The Jewish holiday of Purim begins Feb. 23 at sundown. Hamantaschen, the triangular pastries associated with the holiday, have been in grocery stores for weeks now, reminding locals that the holiday approaches. Ashley Market, formerly Eden Gourmet, has hamantaschen for sale.
Memories of Purim and the sweets associated with the holiday are legion. Houman Sarshar, the author of Esther’s Children, shared insights with Leonard Lopate, recalling the small gifts he received each Spring to mark the holiday.
Food maven Joan Nathan, most recently author of "Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France," says that food baskets, or Shalach Manos, often include fruit and baked goods, which traditionally were made to use up a household's flour before the beginning of Passover.
Combining fruit and flour -- as in orange-poppyseed hamantaschen -- is ideal. It's also in keeping with the big Purim meal, known as the Feast of Esther, when vegetarian dishes are traditionally eaten. However, the following recipe works well with dark chocolate chips, too, for a sweet taste of this joyous Spring holiday.
8 tablespoons butter, softened
3 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar, preferably demerara
1 egg at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon orange zest
1½ cups flour plus more for rolling out
¼ teaspoon salt
Filling of your choice, either poppy seed or dark chocolate chips (not combined)
Cream butter and cream cheese until smooth.
Add sugar, then egg, vanilla extract, orange zest and salt, mixing until combined.
Add the flour. The mixture will be sticky.
Form dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
To form the hamantaschen, roll out the dough on a well-floured surface until it is about ¼-inch thick. Using a juice glass, cut the dough into circles. Spoon a teaspoon of filling in the center. Fold the dough in from three sides and pinch the three corners closed. Pinch tightly, as these often open as they expand in the oven.
Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for 15 minutes, but watch carefully. These can burn quickly.