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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ;).
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.
Dough (based on this recipe from Aviva Pibko):
250 g butter or margarine
1 1/4 cup sugar
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 egg yolks
1 cup minus 1 tbsp. sugar
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tbsp. cold butter or margarine
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.