Friday, March 18, 2016

apricot hazelnut brown butter hamantaschen

apricot hazelnut brown butter hamantaschen

Let me be the first to admit that the only reason that the hamantaschen archives on this site aren’t stronger are that I’m completely stubborn and generally a pedant and this gets in the way of what I know needs to be done to achieve hamantaschen perfection. If you read that sentence and thought “I know what some of those words mean but maybe not in that order,” don’t worry, you’re not alone. Hamantaschen are triangular cookies traditionally eaten during the Jewish festival of Purim (think: Jewish Mardi Gras) that falls next week. Haman, the villain in the biblical story, was said to wear a tricorne hat — with the brim turned up on three sides, something that was wildly fashionable in the 1700s which means it’s due for a hipster revival any day now — and this is where the cookies get their shape.


brown butter cookie dough
brown butter vanilla bean dough

While I’ve made them a few times before — really, what is there not to love about filled cookies — mine tend to flop open and leak because I find the traditional ones floury and dull, and prefer those that are like tiny open-faced fruit tarts or galettes — light, flaky and tender with inspired fillings. [This is probably what happens when you have a mother that made french onion more often than matzo ball soup, beef bourguignon instead of roast chicken, not that we minded one bit.] These little fruit tarts are high on delicious but low on structural integrity.

grinding hazelnuts, sugar, flour
browned butter, semi-frozen
hazelnut brown butter frangipane

One might overcome this leakiness by folding the corners in a overlapped manner rather than the vertical pinch-style I use, but but but (Pedant Alert!) have you even looked at a tricorne hat before? Do you see those corners? How come I’m the one doing it wrong?

cut into circles
a dab of each
fold pinch fold pinch fold pinch
ready to bake

All of this is to say that every year I promise to share a better recipe here and even fold it the way I know they work better and every year this desire collides with my worst traits (stubbornness, pedantry, procrastination) and really, I’m the worst. Or, I was until this week. This week, I’ve finally make good on my promise. The recipe below is a good standard hamantaschen dough that can even be made dairy-free should you use olive or another oil instead of butter. But. Ahem. If the sound of a vanilla bean-flecked brown butter dough with a hazelnut brown butter and apricot jam filling sounds good to you, you’re in for a treat, because it turns out you can use this recipe to be very traditional or very very not. Basically, we all win.

apricot hazelnut brown butter hamantaschen
apricot hazelnut brown butter hamantaschen

One year ago: The Consolation Prize (A Mocktail)
Two years ago: Sizzling Chicken Fajitas
Three years ago: Coconut Bread
Four years ago: Carrot Cake Pancakes
Five years ago: Tiny Poppy Seed Taschen
Six years ago: Irish Soda Bread Scones
Seven years ago: Layer Cake Tips + The Biggest Birthday Cake Yet
Eight years ago: Fast White Bean Stew
Nine years ago: Mediterranean Eggplant and Barley Salad

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Zucchini Rice and Cheese Gratin
1.5 Years Ago: Cucumber Lemonade
2.5 Years Ago: Fudgy Chocolate Sheet Cake
3.5 Years Ago: Roasted Apple Spice Sheet Cake
4.5 Years Ago: Roasted Tomato Soup with Broiled Cheddar

Apricot Hazelnut Brown Butter Hamantaschen

To make these cookies dairy free, simply use a non-dairy butter, olive oil or another cookie oil of your choice instead of the of butter in the dough. This works. I have not made the filling, a frangipane-style paste, with non-dairy butter before, but I have a hunch it should work just fine. If hazelnuts aren’t your thing, use 3/4 cup of another nut of your choice — almonds are traditional, pecans and walnuts are excellent. I’ve even made this paste with pistachios before. You’re going to have twice the paste you need because it seemed more trouble than it was worth to scale it down. The paste keeps in the fridge for several days and can be frozen for future treats. Or, you can just make more hamantaschen. Nobody will mind.

[Weights to come very shortly!]

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Brown butter
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold is fine

Dough
1/4 cup browned butter, from above
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Seeds from half a fresh vanilla bean (optional)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cups all-purpose flour

Filling
3/4 cup (3.6 ounces) toasted hazelnuts, skins rubbed off
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Few pinches of sea salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 to 5 tablespoons browned butter, cold, from above
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon brandy, or another flavoring of your choice (totally optional)
1/2 cup (rough estimate) apricot jam

Brown your butter: You’re going to use this in two places. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Keep cooking it after it has melted, stirring frequently, until it begins to smell nutty and pale brown flecks appear at the edge of the pan, which takes a few minutes. Once these reach a dark beige/medium brown color (you’ll want to watch this like a hawk, this happens quickly once it begins to toast) remove from heat. Pour 1/4 cup exactly of this browned butter mixture into the bottom of the large bowl you’re going to make your cookie dough with. Place the rest (this will be 4 to 5 tablespoons) in a small-medium dish and freeze it until you need it for the filling, which uses a more flexible amount of butter.

Make your dough: Let the 1/4 cup browned butter cool slightly in the bottom of a large bowl, then whisk in sugar, vanilla extract, scraped vanilla bean seeds (if using). Whisk in eggs, one at a time, followed by salt and baking powder. Switch to a spoon and add first cup flour, stirring to combine. Repeat with second cup of flour, then 1/4 cup. Dough is going to become stiff, just do you best. Add the last 2 tablespoons flour and if it’s too stiff to stir with a spoon, knead it in with your hands.

Divide dough into two parts and wrap each in a flattish disc in plastic in the fridge for 2 hours, or up to a few days. Impatient? So am I? Place discs in freezer until firm but not frozen, 20 to 30 minutes.

Make your filling: Place nuts, flour, salt and sugar in the workbowl of a food processor and run the machine until the nuts are finely ground but not yet forming a paste. Remember that browned butter you froze? Scrape it into the machine and run it until combined. Add egg and any flavorings and run the machine until a smooth paste forms. Scrape hazelnut paste back into that browned butter dish (fewer dishes) and place it in the fridge until needed. It doesn’t have to be cold to work, but it is easier to scoop.

Assemble and bake cookies: Heat oven to 350 degrees and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

Roll chilled dough, one packet at a time, out on a floured counter until 1/8-inch thick. These cookies puff in the oven, so err on the thin side. Cut into 3-inch circles. In the center of each circle, dollop the tiniest amount (a scant teaspoon, this expands in the oven so use less that it seems you’d need) of the hazelnut paste and a little (1/2 teaspoon, tops) dab of apricot jam. Fold sides up, forming a triangular shape and pinching the corners closed well.

Arrange on baking sheet with an inch or so between cookies. Reroll scraps as needed. Repeat with remaining packet of dough.

Bake cookies for 11 minutes to start, then check the color and return them to the oven, a minute at a time, until they’re nice and golden at the edges. For me, this usually takes a couple more minutes.

Let cool on racks. Cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week, and longer in the freezer.


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