butter or margarine was at room temperature before you started. This made 16 hamantaschen.
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- 100g butter or margarine (scant 1/2 cup)
- 125g light muscovado sugar (scant 2/3 cup)
- 200g plain flour + a little extra (1 1/3 cup)
- 1 egg, beaten
- Approx. 16 tsp jam - your choice of flavour (I used raspberry and apricot)
- Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
- Cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy.
- Add a third of the flour, followed by a third of the beaten egg and mix. Continue adding the flour and egg in thirds until it is all incorporated. Mix to thoroughly combine.
- Turn out the mixture onto a floured surface and gently knead in a little extra flour to give a soft, pliable, but not sticky dough. (You may not need much extra flour.)
- Roll out the dough to 5-6mm thickness. Using an 8cm circle cutter, cut out circles of the dough. Place a tsp of jam in the centre of each and fold up and pinch the sides to create a triangle around the filling.
- Put the hamantaschen on a non-stick baking sheet and bake at 180C for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
- The jam filling will be dangerously hot when these come out of the oven. Wait for a minute or two before transferring them to cooling racks, and allow to cool completely before eating.
Above: Hamentaschen cooling – the jam filling becomes volcanically hot!
The Biscuit Barrel Challenge for March, hosted by I’d Much Rather Bake Than…, is on the theme of Spring. Since Purim is a Spring festival, and these delicious hamataschen are therefore traditionally made in the Spring, I’ve decided to enter them into the challenge.