Yes — I know that Hammantaschen — or Hamantash, hamentasch, homentash, homentasch, or even (h)umentash — cookies might be named after Haman’s pockets or his three-cornered hat (the explanation I was taught as a child), but I prefer to believe that we are symbolically eating our enemy’s ears at this time of year. It goes better with the brutal bible stories I enjoy so much and the cookies I made certainly screamed “body part,” though I’ll leave it up to folk with filthier minds than mine to decide which one.
This is a true family recipe — my Mom has scrawled notes all over the recipe in her Love and Knishes cookbook, changing ingredients right and left. I don’t remember making them with her but I remember eating them and the ones I made last night tasted just the same, even though I used Earth Balance instead of a mix of butter and Crisco, as she specified on the page. Traditionally, hammantaschen are often made with poppy seeds — or god forbid — prunes. I don’t like prunes so I used the ends of the jams we had in the fridge. Lots of ends of jams.
As it turns out, fancy or homemade jams worked way better than the cheap Smucker’s, which ran all over the place. The best was the truly homemade raisin jam that my nephew helped me make at the holidays. That was made with maple syrup, old grapes, and a squeeze of lemon juice. No added pectin — and it held up best of all.
The photos tell it all — much like my lace cookies that don’t look like lace, these cookies might better be called Mishkeits (a sexist Yiddish expression meaning “ugly girl” that has no male equivalent — or even an equivalent in English — and you should never use it unless you are an old Jewish man).
Along with my optimism in general, my baking mojo has clearly flown the coop for now. I’m sharing this recipe anyway because it’s a good one (so many hammantaschen are too heavy or too sweet or too bland — instead these are the perfect balance of crunchy and soft) but I’m asking you to cut me some slack on my results. I’ll be back on top before long and my baking will show it.
Another side note: If you use too much jam, as I always do, and it runs all over the place and burns, don’t eat the burned patches of spilled jam, no matter how much you want to. They taste bad.
adapted from Love and Knishes
2 sticks of Earth Balance
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons orange juice
4 cups flour — plus extra to roll out
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Filling — your choice! I like marmalade best
Cream together the shortening and sugar. I used a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and it felt like the dough made itself. Add eggs and mix till smooth. Alternate flour/salt mixture with water/OJ and beat just until the dough forms and is blended. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat your oven to 375. Put parchment on your cookie sheets. Pinch off to form balls the size of a small apple. Roll or pinch flat to form a circle about a 1/4 inch thick. I used a marble rolling pin, a marble board, and a biscuit cutter to do this. As with all pastry, the less you handle it, the more tender and tasty it will be, so ensure your kitchen is cool so the dough is less sticky.
Drop about a teaspoon of filling in the center of each round and bring the sides together to form a triangle. Pinch closed. For some reason, I can never bring myself to use the right amount of filling. I always overdo the jam, which leads to ugly results, but tasty cookies. Be better than me!
Bake 15 minutes until they are starting to brown around the edges. They don’t spread much so you don’t have to leave a ton of room on the cookie sheets. This recipe was meant to yield 24 cookies but I made them small and got more.
Click on Hammantaschen to download a PDF of the recipe you can print!