This weekend I needed a project - a family project that Dahlia and I could do together at Grandma and Grandpa's house. I imagined three generations of cooks rolling out the dough, spooning in filling (licking our fingers), and pinching together the little triangles. We'd bake them up and eat them with tea- dunking the cookies just enough to soften the crumb without them falling apart into the cup. It was a very sweet little scene in my head.
The reality was that Dahlia, the moody little 2 1/2 year old, did not want to help make cookies once she got to Grandma and Grandpa's house. She really wanted to jump around in her baby cousin Benji's pack-n-play and play with his toys. Not even the promise of tasting raw cookie dough could shift her attention.
So she played in the crib and I made cookies.
The upside is that the cookies are very, very good. I used a pretty standard cream cheese dough, substituting mascarpone for the cream cheese because that's what I had. Plus I hoped the mascarpone would lighten up the cookie and make it slightly cake-like, which is what I got.
For the filling, I unearthed a jar of homemade prune and apricot lekvar from the fridge. I don't know how old it is, but it I do know that when we redid the kitchen 2 1/2 years ago, it moved with us from the old fridge to the new, fancy Sub-Zero fridge (I love my new fridge). Lekvar lasts forever.
That went into half of the cookies. Into the other half, I made a pistachio-orange blossom water paste. I whirled together some pistachios with honey and orange blossom water, plus a little egg yolk to hold everything together, and formed this sticky paste into marbles to stuff into the dough triangles. It baked up rich and candy-like, with a dreamy floral scent.
One thing you might notice here in these photos is the way we form the cookies. Instead of merely pinching the dough together to form the triangles (which represent the tri-cornered hat worn by Haman, the evil guy in the Purim story), you need to fold the edges over to they overlap on one another before sealing them. This keeps them from popping open in the oven.
Also make sure not to overfill the cookies or they might leak. You can use any filling you like as long as it's very thick. Runny preserves will make a mess, but a thick chunky preserve, maybe apricot with chunks of fruit, or marmalade with lots of peel, should hold up. I also love poppy seed filling but didn't feel like making it this year.
This makes a small batch, feel free to double the recipe if you like. There is enough pistachio filling for all the hamantaschen if you want to be simple about your filling. But if you want to mix it up, you'll have leftover.
I rolled the leftover pistachio paste into more balls and baked them off at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms were just golden. They made tasty little confections on their own, and happen to be kosher for Passover if you buy kosher for Passover confectioners' sugar. They remind me of pistachio macaroons.
Photos by Olga Massov
By the way, Dahlia may not have helped me make the cookies, but she has been excellent at helping devour them. Of course.
Mascarpone Hamantaschen with Two Fillings
Makes 24 if reusing scraps, 18 if not.
For the Dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/2 cup mascarpone
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon or orange zest
Pistachio filling, see below, or purchased or homemade prune butter, aka lekvar
For the Pistachio Filling:
2/3 cups piscachios
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon orange flower water
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
To Make the Dough:
1. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse together the flour, sugar, salt, and butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Pulse in the mascarpone.
2. In a small bowl, stir together the yolk, vanilla and zest until well-combined.
3. Add the yolk mixture to the flour butter mixture and pulse until the dough just comes together (it will still be crumby, see the photo above to see just how crumby). Dump the dough on a clean, dry surface and knead to form a ball. Divide the ball into 2 parts, flatten into disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.
To Make Pistachio Filling:
1. Place all the filling ingredients in a food processor, fitted with a metal blade and process until it forms a smooth, uniform paste.
To Assemble Hamantaschen:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out a disc of the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter cut out the dough. Brush with a thin coat of milk. Chill the scraps, if planning to re-roll as the dough gets soft.
2. Place a generous 1/2 teaspoon of the filling at the center of each of the circles, and press up the sides to form triangles, pinching to seal. Brush the tops with more milk. Chill the formed hamantaschen for 10 minutes.
3. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until golden. If baking on several trays, switch them at the halfway point.