My list of “gateway goods” to this whole baking thing could be quite long. There’s the apple pie I made from Epicurious.com way back during what felt like the advent of the internet. There are the rocky road brownies I baked with my mom, who guided me with a recipe handwritten on an index card. And those marshmallows I made from scratch, with gelatin, before I understood what gelatin was.
And then there are the hamentashen.
Hamentashen are triangular-shaped dough pockets (“taschen” is German for pockets) most often filled with fruit preserves. They’re eaten as part of the celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim, which falls anytime between late February and mid-March. Nowadays, you can find hamentashen at many bagels places and supermarkets year round, especially in Jewish areas. I’ve eaten them in plenty of locales, including in Rome’s Jewish ghetto where they’re called Orecchiette di Haman, or Haman’s ears. (Haman is the bad guy in the story of Purim.)
Despite their availability, I have made over 200 hamentashen each year for the last 20 years. Let that sink in.
Each of those 4000+ hamentashen have been true to one recipe: the one on a ditto handed out by my nursery school over 30 years ago. When something is this simple, this buttery, and this satisfying, there’s no need to mess around.
Because of the butter, this version is more reminiscent of a shortbread cookie than those you might find at the local bagel shop, where they might use oil. If you’re following the laws of kashrut (Jewish dietary laws), you won’t want to serve these with a meat meal. The cookie is tender and melt-in-your-mouth crumbly, but sturdy, too. Importantly, the baked version freezes well for those times after the holiday when you need to get back into the Purim spirit. A 15-minute defrost on the counter will render them as good as freshly baked. (Note, bake extra and freeze!)
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