Halva Hamantaschen

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I meant to post this recipe yesterday, but after turning my kitchen into a veritable Hamantaschen factory testing different dough recipes, I had to take a break.

I love love love a good hamantaschen, the traditional cookie of Purim. When done right, the cookie part isn't terribly sweet and hovers somewhere between tender and snappy and, most importantly, lets the filling shine. My personal favorite is plain old apricot jam, but I was inspired by Molly Yeh's sprinkletaschen and knishentaschen to make my own frankentaschen with a halva filling.

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I'm always intrigued by halva, but never really like it. The dry, chalky texture really throws me, but I like all of the ingredients, which is what leads me back time and again. Instead of making actual halva or using a store-bought version, I just used the basic ingredients (honey, tahini) and added some other favorites like lemon zest and pistachios. I also threw in an egg and the tiniest bit of flour and baking powder to make the filling more batter-like.

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The real trick was finding a dough recipe that I liked. I nixed all of the cream cheese-based doughs because reviewers complained that the dough often doesn't hold its shape in the oven. I also thought the tang would compete with the filling.

 Helpful!

Helpful!

Next, I tried Bon Appetite's and Smitten Kitchen's hamantaschen doughs. I liked them equally, but I ultimately prefer Smitten's because the technique (with some of my lazy-person changes) is quick and easy.

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Internet research led me to fiddle with oven temperatures and try resting the formed cookies in the fridge for 20 minutes before baking, but ultimately, neither significantly changed anything for the better. My cookies aren't going to win any beauty contests, but the all more or less stay together.

Halva Hamantaschen

For the dough:
4 Tbsp butter, melted and slightly cooled
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 heaping tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
Heaping ¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 ¼ cups + 2 Tbsp flour

Melt the butter in a large mixing bowl in the microwave until just melted. I like to melt the butter about 2/3 of the way and then stir it to let the heat from the melted part take care of the rest. Let cool slightly, about 3 minutes.

Add the sugar and vanilla extract and whisk to combine. Let the teaspoon runeth over slightly to add extra vanilla flavor.

Add the eggs one at a time and whisk each one until fully combined.

Add the salt and baking powder and stir with a spatula.

Add 1.5 cups of flour and stir until just combined. Add the other 3/4 cup of flour and stir again. Add the final 2 Tbsp and, either working hard with the spatula or using your hands, mix until just combined. The dough should feel very dense and not sticky.

Divide the dough into two discs, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and chill for 20 minutes in the freezer.

 

For the halva filling:
1 cup raw, shelled pistachios, toasted
¼ cup tahini, well mixed
5 Tbsp honey
1 large egg
¼ tsp baking powder
1.5 Tbsp flour
Zest of 1 large lemon

Preheat the oven to 350. Toast the nuts for about 5 minutes or until they become fragrant and slightly darker. Transfer to a food processor

Add the other ingredients and pulse until the mixture becomes a paste. Some of the pistachios will remain whole or in large pieces, which is absolutely fine. The batter will seem too loose, but don’t worry: This is about to chill in the fridge while you roll out and cut your cookie dough and will tighten up quite a bit.

 

To assemble the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 350 (if not already done when toasting the nuts).

Roll out your cookie dough on a lightly floured surface or a piece of parchment paper until about 1/8 inch thick. You want the dough thin-ish because it puffs up in the oven, but not see-through because it will become crunchy.

Cut out 2 ½ inch circles. Each disc of dough should yield about 24 circles. I would discard the rest because it will likely be overworked and have too much flour after being rolled 2-3 times.

Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place 1 SCANT tsp of the halva filling in the center of the circle and then pinch all three sides together to form a triangle. Pinch the corners tightly so that no seems are left and a fair amount of the filling is covered by dough to avoid spillage during baking.

Sprinkle the tops generously with coarse sugar (demarara or turbinado work best) and bake for 110-12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. You are looking for light browning on the corners and a puffed up, dry-looking center. These cookies go from perfectly cooked to overbaked quite fast, so if your oven runs hot, you may want to check them at 8 minutes.

Yield: 48 cookies

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