Hamantashen - The Big Megillah


Purim is one of my favorite Jewish holidays. It is a fun event where those of the faith feast and send gifts of food to friends and the needy. I like holidays like these, the ones where you indulge rather than fast or abstain or deny yourself. Give me the fun holidays any day. It is celebrated on the 14th of Adar (usually late March) as reckoned by the Jewish calender; and it commemorates the time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination by the beautiful Queen Esther, who was wife to Ahasuerus, King of Persia. She foiled the plan of the villainous Haman, the scheming advisor to the king, and who had planned to kill the Jews in the land.

When I was a young man back on the block, I had a Jewish friend who would always comment or complain about something being a "big Megillah," that is, a thing being important and of note, or just a big bother. I did not know what he was talking about and it was years later when I discovered that the Book of Esther, read during Purim, is also commonly known as the Megillah (which means scroll). But I did discover hamantashen early on, and I love those suckers.

Hamantashen (or hamantaschen) is a triangular fruit-filled pastry traditionally served during Purim. It gets its name form the evil character Haman, who wore a three-cornered hat. Initially, hamantashen pastries were filled with poppy seed fillings. But over time the filling became more diverse so that today you have hamantashen filled with fruit preserves (especially apricot) cherry jam, pie filling, and even chocolate. Yet my favorite filling has always been and remains, prunes. That's right: prunes. There's something about the things that's addictive in hamantashen.

So, below, is my favorite prune-filled hamantashen recipe. It you don't like prunes, that's your problem, use another filling.

PRUNE FILLED HAMANTASHEN

1 cup granulated sugar
1 stick margarine
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Prune Filling:

2 pounds, prunes, pitted and chopped
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 lemon, juice and rind
3 tablespoons honey

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar and margarine, blending thoroughly. Add vanilla, eggs, and lemon peel, and blend. Stir in flour and baking powder; and mix into a dough. (If dough is too sticky to handle, can add up to 1/4 cup additional flour). Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours or until dough is firm
2. Meanwhile, prepare the filling by rinsing the prunes and raisins, placing in a pan with enough water to cover and then boiling for about 5 minutes. Combine with the rest of the filling ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. (This may have to be done in batches).
3. Roll out half of dough at a time, to about 1/4-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface (try not to get holes in the batter). Cut into 3 or 4-inch rounds using a cookie cutter. Spoon one teaspoon filling into the middle of each round. Fold up the sides to make a triangle, folding the last corner under the starting point, so that each has a corner that folds under. Pinch the edges together firmly. This pinwheel style makes for a better triangle shape and reduces the chance of the filling spilling out during baking.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place hamantashen about 2 inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet or large baking pan and bake from 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown (be careful that the filling does not boil over). Remove to a wire rack and let cool. When the hamantashen come out of the oven the dough may be slightly soft, but it will firm as it cools off.
Yield: about 5 dozen hamantashen.


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