The Jewish festival of Purim celebrates the defeat of Haman’s plot of destroy the Jews in ancient Persia as recorded in the book of Esther. It is a happy holiday with costumes and celebrations. My favorite part is the food, of course, particularly the hamantaschen. Hamantaschen are triangular pastries, traditionally filled with poppy seeds, but now they come in a wide variety of flavors. The triangular appearance of these yummy treats may originate from the shape of Haman’s hat. Purim is also associated with the gifting of food, mishloach manot, and hamantaschen are usually part of the package. I have fond memories of my grandmother mailing us a shoebox stuffed with hamantaschen each year, with filling flavors including peanut butter, cream cheese, apricot, and raspberry. It was always such a treat!
In order to build up a big stash of hamantaschen to gift, I got together with a few friends this weekend and we, along with our young kids to “help,”, made 5 different types of hamantaschen ranging from traditional fruit filled, to rainbow (super gorgeous and impressive), to black and white (yummy but not so triangular) to red velvet. The Red Velvet Hamantaschen were a last minute addition to our repertoire but were a perfect foil to my grandmother’s traditional cream cheese filling, looked gorgeous, and tasted great. And let’s be real, I just moved back to the south, so everything needs to be red velvet, right?
Some general pointers for Red Velvet Hamantaschen and hamantaschen in general:
- Refrigerate the dough before trying to roll it out. It makes it less sticky and you want the dough to be fairly cold when you bake it so it holds it shape and doesn’t spread out everywhere, because spreading dough causes spreading topping and those usually aren’t so triangular.
- Do not overfill your hamantaschen. It is tempting to pile in the filling. Restrain yourself. Otherwise it’ll leak out and make a big mess on your cookie sheet.
- For the red velvet goodies, roll out the dough on a cutting board or parchment paper. You don’t want to risk the red food dye staining your counter. Or your hands…just be careful during the preparing the dough process. I didn’t have much trouble with red hands while rolling out the dough.
- Make sure the hamantaschen sides are well sealed before baking. You can use the “pinch” method or the “fold” method to seal the edges but just do something to prevent the filling from leaking.
Red Velvet Hamantaschen (adapted from The Holiday Kosher Baker)
Yield: 18-24 hamantaschen
Ingredients for Dough:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 teaspoons red gel food coloring
3 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for rolling out the dough)
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
Ingredients for Filling:
1/2 pound (8 oz. block) cream cheese
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla. Add in the food coloring and mix until well blended and the color is uniform throughout.
- Add in the flour, cocoa, and mix until combined.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, make the filling by mixing together all of the ingredients until well blended. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to using.
- After an hour, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 2 cookie sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
- On a cutting board or parchment paper sprinkled lightly with flour, roll out the dough until about 1/4-inch thick. Turn over the dough at least once while rolling it out to make sure it’s not sticking too much underneath.
- Using a 2-3 inch diameter drinking glass or cookie cutter, cut the dough into circles. Collect the scraps and roll out again to make more circles until all the dough is used up. Place about 1 teaspoon of cream cheese filling in the center of each circle.
- Fold the 3 sides into the middle to form a triangle, making sure to pinch carefully along each edge to avoid leaking filling.
- Bake for 14-16 minutes until the cookies are set. Carefully transfer to cooling racks.
- Store in airtight containers at room temperature. Can also be frozen for several months.