Apple Pie and Salted Caramel Hamantashen

It’s that time of year again! That time when kids set off fireworks non-stop, that time when every girl is a princess and every boy is a ninja, that time when something cool and awesome better make its way to me wrapped up in a bow. That’s right! It’s my birthday! Oh yeah, and Purim, that too. I guess that’s what everyone else is celebrating. Me? I have my priorities.

The cast of characters.
The cast of characters.

It’s the time of year when we can get most creative with our religious food – hamantashen for the masses y’all! In previous years I have made lemon meringue hamantashen which were a big hit. I have also made your run of the mill jam-filled hamantashen – Rocker Dude will not have Purim without them. And last year I tried a brownie-speculoos version – needed work so when I have it down I will post it here. But this year we are doing something a little different. We are combining two of my favorite foods – apple pie and hamantashen.

The process.
The process.

At first it may seem like an obvious pairing, delicious fillings in dough always are, and yet, it’s not too common. And just to dress it up, caramel shards on top.

Apple Pie and Salted Caramel Hamantashen
Apple Pie and Salted Caramel Hamantashen

I am always looking for something different to do with my hamantashen and while I know that tradition has its place, so does deliciousness. So let the baking begin! (Pesach is in a little over a month and here I am bulk buying flour for Purim – #ridiculoustiming – but there you have it. We have to have cinnamon rolls for mishloach manot!)

Nom nom nom nom.
Nom nom nom nom.

For the first time ever, we decided (read: I agreed) to dress up for Purim as a family, with themed costumes and everything. But not for us some Disney Princess with the rest of us as supporting characters, no, we do it properly. Superheroes all the way. The Little Rocker will be defending the city as Batgirl, with Squeaker as her loyal sidekick Robin from Rocker Dude and I as The Joker and Harley Quinn. It took a bit of planning but we got the costumes together and we are all set. I don’t know if we will do this every year, but it is fun to do once in a while. Also as Purim falls out on my birthday this year, we have to do something special. (Pictures to come soon!)

Recipe:

Cookie:
I used a double batch of this recipe from our sugar cookie adventures in December

Filling (based on this recipe from King Arthur):
3 cups peeled, cored, finely chopped apples – I prefer Gala, Pink Crispy or Pink Lady
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup apple juice concentrate

Caramel Shards (based on this recipe from Epicurious):
1 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. salt

Make your filling first. You can make it a few days in advance and leave it in the fridge until you are ready to make your cookies. Mix all of the ingredients and stir until the filling begins to bubble and thickens considerably. You want to make sure that the filling bubbles so that you don’t taste the flour afterwards. Continue cooking until the apples reach your desired tenderness. It’s nice to have a little crunch still in the apples for texture. Set aside and cool. You can refrigerate for up to four days.

Follow the directions to make the sugar cookie dough until the refrigeration stage. You can keep the dough for a week in the fridge and for two months in the freezer.

When you are ready to make your cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and roll out the cookie dough to a 1/8 inch thickness. Using a drinking glass or a circle cookie cutter, cut out as many circles as you can. Place 1 tsp. of filling in the center of each one. Pinch each side together to make a triangle. (See here for instructions). Place cookies two inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cookies are very lightly browned. Let cool.

To make the caramel shards, lightly oil a 12-inch square of foil. In a heavy saucepan boil sugar, water and salt over moderate heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Boil syrup without stirring, washing down sugar crystals on side of pan with a brush dipped in cold water, until pale golden. Continue cooking syrup without stirring, swirling pan, until deep golden. Immediately pour caramel onto foil and cool completely, about 20 minutes. Break caramel into shards. Place a few small pieces into the center of the cooled hamantashen. Serve immediately or soon after. (Shards keep, layered between sheets of wax paper, in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 day.)

These are best served slightly warm – like real apple pie, but are also good at room temperature.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

 

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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.

Flower Cookie Pops

This is still a post about Purim – I made a lot so I’m going to write all about it.  On Purim there is a commandment to give gifts of food to others.  It is really to help them have a feast, but it has become a whole thing where people do themes and buy containers that match their theme and even dress up to match their theme.  I like to do themes, but because I am not the most creative person in the world, nor do I want to spend $15 on each package, I tend to keep it toned down.  This year we had one plan and then my father-in-law bought my daughter a flower costume.  So we ditched the first idea and went with a new one – “The Garden of Eatin’ ” (Garden of Eden – ring a bell?).  I have a hundred cookie cutters, so I figured I might as well use them.  We, or really I, wanted to do three cookie flowers and two candy flowers on sticks – cookie pops!  (If you want to see really cool cake pops by the specialist see Bakerella’s blog – http://www.bakerella.com/).

I set about gathering the supplies.  This meant yet another trip to the supermarket to get yet more flour and margarine – I swear I could keep the flour, sugar, eggs and margarine industries afloat single handedly.  We also went to the candy store to look for a fruit roll-up like candy.  Because this is Israel, we did not find fruit roll-ups or anything similar, but I did find marshmallow strawberries.  I can stick a stick in that.  Great.

I went to yet a different store for the wrapping goods, i.e. lollipop sticks, little cellophane bags, twistie ties and ribbon.  And we got some decorating sugar to put on top of the cookies – I knew that I was not going to have time to ice them.

Then I put everything aside until Saturday night.  I started to make the dough – so far, so good.  Creaming margarine – check.  Sugar – uh oh.  I only had one cup of sugar – I needed two.  It was 10:00 at night on a holiday – not a store was open and S. was asleep so I couldn’t leave the house (M. was at a party with anyone I would have borrowed sugar from).  What to do?  I tore apart my cabinets, hoping against all hope that there was a bag sugar hiding in the back of something somewhere.  I was out of luck.  I did find 2 1/2 lbs. of Splenda Baking Blend sugar.  It is a 50/50 mix of sugar and Splenda and it’s meant to bake better than regular Splenda.  I bought it as part of my neverending quest to lose weight, and when I used it the first time, the cake came out rather dense.  Now, this also might have been because I used baking powder that had expired (always make sure your baking powder is fresh), but I have been wary of it ever since.  So I’m stuck.  The only other sugar I found was confectioner’s sugar – I had a lot of that, I probably planned on making frosting at some point and never did.  So my brilliant plan (if I do say so myself) was to substitute one cup of confectioner’s sugar and just cut down on the flour a bit.  Great, now that’s settled.  Cream sugar with margarine, uh oh, it’s starting to look like frosting – this was not in the plan.  Okay quick, add the eggs.  Because I was using medium eggs instead of large eggs I decided to add extra egg to make up for it – five eggs instead of four.  Okay, not bad yet.  I mixed everything else in, went really easy on the flour, I figured better that I have to add more flour later when I roll it out than add too much now.  All’s well and good.  We have a nice soft sugar cookie dough ready to be refrigerated.  I let them cool for about two hours while I finished cleaning up the house after the party we had Saturday morning.

When I took the dough out to roll, it was very sticky, so I floured my surface generously and kneaded in the flour until the dough was of the right consistency.  I knew that to make these cookies stay on the sticks and not break off they would have to be very thick.  As I mentioned earlier, I have trouble rolling things out thickly, they always end up thinner than planned.  So this time I was really conscientious.  I kept them really thick and very carefully pressed the sticks into the dough before I sprinkled decorating sugar on top.  I was a bit worried because these cookies do not rise, they have no leavening agent in them.  I forgot about the extra egg, and maybe the confectioner’s sugar.  Either way, when I took these cookies out of the oven, they had risen just a tiny bit which actually helped stabilize the stick inside the cookie.  It was working!!  (As you can see I am still psyched about this.)

Anyway, by 12:30 am, I had about 35 cookies on sticks and most of them were even wrapped in their little bags.  I saved the wrapping of the last batch for the morning as I was completely spent.  In the morning I finished wrapping them and tied each “bouquet” together.  They looked really cool.  I sent M. to deliver them, I wanted him to take the baby as well so that she could get out, but the weather was really weird, one minute there is a hailstorm and the next minute it is sunny without a cloud in the sky.  We had been having this weather for about three days, so I didn’t want the baby to get caught in anything.  But I made hubby carry the bouquets in a basket, haha!  One of the cookies broke a tiny bit when I put it on the cooling rack, so baby and I shared it.  Let me tell you that everything tastes better when it is on a stick!

And here is my little flower (I can assure you, that hat did not last long on her head – I ended up just putting in little flower ponytail holders in her hair):

Recipe:

2 cups butter or margarine

1 cup sugar

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

5 medium eggs

2 tbsp. vanilla

2 tsp. salt

5 1/2 cups flour, plus more for rolling out

Decorator’s sugar

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat each egg and beat for one minute.  Add vanilla.  Add the flour and salt and mix only until just combined.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 170° C. Roll out the dough and cut shapes.  I used a butterfly shape, a tulip shape, and regular flower shape and left the dough really thick.  It needs to hold the stick firmly.  Place the cookies on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Carefully, but firmly press the stick into the cookie (you can use lollipop sticks or chopsticks or anything else that is oven safe).  Sprinkle tops with sugar and bake.

Bake for 11 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.  Let cool on a rack.

Purim Hamantashen

Purim is coming and for those of you who don’t know, it is the day when Jews drink a lot and give food to lots of people while dressed in costumes (kind of like Halloween, but the opposite).  Additionally, on Saturday morning we are having a get-together for our couples friends at about 11:00 am.  And on top of that, the Daring Bakers’ challenge is do soon, so I had to get going on my tiramisu.  As you can imagine, I have been baking like a crazy person since Monday.  Conveniently, or not so, S. was sick with coxsackie virus on Sunday and Monday, so that gave me a few hours while she was sleeping to get some stuff done.  I made the mascarpone cheese – more about that in the post about the challenge.  I made two pastry creams, sabayon, tart crusts, lady fingers, and of course tons of hamantashen.

Hamantashen are a traditional Purim treat.  They are a essentially a sugar cookie with a jam or other filling.  They are triangular in shape, supposedly to represent the triangular shape of Haman’s hat.  (Haman was the  bad guy who wanted to kill the Jews during the whole Purim story thing).  I love hamantashen – they are probably my favorite cookie – I love this time of year when all the bakeries are well stocked with treats.  The only issue is that here in Israel they have very boring, traditional fillings like poppy seed, prune, chocolate, and hazelnut.  I love fruit flavors like apricot, or blueberry, or strawberry.  So I have to make them myself.  I made sure to buy a huge jar of strawberry jam with lots of margarine and flour.

I wanted to use my traditional sugar cookie recipe that I always use, but hubby, darling hubby, said, “Don’t your sugar cookies always come out hard?  Why don’t you just buy some?”  Ummm… right.  So with that vote of confidence, I set out to make my hamantashen.  I made sure to take out the margarine and the eggs before I put the baby in her bath and put her to bed, so that they would have time to warm up.  Then I analyzed what I did wrong in the past that might make my cookies hard.  So, I believe that it is because I roll them out to thin.  I tend to have that issue with pie crusts as well.  What I need for my birthday (hint hint) are those guides that you put on your rolling pin that don’t let you roll out the dough too thin.

So this time I was meticulous about keeping the dough nice and thick, anyway, it had to stand up to the jam that was going to be put inside.  It meant that sometimes I had to reroll the dough, but at least my cookies came out nice and thick.

Making hamantashen is really simple, and I think that some people may be put off because they think that it is more complicated than it really is.  All you need is a good sugar cookie recipe, a rolling pin and a circular cookie cutter (or a glass or other round cutter).  Oh yeah, and filling.

Here is a short tutorial on how to shape the hamantashen:

Step 1: in the center of the circle of dough, place 1 tsp. of filling.  Then pinch the top “sides” to make a point, like so:

Then pinch the next corner at the side:

And of course, the last side:

See what a nice triangle it makes?  Make sure to leave a little hole in the middle so you can see what flavor your hamantash is.

Here is a whole tray ready to go into the oven,

And here they are cooling on the rack,

Let’s just say that when I asked hubby if the cookies were hard, the answer was most definitely “no.”  They were perfectly chewy and delicious.

Feel free to dress them up a bit by dipping a corner into melted chocolate and then in colorful sprinkles!

Recipe:

1 cup butter or margarine

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tbsp. vanilla

1 tsp. salt

3 cups flour

Strawberry jam (or any other flavor), or chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat each egg and beat for one minute.  Add vanilla.  Add the flour and salt and mix only until just combined.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 170° C. Roll out the dough and cut circles.  I used a four inch circle cutter and left the dough really thick.  It needs to stand up to the jam center.  Scoop 1 tsp. of jam into the center of the circle and then fold up the sides and pinch the corners to form a triangle.

Bake for 11 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.  Let cool on a rack.

Enjoy!

Happy Purim!