Lemon Meringue Hamantashen

It is Purim!  My favorite time of the year.  Now, it may have something to do with the fact that my birthday is always around Purim, but I think it is similar to how people think about Christmas.  Everyone is happier around Christmas time, and it makes for a general cheer all around. In fact that is what many American ex-pats miss when they move out.  Here in Israel, now is the general happy time.  Everything is silly and people really try to step outside their comfort zone in order to get into the holiday spirit.  Everyday for the past couple of weeks, the Little Rocker has come home from kindergarten dressed as something else.  One day it was a ladybug, another day, masks they drew themselves, on other days her face was painted with various animals.  It’s really a fun time. I love seeing people dressed up, though I am not such a fan of dressing up myself.

Lemon Meringue Hamantashen.
Lemon Meringue Hamantashen.

So I am finally getting around to making something that I have been thinking about for over a year.  Lemon-meringue hamantashen.  Hamantashen are my favorite holiday-related food – even more than honey cake for Rosh Hashana and matza brei for Pesach. In Israel hamantashen season starts right after Chanuka, so already in December, the stores started stocking freshly made hamantashen.  The one issue I have with it is that in Israel, they are not so creative with the fillings.  They always have the traditional poppy seed filled ones (eew), date filled ones (quite good), walnut filled ones (eh), and chocolate filled ones (eh). None of the usual strawberry, apricot or other fruit filled ones.  This actually led to a long discussion at work between the Americans and the Israelis.  All the Americans were deploring the lack of fruity hamantashen that we are used to, while all the Israelis were shocked that anyone would put jelly in a hamantashen. Just another culture clash that may never be resolved.

The Little Rocker and her friend making hamantashen together.
The Little Rocker and her friend making hamantashen together.
The fillings they chose.  The Little Rocker chose raspberry jam and chocolate and her friend chose plain chocolate.
The fillings they chose. The Little Rocker chose raspberry jam and chocolate and her friend chose plain chocolate.

So every year I make the usual hamantashen, strawberry, blueberry, apple, etc. and last year, I though about trying something new – lemon-meringue. Last year I started planning it, and it was going to be really awesome as Purim fell out on my birthday, but then Rocker Dude had to leave me on my birthday and go do his army reserve service.  Apparently the army doesn’t accept “Sorry, it’s my wife’s birthday” as an excuse. So as I was alone with the Little Rocker and not in the mood to put effort into anything (my usual hubby-in-the-army situation), so I shelved the idea.

This year, I am on maternity leave, so I have tons of time (sort-of) and free hands (mostly) so this is the year that we make lemon-meringue hamantashen.

I usually use my sugar cookie recipe for the base of the dough, but I feel like the end product always comes out a bit too sweet. In Israel, the cookie recipe is less sweet and I think complements the filling more. So I looked around on Israeli sites to see what people were using.  To give you an idea of what the difference is between the recipes, my sugar cookie recipe calls for two cups of sugar to three cups of flour.  The one I ended up using from Aviva Pibko (a contestant on Master Chef here) has one and a quarter cups of sugar to four cups of flour.

Ready circles of dough
Ready circles of dough
Filled circles.
Filled circles.
Ready to bake hamantashen.
Ready to bake hamantashen.

I made a lemon curd as the filling and with the leftover egg whites, made  a meringue that I toasted in the oven. The end result is a tart cookie with a pillow of sweetness on top.

Hamantashen just after toasting.
Hamantashen just after toasting.

Of course Rocker Dude tasted the cookie and said, “What’s that in the dough?” When I said “Lemon,” I got a sour face in response. Now he will deny that he said that, but we all know that he wanted regular sugar dough instead ;).

Don't you want to try a bite?
Don’t you want to try a bite?

If you are looking for some more interesting hamantashen ideas, check out this link.

Here is the recipe for the hamantashen.

P.S. I also used regular raspberry preserves as a filling and they came out great. There was a nice contrast between the lemon in the dough and the sweet jam.

Recipe:
Dough (based on this recipe from Aviva Pibko):

250 g butter or margarine
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract or paste
4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
grated zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp. salt

Cream the butter or margarine with the sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture for a full minute between each egg. Add the vanilla and the zest. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and slowly add them to the wet ingredients, mixing only until the dough is combined.  Put the dough into a plastic bag and refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.

Filling (from The Art and Soul of Baking):

3 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 cup minus 1 tbsp. sugar
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tbsp. cold butter or margarine

Meringue:

3 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar

Prepare a double boiler, or a pot with a heat-safe bowl on top.  In the bowl (off the heat), mix the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and lemon juice until well blended. Place the bowl over the boiling pot and heat the lemon mixture.  Make sure to keep whisking the mixture, and scrape the sides of the bowl to keep the mixture from curdling.  After about 7 minutes, the curd should thicken (it will hit 180 degrees).  Pour the curd through a strainer.  Then add the butter or margarine, making sure that it is completely melted.  Press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface of the curd and refrigerate the curd until it is needed.

To assemble the hamantashen: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out the chilled the dough to about a 1/4 inch thickness.  Use a round cookie cutter (four-inch diameter) to make circles.  Place a scant teaspoonful of the curd in the center of each circle and pinch the ends together to form a triangle.

Place the finished cookies on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and bake for about 12 minutes until the cookies are lightly browned.  If you notice that the triangles are opening while baking, refrigerate the formed hamantashen for 20 minutes before putting them in the oven.

While the cookies are cooling, beat the egg whites on high speed while slowly adding in the sugar.  Whip the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Place a heaping teaspoonful on the center of each hamantashen and either toast the meringue with a butane torch or set the oven to broil and toast the cookies for a minute in the oven. Watch them carefully because they burn quickly.

The cookies will keep (without the meringue) for 4 days in a sealed container.  Once you add the meringue, eat the cookies within the day.

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Lemon Cream Tart

I have been dreaming about lemons for a few weeks now.  Lemon Meringue Pie, Lemon Squares, pretty much anything lemon.  The only problem is that lemon is not one of Rocker Dude’s favorite flavors and he tends to shy away from lemon desserts.

This week I didn’t care.  If lemon is so much on my mind it must be a sign from heaven that I am supposed to be baking with lemon.  I decided to make the lemon cream tart from Dorie Greenspan’s book Baking: From my Home to Yours.  I have made it before when I first started blogging and for some reason it never made it onto the site.  This time I meticulously photographed so that I could write a proper post.

Before you ask, lemon cream is different from lemon curd.  Both have a strong tart flavor, but lemon cream is silkier than lemon curd and the flavor is slightly more mellow (very slightly).  Dorie says that she learned this recipe from pastry god Pierre Hermé.  And anything that comes from him must be good.

The process of making lemon cream is very similar to that of lemon curd, but instead of just waiting for the mixture to thicken, you have to get it to 180 degrees F and then when it cools to 140 degrees F, mix it in a blender while slowly adding butter or margarine, emulsifying the mixture to silky creaminess.

 

Silky creamy lemoniness.

The first time I made this, I don’t think that I got the mixture to the right temperature, as the thermometer that I was using was not a candy thermometer and did not quite reach 180 degrees F.  Also, the Little Rocker had been fascinated by it and dropped it on the floor quite a few times before I put a lock on the drawer.

 

So I used my new thermometer, that also has a clip to attach it to the side of the pot so I didn’t have to stop mixing to check the temperature, and we did this “scientifically” (in the words of my mother, the pharmaceutical chemist).

The crust is the regular tart crust that I posted here.  I made it the night before so that it would be fully cooled when I put the filling inside.

 

Fresh lemon juice

 

Then in the morning, I got the lemons ready, grating the zest and juicing the lemons.

 

Sugar rubbed with lemon zest

 

Then I mixed everything up in my version of a double boiler (a pot on top of another pot) and stirred and stirred and stirred and stirred (you can see where this is going) until finally the mixture hit 180 degrees F.

 

Doesn't it look like some complicated science experiment?

Then I poured the whole mixture  into the food processor to cool off, and when it cooled to 140 degrees F, I started mixing the cream with the metal blade and added chunks of margarine to be mixed in.  I followed the instructions to the letter, and the cream came out beautifully.  It was so good. I put the cream into a container to cool in the refrigerator and then proceeded to lick the bowl of the food processor and the spatula.  I had to physically stop myself from stealing spoonfuls of cream from the bowl in the refrigerator.

 

When the cream had cooled, I spread it in the crust and chilled it some more.  FYI, and this is something I learned the hard way, you can’t transport this in the stroller once it has been assembled.  The cream doesn’t set firm, so if the pan is not straight…

We had a number of guests on Friday night and J. and M. were coming for dessert after dinner.  I knew that J. would appreciate what I was making, he fancies himself an appreciator of good food (aren’t we all though?).

 

Lemon Cream Tart

 

When it came time for dessert, by the time I had finished passing out the tart, J. had already finished his.  If that’s not appreciation I don’t know what is.  And surprise surprise, Rocker Dude loved the tart.  He said that it was because this time, the crust was really good, but I know better.  I think his taste buds are finally getting used to new flavors (I hope!).

 

The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart (from Baking: From My Home to Yours):

1 cup sugar

Grated zest of 3 lemons

4 large eggs

¾ cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)

2 sticks plus 5 tbsp. (10 1/2 oz.) unsalted butter or margarine

1 9 inch tart shell, fully baked (see the recipe here)

Have an instant read thermometer ready.

Bring a few inches of water to a boil in a saucepan.  Place a heatproof bowl over the pot (or another pot) and make sure that the bowl does not touch the surface of the water.

Rub the sugar and zest together until the sugar is moist and very aromatic.  Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.

Place all the ingredients into the bowl over the pot and start stirring with a whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid.  Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F.  You must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling.  As you whisk, the mixture will get thicker and the whisk will start to leave tracks – this means that you are getting close.  Don’t stop whisking and checking the temperature.  Have patience.

As soon as the cream reaches 180 degrees F, remove the bowl from the heat and pour the cream through a strainer into a blender or food processor.  Let it cool to 140 degrees F.

Turn the food processor on high, and with the machine going, add the butter or margarine a few tablespoons at a time.  Once the butter is incorporated, keep the machine going for another 3 minutes, you want the mixture to be light and airy.

Pour the cream into a container and cover with a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming.  Chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream a little to loosen it and spread it into the tart shell.  Serve immediately or chill until needed.