We studied the Book of Esther in seminary this morning. As part of our discussion, I explained the festival of Purim and how it's celebrated--which, of course, meant I had to make hamantaschen last night as a treat for today's class.
Haman is the villain of Purim, and hamantaschen, which is Yiddish for "Haman's pouches/pockets" represent the pouches of money the wicked man offered in exchange for destroying the Jews. (Spoiler alert: Queen Esther foils Haman's evil plan.)
In traditional recipes, the three-cornered cookies are filled with poppy seeds, a date-nut mixture, or jam. Personally, I like all of those options, but I wanted my hamentaschen to appeal to teen palates (and to my husband's), which is where the inspiration to fill them with Nutella came in. And, I have to say, they're pretty amazing. I checked the internet after I baked these, and apparently I'm not the first to think of this, but I still feel like a genius.
2 sticks unsalted butter, ideally at 60 degrees F
1 cup sugar
4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, plus 1 more for egg wash
About 3/4 cup Nutella*
Cream the butter and sugar together for 5 minutes, stopping the mixer and scraping down the sides a couple of times. (For reasons why this step is essential to your success--and why you want the butter at 60 degrees--read this excellent post.) In the meantime, stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together and set them aside.
Add the vanilla to the butter-sugar mixture, then add the eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each. Stir in the flour mixture with the mixer at lowest speed, and mix only until the dough is combined. (Overmix it, and the cookies will be tough.) Divide the dough into two balls, flatten them into discs about an inch thick, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate them for two hours. This allows the butter and flour to integrate fully, making a much tastier cookie.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Beat the third egg in a small bowl with a fork until it's a nice, uniform yellow. This is your egg wash. Roll out one disc of dough on a very lightly floured surface until it's about a quarter of an inch thick. With a three-inch round cookie cutter (or a glass, which is what I used), cut as many circles as you can as efficiently space-wise as you can. A dough scraper or a sharp spatula can help you move them around without destroying their shape.
Using a pastry brush, brush one circle lightly with egg wash, then drop about a teaspoon or slightly more of Nutella onto the cookie's center (I use two eating teaspoons, scooping with one and scraping the Nutella off the spoon and onto the cookie with the other. This avoids the finger licking conundrum.)
Fold up three sides of the cookie and pinch the corners together. Crucial step: brush the outside corners thoroughly with egg wash. This will glue them and prevent them from collapsing in the oven. The pinches will not hold on their own, and then you'll have hamanbrochen (Haman disasters). Ba-dump-bump: I'm here all week, folks.
Place the filled hamantasch (singular; "hamantaschen" is plural) on a cookie sheet lined with a silicone baking mat. This also is essential; otherwise, the egg wash will glue the cookie to the pan (or parchment paper). Repeat this process for each cookie, then take the other disc out of the fridge and start all over again.
(You'll see that my batch in the photo above aren't super uniform. That's because it was literally nearly 90 degrees in my kitchen last night, because I refuse to turn on the air conditioner in February. I was working as fast as I could, but the dough still warmed up really quickly. But I tell myself that they look rustic and artisanal that way. )
Bake for about 15 minutes, until the bottom edges and corners of the cookies are turning golden brown. Let cool completely on cookie sheets, then gently loosen each cookie with a dough scraper or sharp spatula and remove to a plate.
(You can re-roll the dough scraps and make some plain sugar cookies, but the re-worked scraps will be tougher and not really fit for company. I'd roll this dough out, cut it in pieces, bake them plain, and maybe put some Nutella on them after they are baked and cool.)
Makes about two dozen, not counting the dough scraps. These are super delicious: the not-too-sweet dough is the perfect foil for the creamy, rich Nutella. I didn't feel bad at all serving them to my students at 6:45 a.m.
*You can use jam instead if you've got a nut allergy issue or for some insane reason don't like the celestial taste of chocolate and hazelnuts together. If you do, use a really high quality, not-too-sweet variety (preferably homemade), and use a little less than a teaspoon for each cookie.