Hamantaschen are to Purim as latkes are to Chanukah and pumpkin pie is to Thanksgiving. That is to say it is a flavorful and beloved part of the celebrations. Preparing, eating, and gifting hamantaschen are a fun and traditional part of the Purim festivities for many Jewish-American families. People wax enthusiastically about their favorite fillings; a great-aunt’s great recipe; which ones are the best to buy and from where. For the baking-inclined, both nouveau and established foodie websites devote space to both traditional, and new-fangled versions such as: tie-dye and cappuccino, to name just a couple.
But here’s my guilty confession: I don’t like hamantaschen. Strange for an enthusiastic sweet tooth with a particular appreciation for baked goods. For years I set about to change my mind by devising all kinds of fantastical fillings like cheesecake and pecan pie. Or converting them from a sweet treat to a savory appetizer (blue cheese and onion) or a yummy pizza snack. But now I realize it’s not me, it’s hamantaschen.
The hamantaschen’s main concern is its triangular shape, which mocks the villain Haman’s three-cornered hat (sometimes derision tastes good). The filling is almost an afterthought, and there is never enough of it. After making a few batches I realized that the attaining and maintaining the dough triangle is not so easy. There are bakers who pinch and bakers who fold, but I always felt there was some luck involved in keeping hamantaschen sides neatly together.
I began to think about hamantaschen a few days before Valentine’s Day, while I was enjoying a thick layer of chocolate ganache sandwiched between two heart shaped sugar cookies. If only Hamantaschen could be so scrumptious! But hold on a sec, if I could bake triangle shaped cookies, and then make or buy my favorite type of filling or jam and spread it on the bottom of one triangle cookie and then affix another triangle cookie (one with a triangle window cut out of the center) on top, wouldn’t I have a hamantaschen? But this one doesn’t need to be molded, and that has sweet and wondrous filling with every bite!
Hamantaschen Sandwich Cookies sound a lot more delicious than Deconstructed Hamantaschen, but these cookies feature the most important features of a Hamantaschen (shape, look, and filling) and eliminates its shortcomings. You’re only limited by imagination when it comes to flavors and decorations. Below I offer recipes for a vanilla sugar cookie dough, and a chocolate option. For the fillings: chocolate ganache and a peanut butter cream filling. Feel free to swap it out for a more traditional jam, or for the panoply of exotic spreads or home-style frostings available out there.
Vanilla Sugar Cookies
(Makes 20 to 22 sandwich cookies)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon milk
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare baking sheets. In a medium sized bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl beat together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in egg and beat on medium speed.
3. Gradually, add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. With a spatula scrape the sides of the bowl. Once well incorporated, add the second half of the flour mixture and mix well.
4. Pour vanilla-milk mixture into the batter, and mix low speed until a thick batter results.
5. Divide dough in half and wrap each portion in plastic and refrigerate for an hour or two.
Once you are ready to bake cookies:
6. Take dough out of the fridge and let it sit for approximately 20 minutes, or until pliable.
7. Remove the plastic wrap. You can divide dough in half if you feel it’s too unwieldy. And then you can either place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll it out without having to flour the surface and tools. Or if you prefer to dust counter and tools with flour and roll dough out to a 1/2 inch thickness.
8. To shape cookies: A triangle mold works very well, or you can cut the dough with a sharp knife. The dough tends to be a little sticky, so make sure you have a metal spatula in order to move the triangles from the workspace to the baking pans.
9.Once you have all your dough triangles, with a sharp-tipped knife cut a small triangle out of the center of half your cookies.
10.The cookies won’t spread much but leave a little room between each on the baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
Dark Cocoa Sugar Cookies
(Makes 32 to 35 Cookie Sandwiches)
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 /4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter
1 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon instant coffee dissolved into 4 tablespoons hot water
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare baking sheets. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder in a medium sized bowl, and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, medium speed cream together butter and powdered sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until well incorporated.
3. Gradually add the cocoa-flour mixture in two allotments. Scraping down the sides with a spatula in order to mix in all the dry ingredients.
4. Pour in coffee, mix until batter is thick and smooth.
5. Divide into two discs and wrap each in plastic. Place in fridge for an hour or two. (Refer above for steps 6-10)
(Makes 1 cup)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 (10 ounce) bag of chocolate chips (semisweet, milk or dark)
1. Pour heavy cream into a medium sized saucepan and heat cream until bubbling around the edges. Stir in chocolate chips until melted, thick, and smooth.
Peanut Butter Filling
Makes approximately 1 cup
1 cup smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1. In a medium sized bowl beat together peanut butter and butter, and then mix in the confectioner’s sugar until a thick consistency results.