Cookies from The Book of Esther

Even if you are not Jewish or even Christian for that matter, there are so many stories found in the Book of Esther that I have found myself reading many of them from time to time. I remember my father, The second Yankee Chef, always rocking in his favorite chair during the winter months reading from this book and he told me time and time again how great the story of Esther was.

Anyway, this leads us to an astonishingly great tasting, simple filled cookie that I have been making for many years.

Hamantaschen Cookies are three-cornered cookies that resemble Haman’s hat(Look it up. It is a fascinating story) and normally eaten for the Purim holiday, but of course should be enjoyed year round. The kids will love them because you can let them pick out their favorite jam, jelly, preserves or even chocolate to fill them with. Traditionally, they are filled with either poppy seed, prune or raisin filling, but personally, I love mincemeat inside. Now although they are not classically “Christmas oriented”, they are traditionally made during Purim. It is during this time that giving mutual gifts of food and being charitable to the needy is universal and reminds me so much of our sentiments during our Holiday season.

Hamantaschen Cookies
Now although the 3 flaps should be folded over and under each other, it is far easier to simply pinch the sides together once you bring them up, something like folding the top of a box together, but with three flaps instead of four. . It is also said that wheat flour should always be used, not white. You can make it either way you desire.

1 stick butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of one orange
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
About 1 cup jam or preserves

Whip together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Keep beating, adding vanilla, eggs (one at a time), and orange zest.  In a separate bowl, whisk or sift the remaining dry ingredients together, then add the dry mixture to the wet until fully incorporated.  Chill in refrigerator for 15 minutes. Remove from refrigerator and roll it out on a floured surface using a little dough at a time, making it just under 1/4-inch thick.

Cut into 3” circles, or thereabouts, adding a tablespoon of preserves to the center of each. Fold the sides upward to create a triangular window of fruit in the center.

Seal corners well by squeezing firmly. Freeze the filled cookies for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375-degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray. On the prepared cookie sheets, bake the chilled cookies for 15-18 minutes, until corners and bottoms are golden brown. If desired, dust with powdered sugar. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, until edges are light golden brown. Remove them from the oven at the first sight of this golden color, otherwise the filling will bubble up and over the sides, emptying this little pocket of filling rather quickly. Folding and pinching as I have shown you helps protect that from happening.

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen cookies.

Grluten-free Hamantaschen Cookies

1 cup superfine brown rice flour
1 tablespoon tapioca flour or cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon guar gum or xanthan gum
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
Your choice of filling, as above

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease with butter, vegetable shortening or nonstick cooking spray. In a medium bowl mix all dry ingredients. Cut butter into small cubes and add to the dry ingredients. Use an electric mixer (hand-held or stand mixer) and mix just until crumbly. Add vanilla, egg and milk and beat until smooth. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 375-degrees F. Prepare and bake according to instructions above.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Reminder: Always make sure your work surfaces, utensils, pans and tools are free of gluten. Always read product labels. Manufacturers can change product formulations without notice. When in doubt, do not buy or use a product before contacting the manufacturer for verification that the product is free of gluten.