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Hooray For Hamentashen – Zingerman’s Bakehouse

The master bakers behind Zingerman’s Bakehouse tell their favorite way to say “Boo, Haman.”

Who doesn’t love Purim? It’s a true fun-filled celebration of a female heroine saving the Jewish people — and we get to eat lots of cookies!

The cookies, of course, are hamentashen, and we can begin munching Wednesday evening, Feb. 28 (the 14th of Adar) through Thursday, March 1.

Amy Leviten Emberling grew up on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada, in a Jewish family enjoying standard Jewish fare like brisket, rye bread, pickled herring — and would beg for her Nanny’s gefilte fish and chopped liver.

Last year, Emberling, along with Frank Carollo, celebrated 25 years of business as co-owners of the beloved artisanal bakery Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor. In honor of the milestone, the pair teamed to write Zingerman’s Bakehouse (Chronicle Books), the recently published must-have baking book that gives the master bakers’ secrets away — including Emberling’s versions of the scrumptious triangular filled cookie.

“Haman was a vizier of ancient Persia who plotted to kill all the Jews in the empire, and Purim celebrates his defeat by the Persian (and Jewish) queen Esther,” Emberling writes in Zingerman’s Bakehouse. “It was one of my favorite holidays when I was little, because we were encouraged to make lots of noise in synagogue to drown out the name of the evil Haman as the rabbi read the story. It was probably the most joyful day of the year in synagogue from my child’s perspective.

“Why are these cookies triangular, and what does the name mean, anyway? Oy. It’s quite a story,” she continues. “The name is German and means ‘Haman’s pocket’ and may refer to the bribes Haman took as vizier. It has also come to mean ‘Haman’s hat.’ Either way, it’s clear that these cookies are a celebration of the delicious sweetness of life.

“Hamantashen are traditionally made either with a short cookie dough or with a yeasted dough. Both are good, and they are quite different.

“This recipe is for the cookie version, and we’ve included three fillings for you to choose from: cream cheese, poppy seed and apricot,” Emberling says. “Although this is a traditional Jewish cookie and made for a very specific holiday, it’s eaten year-round by our [bakery] guests of all heritages. Cream cheese and apricot are the most popular flavors. Poppy seed and prune are favored by the traditionalists.”

HAMANTASHEN

Filling of your choice (cream cheese, poppy seed and apricot filling recipes follow)

¾ cup plus 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla extract

¼ tsp. sea salt

2 cups plus 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

Make the filling: Make the cream cheese, poppy seed or apricot filling; see the recipes that follow. Each filling recipe makes enough for one batch of cookie dough.

Make the dough: In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy. This can be done by hand or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add the egg, vanilla and salt to the butter mixture and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the flour gradually, and mix until the ingredients are completely combined.

Remove the dough from the mixer, press it into a flat square, and wrap it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 45 minutes before rolling out and filling. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week in this state.

Roll, fill and bake the hamantashen: Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Frank Carollo and Amy Leviten Emberling, co-owners of Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor.

Frank Carollo and Amy Leviten Emberling, co-owners of Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Tap on the dough with your rolling pin to soften it. Once it is more flexible, remove the plastic wrap.

Lightly flour the work surface. Place the dough on the floured surface. Lightly flour the top of the dough and roll the dough out until it is ¼ inch thick.

Using a round cutter 3 inches in diameter, cut out pieces of the rolled dough and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue rolling and cutting out the disks. This dough can be reworked and rolled out again.

Place a rounded teaspoon of filling in the center of each disk. Brush the edges with water. Now fold the edges up and pinch together three corners to make a triangle shape, with the filling visible in the center. You can start with two sides, making an A shape, and then fold in the third side to finish the triangle. Repeat with all the dough circles. Make sure to pinch the edges well.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges and bottoms of the hamantashen are golden brown. There is a tendency to underbake these cookies. Go for some color. It will give them a nice toasty flavor. Makes 30 cookies.

POPPY SEED FILLING

1 cup poppy seeds

½ cup honey

2 tsp. granulated sugar

½ cup plus 2 Tbsp. heavy cream, room temperature

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature

½ Tbsp. lemon zest

½ Tbsp. orange zest

¼ cup chopped flame raisins

Grind the poppy seeds in a coffee grinder or food grinder as fine as you can make them. The closer they are to the consistency of flour, the better.

Put the poppy seeds, honey, sugar and heavy cream in a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a full boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low and boil, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens considerably, 6-8 minutes. Be careful not to let it burn. When it is properly thickened, it will look like hot boiling mud.

Remove from the heat and add the butter, lemon zest, orange zest andchopped raisins. Stir well. Let cool to room temperature before using.

Makes enough for 30 hamantashen.

APRICOT FILLING

1½ cups apricot preserves

5 Tbsp. fresh bread crumbs

In a bowl, combine the apricot preserves and bread crumbs.

Makes enough for 30 hamantashen.

CREAM CHEESE FILLING

1 cup cream cheese, room temperature

1½ tsp. unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ bean vanilla bean

½ extra-large egg yolk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, butter and sugar. Beat until smooth. Split the half vanilla bean down the center and scrape out the seeds.

Add the half egg yolk with the vanilla extract and vanilla seeds and mix until smooth. Store in the refrigerator until ready for use.

Makes enough for 30 hamantashen.

A note on cream cheese: One of the many perks of working in Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, Emberling writes, is having ready access to the wonderful food its fellow businesses make. Fresh cream cheese made by Zingerman’s Creamery has been a real ingredient upgrade for some of its cream cheese needs.

What makes it different from the grocery store cream cheese we’re all familiar with? It’s made as fresh cream cheese was made 100 years ago: very simply. It’s milk, rennet, salt and cream, and as with many breads, the cream cheese benefits from patience and time — the many hours necessary to let it drain naturally. It’s free of vegetable gums and preservatives that are common components today.

“We use it in our cream cheese filling for hamantashen, and we eat it with our bagels. This cream cheese is available from Zingerman’s Mail Order, zingermans.com. You may also be able to find similar cream cheese from artisan dairy producers near you. Using this more flavorful cheese will make a real difference.”

Lynne Konstantin

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