By Tina Wasserman
By now I hope you have used my hamantaschen recipes, along with your favorite ones, to create those holiday treats that are ubiquitous in shaloch manos baskets around the world. You know that triangular cookies filled with mohn or prune or chocolate are not the only shape sweet Purim treats come in. Italians fry strips of dough to look like Haman’s ears; the French eat palmiers (we used to call them pigs’ ears because the rolled puff pastry circles looked like two ears).
Poppyseeds play a prominent role in the foods for the holiday because Esther, in order to keep her Judaism secret from the king, ate a diet of nuts and seeds and fruits.
The following recipes either mimic the shape of Haman’s hat (actually taschen means pocket!) or contain the aforementioned poppyseeds. The recipes are also from Hungary and India and the mushroom turnovers might be triangular in shape but they are not for dessert. So, enjoy the holiday, explore new recipes and let’s try to drown out Haman’s name along with the pervasive evil throughout our present world.
Before we get started, here’s a very important tidbit that I want to share with you. Never use commercial jelly or jam for filling the pastries. They don’t contain a large ratio of fruit to the binding jelly and when the hamantaschen are baked you either have the filling running over the side or a hollow center that is just glazed with the jelly remnants. That’s the best tidbit I can share with you this year!
Hungarian Mushroom Turnovers
This dough is similar to rugelach dough but these turnovers are rich and savory. I promise, you won’t miss the cinnamon and sugar!
4 ounces butter
4 ounces cream cheese
1 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
½ pound fresh mushrooms
4 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon cream sherry
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon water
1. Cream the butter and the cream cheese in a mixer at high speed until well combined, light and fluffy.
2. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the mixture and add the flour. Mix on medium speed only until the flour is incorporated and the mixture just begins to hold together. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and form each piece into a ball, flatten to 1 inch and then refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.
3. While the dough is chilling, sauté the onion in the remaining butter until lightly golden.
4. Wash and pat dry the mushrooms and place them in a processor. Pulse the processor on and off until the mushrooms are in uniform, fine pieces.
5. Add the mushrooms to the onions and sauté until they give up their juices and begin to appear dry.
6. Add the seasonings and the sherry.
7. Roll a ball of dough 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface and then cut into 2-inch squares.
8. Place a teaspoon of filling in the center of each square. Brush the edges of the circle with a little water and then fold in half from point to point to make a triangle. Pinch the edges together and then use the tines of a fork to crimp the edges. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and proceed with the rest of the dough in the same manner.
9. Brush the tops of the turnovers with the egg yolk glaze and sprinkle with some sesame seeds. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until light and golden. Serve hot. May be frozen.
• Beating the cream cheese and butter together until the mixture is light and feathery incorporates air and makes the finished dough light and airy.
• When I add the flour, I actually pulse my stand mixer on and off just until the flour is mixed in but not forming a ball.
• This technique is not good for the machine but it makes the dough similar to puff pastry.
Puran Poli Hamantaschen with Sweetened Lentils, Dates and Pistachios
The Jewish community referred to as B’nai Israel resided in the western part of India and has adopted this cardamom-laced dough and filling to make their own version of hamantaschen. I have adapted the traditional recipe to make it easier to find the ingredients in your local supermarket. I hope you will enjoy this treat for Purim.
1 cup yellow split lentils
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
1 cup dark brown sugar plus 2 teaspoons maple syrup
¼ cup pistachios, chopped
5-6 Medjool dried dates, pitted and chopped fairly fine
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 egg, well beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla
1. Cover the lentils with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer covered for 10-15 minutes until very soft. Drain very well and cool.
2 Melt the butter in a clean 2-quart saucepan. When melted, add the nutmeg and cardamom and stir for 10 seconds until the spices are fragrant.
3. Add the drained lentils and the brown sugar and maple syrup and stir over medium-low heat until the mixture becomes less watery and dry-looking.
4. Cool for a few minutes and then mash until it forms a coarse paste.
5. Add the chopped pistachio nuts and dates and set aside until ready to fill.
6. Make the dough: Combine the flour, powdered sugar, cardamom, baking powder and salt in a processor work bowl. Pulse on and off 5 times to combine the ingredients.
7. Add the butter to the work bowl and then pulse the processor on and off until the dough is crumbly and barely begins to form a ball.
8. Mix the egg and vanilla together and then add it to the processor work bowl. Pulse the machine until the egg is incorporated and just beginning to hold together but not quite forming a ball.
9. Remove the dough from the processor and then gently form into a ball. Flatten to 1 inch and then place in a plastic bag and refrigerate for a half-hour or until firm but not hard.
10. When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and cover cookie sheets with parchment paper.
11. Cut dough in half and roll out dough between two sheets of parchment paper until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 3- or 4-inch circles. Repeat with the other ball of dough and then combine the scraps from both balls and roll that out to make more circles.
12. Place 1 scant tablespoon of lentil filling in the center of a circle. Place your thumbs at 6 o’clock and gently push dough up while your forefingers are bringing the rest of the circle down from 10 and 2. Pinch edges together to make a perfect equilateral triangle. Place on the prepared baking sheet.
13. Repeat with the remaining dough and bake for 17-20 minutes or until the hamantaschen are lightly golden.
Makes about 2 dozen
• You might consider using the plastic blade that came with your processor rather than the metal blade to mix your dough. The metal blade actually cuts the dough and, in my opinion, toughens the dough and this dough is firmer and drier than most.
• The filling can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator until needed.
• The dough can be refrigerated for a longer period of time but then the butter hardens and the dough is hard to roll out. If you have to refrigerate your dough for a few hours, bring it out of the refrigerator about a half-hour before you want to make the pastry.
• Dark brown sugar and maple syrup are substitutions for jaggery sugar, which often comes in a hard cone that has to be shaved. It is unrefined, hence the use of the more molasses-centric dark brown sugar.
• I have used good-quality butter in this recipe instead of ghee because the dough has to be handled by hand longer to soften the ghee and that means the gluten in the flour will be overworked and dough will become very tough.
Hungarian Dumplings with Poppyseed Topping
I am always looking for recipes that include poppyseeds because they add a flavor that is subtle without being overpowering. I was reading the Jewish Food Society’s blog about a Hungarian immigrant who loved her sweets and loved this dish. A number of years ago I made a similar dish of prune-filled dumplings and my friend who was raised in Hungary swooned over the dish. Here’s a version that is a little easier than the prune-filled ones and gives new meaning to Italian gnocchi.
2-3 russet potatoes, baked
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups flour
1 cup ground poppyseeds (or finely grind your own in a coffee or spice mill)
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
Grated zest of ½ lemon
1 cup breadcrumbs, preferably freshly made
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling on finished dish
1. Bake the potatoes for 40 minutes or until they feel soft in the center. Cool until you can handle them and then scoop the insides of the warm potatoes into a 3-quart bowl. Mash the potatoes so that there are no lumps. You should have about 2 cups.
2. Add the butter to the potatoes and mix with a rubber spatula until butter is thoroughly incorporated.
3. Combine the beaten egg with the salt and the vanilla. Add to the mashed, warm potatoes and blend well.
4. Stir in flour and mix first with the spatula and then with your hands until a smooth ball of dough is formed. Dough may be kneaded 5 or 6 times to achieve this. Divide dough into fourths for easier handling.
5. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a long log that is about 1 inch thick. Use a sharp knife to cut each log crosswise into inch long pieces; these are the raw nudli. Set aside while you bring a 4-quart pot with salted water to a boil.
6. Meanwhile, make the toppings. Combine all of the ingredients for the poppyseed filling in a large bowl or serving dish.
7. Heat a 10-inch skillet for 20 seconds and then melt the 4 tablespoons of butter. Add the breadcrumbs and stir over medium-high heat until all the crumbs are coated and begin to crisp.
8. Add the hot breadcrumbs to the poppyseed mixture and briefly stir.
9. Drop half of the dumplings into the pot and cook until they float to the surface. Continue to cook 1 minute more or until they are light and cooked in the center. Place in a strainer and quickly drain.
10. Immediately add the hot nudli to the breadcrumb/poppyseed mixture and toss to evenly coat. Place in a buttered dish large enough to hold all batches of dumplings.
11. Repeat the steps above with the remaining dough.
12. When all the dumplings are made, serve hot with a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar on top.
NOTE: In Hungary this is often served with some lekvar (prune jam) on the side.
Some people refer to this dish as Shlishkes.
• Baking the potatoes rather than boiling them will create a drier potato that will form a better dough.
• To achieve smooth mashed potatoes, mash dry potatoes before you add any other ingredients.
• NEVER use a processor to mash potatoes or you will get wallpaper paste!
• Mixture can be kept warm, covered, in a 135-degree oven or warming drawer for an hour or so. They can also be reheated but they won’t be as light and airy.
• You could make the nudli in advance, drain and set aside. When ready to serve you could make the breadcrumbs, combine with the poppyseed topping and then plunge the nudli in the boiling water for a minute or two to reheat before adding to the topping.