As all of my devout followers I’m sure are aware, Purim is upon us. Purim, to put it mildly, is the best Holiday that was ever created by anyone. It involves the retelling of the Megillah, a story in which the Jews use cunning and sex-appeal to avoid genocide. There’s also a sub-plot about one of my favorite characters, Vashti, the red-hot Persian queen who refused to give a strip-tease at her husband’s sexy parties, because she was a strong, liberated woman. Granted, she then became a strong, liberated, executed woman . . . but I digress.
Purim is about costumes, noise-makers, overeating, and revelry. Tradition dictates that you drink until you can’t recognize your friends in their costumes. Personally, I chose to carry out this tradition alone in my room. In retrospect, this may not have been keeping in the spirit of the holiday.
Anyhow, the only thing Purim-related I dislike is the traditional confection– hamentaschen. I’ve been choking down these sorry excuses for cookies all my life, and they’ve never brought me an ounce of pleasure. The traditional fillings (poppyseed, date, apricot), tend to be sickly sweet and call to mind a dying a slow, shuffleboard-filled death in the Florida Keys.
I said as much on Ye Olde Facebook, but a friend and colleague pleaded with me to give the Dry Cookies of Despair another chance. Seeing as this person is pretty awesome– and a scientist! –I said that I would go against my better judgment and make the darn things.
In a large bowl, I mixed together 3 cups of flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.
- With my hands (I don’t have a pastry cutter), I cut in 1/2 cup shortening until the mixture was all nice and crumbly.
- I then added 1 large egg and 1/2 cup orange juice, and mixed it all together. The dough was very crumbly, so I kinda pressed it all together into a log-shape with my hands.
- I wrapped the log-shape with pink plastic wrap. It resembled a glossy pink turd.
- I put the dough-turd into the fridge to chill for a few hours while I spaced out and watched Netflix.
- Currently, said Netflix is Season 2.5 of Battlestar Galactica. Ooooh, that Admiral Kayne is so mean!
- I also decided to soften 4 ounces of cream cheese, to make a cream cheese filling for some of the cookies.
- I’ll also take this opportunity to tell a story plucked from the wreckage of my romantic history. I had asked my buddy Paul the other day what to write about, and he requested a sob story of a specific dessert, and the story of which awful boyfriend I first served it to. Truth be told, I never cooked much for my partners. Generally, a relationship with the Insomnibaker involved a lot of whiskey and fighting. So instead, I’ll tell you a story about turnips, and how I came to love them. There’s been a particular man in my life for over 10 years now. We’ve never dated. I dare say we’ve been in love most of this time, but we’ve never dated. We’ve just sort of drifted in and out of involvement over the years. I know that one day, he’ll marry, and I’ll marry, and it won’t be to one another. Among the many gifts he’s given me, one is a love of turnips.
- We were dining at a Korean restaurant on St. Marks. I was having a stew with Kalbi beef. I bit into what had to have been the most flavorful, sumptuous potato I had ever eaten. Like, a life-changing potato. “Try this potato,” I said. “It’s a turnip,” he replied, wolfing down his bibimbap. “What? No way, it has to be a potato.”
- “It’s a turnip,” he repeated. “Anytime you have a really amazing potato? It’s a turnip.” He was right.
- We’re still in touch today. We love each other, but we’re not in love. We still have the type of chemistry that would set Bogart and Bacall sighing. But we don’t have a relationship, and we never did. We just have the memory of many good times, and turnips.
- Today, I roasted two turnips and half a potato in the oven with a glug of olive oil and several grinds of the sea salt mill. I thought of this man, and how turnips first came into my life. The turnips, and the memories, made for a nice afternoon.
- After 2 hours, I took the dough out of the fridge, and rolled it out in little batches, and folded the corners into the Hamentaschen. They’re either supposed to look like tri-corner hats, or ears, depending on who you ask.
- In my Magic Bullet, I blended together 4 ounces cream cheese, 3 tablespoons powdered sugar, 1 egg, 1/4 cup mini-chocolate chips, and 3 tablespoons chopped pecans. I spooned this into 3-4 of the cookies for filling. (note: this was too runny– I should have used 1/2 an egg).
- For 8 or so of the cookies, I made little circles, placed a very small amount of raspberry jam in the center, and then folded up the corners to make the Hamentaschen.
- Many of you know my predilection for adorable things, so I pressed the remaining dough into the tins, pat-a-pan style, and filled it with the cream-cheese / chocolate filling.
- I put the cookies and tarts into a 350 degree oven for 13 minutes.
Verdict: It ended up being the surprise tarts that were the winners. The dough is tasty, I will certainly confess. The hamentaschen were moist, crumbly, and with just a hint of sweet citrus in the dough. Unfortunately though, the pancaked and flattened out in the oven. The small tarts, supported by the muffin tin, were able to hold in the delicious cream cheese and chocolate filling. It was a shame I didn’t add the whole package of cream cheese to the filling, I think it would have made things all that much more yummy.
However, I’m beginning to come around on the Hamentaschen. I will try another recipe later in the week. But midnight has already come and gone, and hopefully sleep will come swiftly.