The Jew And The Carrot

Sweet, Savory and Asian-Inspired Hamantaschen

By Molly Yeh

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Molly Yeh
Asian Twist: Black sesame seeds add a smoky touch to these sweet hamantaschen.

Since being aurally haunted by hundreds of toy noise makers during one Purim celebration in my childhood, Purim has been banned from my top 10 list of favorite holidays (making way for more quiet and civilized holidays where you soberly eat matzo ball soup with your family). In my wimpy eyes its only point of redemption is hamantaschen. This year, I have reinterpreted the triangle cookies two ways — one sweet and Asian inspired and the other savory and filled with delicious rich cheese.

My favorite varieties of classic hamantaschen can be found at a few hidden deli counters in New York and in care packages from the mother of a dear college friend, Brian. When we were in college, Brian’s apartment was good for three things: throwing wild patio parties, eating spray can cheese, and hosting impromptu hamantaschen eating parties as soon as his Purim care package arrived. His mother’s hamantaschen were soft, doughy, slightly smashed from the shipping process, and swimming in powdered sugar (perfect for the morning after those legendary patio parties). So when I decided to make hamantaschen this year — with a personal twist — the obvious starting point was tapping Brian’s mom for her recipe.

One of these recipes draws on my Asian heritage and uses black sesame seeds in place of the traditional poppy seed filling. Black sesames are common in Asian cooking and have a smokier and nuttier flavor than their white counterparts. The other is an homage to my cheese and spinach obsessions and is as perfect for an appetizer or party hors d’oeuvre as it is sacrilege.

Black Sesame Hamantaschen

Dough:
Based on Betty Doman’s Hamantaschen, courtesy of Anne Schulman

2 sticks butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 egg yolk
pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Powdered sugar, for dusting

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter, cream cheese, egg yolk, and salt. Add flour, half a cup at a time, to form a dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours.

Filling:
1 cup black sesame seeds (if you can’t find them at your local grocery store, many Asian grocery stores carry them)
pinch of salt
cocoa powder
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup whole milk

In a spice grinder, grind sesame seeds to a fine powder. Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and heat over medium-low heat, whisking continuously until mixture thickens (5-10 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Assembly:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

To assemble the Hamantaschen, work with half of the dough at a time (the other half should stay wrapped in the fridge) and roll it out to 1/4 inch on a surface that has been coated with powdered sugar. Cut into 3-inch circles (turning a glass upside down is a good way to do this), place two teaspoons of filling in the center, moisten edges with water, and pinch into a 3-cornered shape.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool and dust with powdered sugar.

Savory Spinach and Gruyere Hamantaschen

Dough:
2 cups grated gruyere cheese
½ stick of butter, cold and cubed
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup cold water

In a food processor or with a pastry cutter, combine first five ingredients to form a mealy mixture. Add water one tablespoon at a time to form a dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Filling:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cups chopped spinach
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated parmesan
1 egg

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, add onion and cook until transparent, about 5-7 minutes. Add spinach, salt and pepper, and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool, drain any liquid that gathers. In a medium bowl, combine parmesan and egg. Add cooled spinach mixture.

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

To assemble the Hamantaschen, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut into 3-inch circles, place two teaspoons of filling in the center, moisten edges with water, and pinch into a 3-cornered shape.

Bake for 12-18 minutes.


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