My dad didn't call to tell me about hamantaschen, though; he called because he's worrying, as he is wont to do, about me having insurance coverage next month when I'll be in the states (some parents worry about their kids doing drugs or not having a job; my dad just worries that I have health coverage). We've been looking into plans, and all I can say is I've been out of the country too long; I can't get over how expensive health care in the states is. In Argentina health care was free; you show up at the hospital (granted, very early in the morning), and you get an appointment that same day to see any specialist you like. Here in Colombia, I get health insurance through Felipe as his "partner", who has access to it as a citizen. Between the two of us we pay 33 dollars a month, which mainly covers catastrophic events. But doctor's and dentist's appointments cost a dollar, and treatments like silver fillings are free (a resin filling costs 12 dollars). I haven't been to a doctor yet, but the dentists here seem to be more thorough than American ones (Colombians take really good care of their teeth) so I find it hard to buy the "well you must be getting what you pay for" argument that Americans love to use to justify our nutso health system. In other news, I hear that Ann Coulter doesn't think radiation is a bad thing...so I'm mostly just grateful that politicians have so much control over healthcare in the U.S.
But let's return to one of the reasons why I know how much resin fillings cost in multiple countries: hamantaschen, also called "Haman's ears" (orejas de Haman) in the Jewish Spanish-speaking world. As I said, I've been making these cookies for a good 20 years (and yes, I do feel old saying that). When I worked as a waitress in a fancy-shmancy restaurant in Philadelphia, the pastry chef, who had worked many springs in bakeries that cater to the Jewish community, asked me to teach him how I made them. My recipe has evolved over the years-- I started out with my mother's, which is oil-based, making it pareve, and certainly more traditional (serving butter cookies to Orthodox Jews screws the chance of having meat in the meal). But I prefer the taste of butter, and my family is vegetarian so it hardly matters. I also add orange zest and a bit of juice to the dough, which is not unorthodox in the scheme of hamantaschen but not a constant either. My mom always makes three fillings: prune, apricot, and cherry. I love prune and apricot but could always do without the cherry; I often make a date filling, and poppy seed is great too. The form is a matter of practice- hamantaschen means "haman's hat", so the goal is a 3-cornered hat shape. I find it a bit harder to visualize them as ears but hey, whatever floats your barco.
8 oz. (225 g. or 2 sticks) butter, room temp.
5 oz. white sugar
5 oz. brown sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
zest of 1 orange
2 Tbsp. freshly-squeezed orange juice
1 lb. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until the butter has lightened in color. Add in the vanilla bean and orange zest and mix well. Add in the orange juice and continue mixing. Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well in between. Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder together directly into the bowl and mix lightly just to incorporate. Press the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic and leave it to chill in the fridge until firm, an hour or so.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Once the dough has chilled, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 in. Try to re-roll as little as possible; minimal handling of the dough will keep it from getting tough. Cut out circles with a 3 in. diameter cookie cutter (or with a glass), remove the circles to a cookie sheet, leaving 2 in. between circles. Gather the remaining dough into a disc, rewrap it in plastic and put it back in the fridge. Place 2 teaspoons of filling in the center of each circle.
Pinch the top together, then bring the bottom part up and pinch it on both sides to form a triangle, leaving a 1-in. opening in the center with the filling showing. Bake for 8-10 min., until the edges start to brown. Roll out and bake the rest of the cookies.
1 lb. (500 g.) prunes or apricots
1 c. freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
Process all the ingredients together until smooth.
Orejas de Haman
225 g. de mantequilla, temperatura ambiente
140 g. de azúcar blanca
140 g. de azúcar morena/rubia
1/2 vaina de vainilla, o 1 cucharita de extracto de vainilla natural
cascara rallada de una naranja
2 cucharadas de jugo de naranja (exprimido) fresco
500 g. de harina de trigo común (tipo 000)
1/2 cucharita de sal
1 cucharada de polvo de hornear
relleno (receta abajo)
En un bol grande, bate la mantequilla y los azucares hasta blanquear. Echa la vaina de vainilla y la ralladura de naranja y mezcla bien. Echa el jugo de naranja y sigue batiendo. Echa los huevos uno a la vez, mezclando bien después de cada uno. Tamiza la harina, sal y polvo de hornear juntos directamente al bol y mezcla suavemente solo hasta que no veas mas harina. Con las manos, forma un disco con la masa, tapalo con plástico y guardalo en la heladera hasta que enfrie y endurezca la masa, aprox. una hora.
Precalienta el horno a 180ºC. Cuando la masa esté fria, estira la masa a 0,5 cm de gruesa. Trata de minimizar la necesidad de volverla estirar mucho, se puede dañar la textura de las galletas si se maneja demasiado. Con un vaso o un molde para galletas de 7,5 cm corta círculos y llevalos a una bandeja para hornear, dejando 5 cm de espacio entre los círculos. Junta la masa restante en un disco, tapala con plástico nuevamente y vuelve a guardarla en la heladera. Coloca 2 cucharitas de relleno en el centro de cada círculo de masa.
Une los bordes formando un triángulo y dejando un hueco de 2 cm. en el centro para que se vea el relleno. Hornea durante 8-10 min., hasta los puntos empiecen a dorar. Sigue el mismo proceso con el resto de la masa.
Relleno de Ciruelas Pasas/Damascos Secos
500 g. de ciruelas pasas o damascos secos
1 taza de jugo de naranja exprimido
1/2 taza de azúcar blanca
1 cucharada de canela molida
Procesa todos los ingredientes hasta que tengas un puré suave.