(A modified version of this post appeared in the Cleveland Jewish News, 03/06/09)
For Jews of a certain age, hamantaschen – three-cornered cups of dry cookie dough traditionally filled with dollops of dense, sticky poppy, prune or apricot – are what madeleines were to French novelist Marcel Proust: reminders of temps perdu.
I've always suspected that real pleasure found in hamantaschen was more nostalgic than culinary. For many Jews, hamantaschen remind us of a time when the Jewish community was more tightly knit, geographically, children grew up with nearby or live-in bubbes who baked traditional foods for every Jewish holiday.
Because the truth is this: there are some truly terrible hamantaschen out there. Dirt-dry, with filling that's too thick to chew. My own dear Grandma Gussie made a dirt-dry poppy hamantaschen that had to be washed down with a quart of milk.
Today, Jewish children expect holiday sweets to be, well, sweet. Super sweet. And filled with chocolate.
And so Jewish bakeries, preschool classes and hip grandmas started turning out hamantaschen filled with chocolate chips, marshmallow fluff or pieces of candy bars. A check of online cooking blogs and recipe archives will yield dozens of hamantaschen recipes so sweet they'll make grown-ups' teeth ache just think about them.
The recipe below is adapted from several found online. Sure, chocolate hamantaschen don't look like you'd expect a hamataschen to look, but they still provide an opportunity to talk to kids about Haman, Esther, and the rest of the Purim gang.
Chocolate Hamantaschen Dough
3/4 C unsalted butter or pareve shortening
3/4 C sugar
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla
2-1/2 C flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 C cocoa powder
In large bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder and mix until a ball of dough forms.
Divide the dough and shape into two logs. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour.
Once the dough has chilled, roll out one section about 1/4” thick on a well-floured workspace. Use a cutter to cut approximately 3” circles.
Place approximately 1 t of a filling of your choice in the center of each section. Bring three sides of the dough together to make a triangle. Pinch the three corners together and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Place in a preheated 350° oven for 9-12 minutes, until the bottom turns golden.
Easy fillings for chocolate hamantaschen
I overheard kids talking about using crushed Pez for filling (they're kosher, you know), but surely they were only kidding -- right?