Tomorrow night marks the beginning of the Jewish Festival of Purim which commemorates the Jews living in Persia uncovering a plot on the part of Haman to kill them all. The story is recounted in the Book of Esther, otherwise known as the Megillah. It’s a joyous occasion, sort of a Jewish Carnival during which each adult has the nice obligation to give two different kinds of food to a person in need. It’s the Italian Jews that should probably be thanked for the carnivalesque aspect of the holiday when, in the 15th century, they introduced masks and costumes to mark the occasion.
At this time, kosher bakeries display trays of hamantashen, or Haman’s pockets (or, in France Haman’s ears). Triangle shaped cookies with an opening that leaves some of the filling to be admired, they are normally filled with a paste of nuts, dried fruit and spices although contemporary versions have become progressively more experimental.
My take on Haman’s pockets is reminiscent of the “ravioli” cookies my aunt used to make and it calls for pate sucree, slightly sweeter and more buttery than the original dough, and for a filling of chocolate pastry cream. But anything on hand will do: jam, chocolate chips, honey and nuts.
3/4 C Sugar
8 oz Butter, cut into small cubes and softened
2 C AP Flour
Pinch of Salt
Zest of one lemon
- Mix the sugar and yolks in a mixer fitted with the blade attachment. Add the lemon zest and salt. Add the flour and mix on slow until a fairly sticky dough forms. Adjust the flour as needed. Wrap and chill for a few hours.
- When ready to bake the cookies, roll the dough to about 1/4” thickness and use a 2 to 3” round cookie cutter to cut circles. You can re-roll the scraps.
- Place about a teaspoon of the filling (see below) in the center of the rounds and lift the sides of the dough to form a triangle, but without pressing the edges together so that the filling can be seen.
- Beat a whole egg with a fork and brush the glaze on the cookie dough.
- Bake at 350F until golden, about 15/20 minutes.
Chocolate Pastry Cream
2 C Whole Milk
1 Vanilla Beans
5 Egg Yolks
1/4 C Sugar
3 T Cornstarch
1/2 oz Unsalted Butter
3 T Unsweetened Cocoa
3 oz Bittersweet Chocolate, cut in small chunks
- Cut butter into small cubes, place in mixing bowl and set aside
- Scald the milk with the vanilla bean in it and remove from heat. Remove the pod but scrape the seeds in the milk.
- Combine sugar, cocoa powder and starch; whisk into yolks
- Slowly pout the hot milk into yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Strain and return to the stove top.
- Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly to a slow boil.
- Pour into a bowl where you will have placed the butter, add the chocolate chunks and whisk to incorporate. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface
- Chill completely prior to using.