Purim, which falls this year on March 21, is one of the most exciting holidays on the Jewish calendar, yet its signature food, hamantaschen, can be bland and disappointing. Pastry chef Paula Shoyer is on a mission to transform these triangle-shaped pastries from boring to tantalizing.
The author of four bestselling cookbooks, including “The Holiday Kosher Baker,” Shoyer says, “I want Jews to celebrate holidays with the desserts their ancestors ate, yet improve upon the traditional recipes. Thanks to social media, bakers often showcase their creations and hamantaschen have become an Instagram hit.”
For Purim, Shoyer offers a variety of sweet and savory hamantaschen flavors, including baklava, granola, vanilla bean and spanokopita (a spinach filling).
Here is her recipe for salted caramel hamantaschen. For more, visit www.thekosherbaker.com.
Salted Caramel Hamantaschen (Dairy)
Yields: 4 dozen hamantaschen
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon orange juice
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting parchment and dough
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon salt
To make the caramel, place the sugar and water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook on medium-high heat until sugar melts. After several minutes, the sugar will start to color. Stir the mixture so all the sugar browns. When it is a uniform amber color, turn heat to low, remove saucepan from heat and add the cream. The mixture will bubble up. Add the butter and salt and stir. Return to the heat and cook for one minute, or until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and let cool. Chill in the fridge for at least a half hour to thicken the caramel. Store in the fridge for up to five days.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment. You will bake in batches.
In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, oil, and orange juice. Add the baking powder, pepper, and flour and mix until the dough comes together. I like to use my hands for this because it kneads the dough well. Divide the dough in half.
Take another two pieces of parchment and sprinkle flour on one, place one dough half on top, and then sprinkle a little more flour on top of the dough. Place the second piece of parchment on top of the dough and roll on top of the parchment until the dough is about 1/4-inch thick. Every few rolls, peel back the top parchment and sprinkle a little more flour on the dough.
Use a glass or round cookie cutter about 2 to 3 inches in diameter to cut the dough into circles. Place a little less than a teaspoon of the filling in the center and then fold in 3 sides to form a triangle, leaving a small opening in the center. Pinch the 3 sides very tightly. Place on the prepared cookie sheets. Repeat with the rest of the dough and re-roll and cut any dough scraps you have. Place the cookie sheets in the freezer for 10 minutes; this helps the hamentaschen hold their shape and not open up while baking.
Bake for 12 to 16 minutes, or until the bottoms are lightly browned. Slide the parchment onto racks to cool the cookies. If desired, drizzle any remaining caramel over the cookies. Store covered with plastic or in an airtight container at room temperature for five days or freeze for up to three months.