Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Fig and Melon Hamantaschen Recipe

Last summer I spent a week in France. It began with a wedding in the Loire Valley, after which we drove to the medieval fortress city of Carcasonne to visit old friends who were managing a bed and breakfast near the village of Marseillette.

One morning the owners of the establishment took us on a boat ride on the Canal du Midi, a waterway completed in 1681 to connect Toulouse and the Mediterranean. It was a significant engineering feat and became a major trade route because it saved travelers from a month-long sail around the pirate-filled waters of the Iberian peninsula. Many businesses grew up on the banks of the canal; now it is primarily used for recreation.

We stopped in a little town for lunch, and on our way back to the boat passed by a small shop to buy jam. Traditionally in France (before the rise of supermarkets and the food industrial complex) people went to a number of stores to purchase their groceries – the boulangerie for bread, the patisserie for pastries, the fromagerie for cheese, the boucherie or charcuterie for meat, the poissionerie for fish, and so on.

A confiturerie sells jam, and this was a tiny establishment with a small retail area and an open kitchen, where a single woman was cooking a big pot of fruit. She had exotic flavors including green tomato, lemon & plum and melon & fig. As a jam-lover I purchased as many jars as I could carry (and they didn’t get confiscated at customs!)

I have had these jams in my fridge for about six months and it was only when I began planning to make hamantaschen for Purim (which falls on March 4 this year) that I realized their destiny. You can use any filling you like for these cookies. Traditional ones are prune or poppy seed, though raspberry, apricot and chocolate chips are also popular.

Makes 30 cookies


2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 ounces butter, cut into small cubes
6 ounces cream cheese, cut into small cubes
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange juice or water
melon and fig preserve (you can substitute any type of preserve or use chocolate chips)


1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C). In a large bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
2. Add cubes of butter and cream cheese and incorporate with a pastry blender or pulse in a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
3. In a small bowl beat the egg and vanilla extract.
4. Add the wet mixture to the dry one and form into a dough. You may need to add orange juice or water to bind the dough. Add the liquid sparingly.
5. Divide the dough into two and flatten each into a disk. Refrigerate for one hour or overnight.
6. On a floured surface knead the dough to further incorporate butter and cream cheese cubes.
7. Roll out dough to a 1/4 inch thickness and use a 3 inch circle (or fluted circle) cookie cutter to produce rounds. Re-roll scraps and make as many additional rounds as possible.
8. Put one teaspoon of preserve in the center of each round. If you overfill, the preserve may bubble over during baking. Form into a triangle shape by folding three edges up and pinching in three corners. During baking these corners often unfurl, so make sure you have closed the seams well (while leaving the preserve exposed).
9. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until light golden brown. Check the cookies after 2 or 3 minutes in case the edges unfurl. If this occurs, immediately remove cookies from the oven and reseal the corners. Do this with each batch to ensure that the cookies keep their shape.
10. Hamantaschen can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week.

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