Shabbat Shalom and Chag Samayach! Purim is on March 10, but I suspect that many people will be celebrating at Purim parties this weekend.
I have always loved Purim, but I was never a big fan of hamantaschen. The prune and poppy-seed filling of these pastries never appealed to me, especially the large commercial versions.
However, I did like the shalach monot platter that the hamantashen were served on. There was always something chocolate along with the hamantashen.
My paternal grandmother made hamantashen but my mother did not. I didn’t bother trying to make them, but I would always buy a few token hamantashen for my children. Nobody ever ate them, but I felt like I was observing the holiday with the purchase.
Hamantashen seem to have gone through a revolution, like so many other foods. In this age of Instagram, hamantashen have had a gourmet makeover. People are experimenting with so many different fillings – sweet and savoury.
In her newsletter this week, Carolyn Tanner Cohen, of the Delicious Dish Cooking School, had a recipe for Savoury Spinach Ricotta and Squash Hamantashen, which she generously agreed to share with CJN readers.
I made hamantashen for the first time four years ago when my grandson was a toddler. The recipe for the pastry came from the classic kosher cookbook, Second Helpings, Please!, which was edited by the late Norene Gilletz. I created my own filling, which Gilletz actually tried and she gave my Cherry-Almond Hamantashen a thumbs up.
My new filling this year is made from dry mango, pecans and goat cheese. I love the tart taste of goat cheese. I made half of the Cream Cheese Dough recipe from Second Helpings and some egg wash as well.
My Goat Cheese Hamantashen are not uniform in appearance, but they’re really tasty and they’re a cross between sweet and savoury.
On Purim we should always offer a non hamantash treat. This Chocolate Bark recipe by the late Gilletz comes from her new cookbook, The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory. In the intro to this chocolate bark recipe, she said in her trade-mark corny humour: “Your guests will be barking for more!”
SAVOURY SPINACH RICOTTA AND SQUASH HAMANTASHEN (Carolyn Tanner Cohen)
1 500-gram box frozen puff pastry defrosted
30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
1 small onion chopped in a small dice
Pinch of kosher salt
125 ml (½ cup) frozen spinach measured after defrosted and after excess water has been squeezed out
125 ml (½ cup) cooked squash or cooked sweet potato (canned is fine)
250 ml (1 cup) whole milk ricotta cheese
125 ml (½ cup) finely grated mozzarella cheese
60 ml (¼ cup) sesame seeds
1 beaten egg
5-10 ml (1-2 tsp) coarse sea salt flakes, for sprinkling on the top of the hamantashen
Flour for sprinkling on the work surface
Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F)
In a small fry pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Let cool.
In a large bowl, mix together the spinach, cooked onion, squash or sweet potato, ricotta, and mozzarella.
Unwrap the defrosted puff pastry and using a rolling pin, on a very lightly floured surface, roll the dough out so that it is about ½-1 cm thick.
Cut out 4 cm (3½ inch) rounds with cutter and using an offset spatula or bench scraper, transfer to 2 parchment-lined baking sheets.
Gather up all the scraps, roll the dough out again and cut a few more circles.
Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl to blend. Working a few at a time, brush the edge of rounds with egg, then place 7 ml (1½ tsp) ricotta filling in the centre. Fold sides up to make a triangle, pinching points gently to seal and leaving about 1-inch surface of filling exposed.
Sprinkle each with sesame seeds and coarse sea salt.
Bake for 25 minutes or until golden. Makes 30 hamantashen.
These hamantashen freeze well. Defrost uncovered at room temp. and reheat in a 400°F oven for 10 minutes or so.
HAMANTASHEN: CREAM CHEESE DOUGH (Second Helpings, Please!)
This dough recipe comes from Second Helpings, Please!, the first cookbook Gilletz edited. I only made half the dough and I slightly altered the ratio of sugar and flour.
125 g (¼ lb) cream cheese), cut in chunks
125 g (¼ lb) butter, cut in chunks
60 ml (¼ cup) icing sugar
220 ml (just under 1 cup) all purpose flour
egg wash (optional)
1 egg yolk
45 ml (3 tbsp) water
Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F). To make the dough, cream cheese and butter in a mixer. Add sugar and flour and mix well. Remove the dough from the mixer and divide it into three balls. Wrap them in wax paper and refrigerate overnight. Makes enough dough for 2½ dozen cookies.
Roll out each ball of dough to ½ cm (1/8 inch) thickness, but keep the other balls of dough refrigerated until they are used. Cut the dough in 5 cm (2-inch) rounds. Fill each round with 1 tsp of filling.
Shape the hamantashen by bringing the sides together to form a triangle. Seal the points of the triangle well by squeezing the dough. Optional: brush dough with egg wash.
Bake filled hamantashen on a greased or parchment-paper lined baking sheet at 375°F for 18 minutes or until the hamentashen are delicately browned. Makes about 2½ dozen.
CHERRY-ALMOND HAMANTASH FILLING
100 ml (1/3 cup) dried cherries, chopped
15- 30 ml (1-2 tbsp) maple syrup
250 ml (1 cup) ground almonds, divided
45 ml (3 tbsp) mini chocolate chips
45 ml (3 tbsp) of pecans, chopped
In a medium-size bowl, combine the syrup with ½ cup of the ground almonds. Mix well.
Add the cherries and pecans and mix well. Add the remainder of the almonds and if the mixture is too dry add, more syrup, up to an additional tbsp. If this is prepared in advance, cover the bowl with plastic wrap but do not refrigerate.
MANGO GOAT-CHEESE HAMANTASH FILLING
185 ml (3/4 cup) goat cheese at room temperature
30 ml (2 tbsp) ground almonds
30 ml (2 tbsp) sugar
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla
125 ml (½ cup) dry mango, chopped
125 ml (½ cup) toasted pecans, chopped
In a medium bowl, mix goat cheese, almonds, sugar and vanilla until the ingredients are well combined. Add the mango and pecans. The filling can be prepared in advance but it must be refrigerated. Allow it to warm up to room temperature before filling the hamantashen.
CHOCOLATE BARK (The Brain Boosting Diet)
500g (1 lb) good-quality dark chocolate
375 ml (1½ cups) roasted unsalted whole almonds, divided
60 g (2 oz) white chocolate
Break the dark chocolate into chunks and place in a large dry microwavable bowl. Microwave uncovered on medium for 2 minutes, then stir. Microwave on medium for 1–2 minutes longer, until barely melted, then stir well. Let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in 310 ml (1¼ cups) nuts.
Spread in a thin layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with the remaining nuts, pressing them into the chocolate mixture.
Melt the white chocolate on medium power for 1½ –2 minutes and stir well. If necessary, microwave for 30 seconds longer or until melted.
Dip a fork into the melted white chocolate and drizzle over the bark in a zig-zag design.
Refrigerate for 30–45 minutes, until the chocolate hardens. Break it into small chunks and transfer to an airtight container, separating the layers with parchment or wax paper. Store in the refrigerator. Makes 48 pieces.