Friday, April 09, 2021

Marbled Hamantaschen


These vanilla-chocolate hamantaschen are absolutely not traditional. For one thing, they’re dairy instead of pareve, and for another, well, chocolate. But the recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, and I felt like Deb Perelman couldn’t steer me wrong, so I made them. 

The result was delicious! The Engineer was actually on the fence before tasting these, then he ate one, and a second, and was pensive for a while before declaring, “Two things are true. One: these are not hamantaschen. Two: they are fantastic.” I didn’t grow up with hamantaschen, so I don’t care that these aren’t traditional, and I’ll make them again. It just would have felt disingenuous to simply call them triangle cookies, though, so I kept the name. Honestly, what’s not to love? The dough is buttery, not unlike shortbread, and the whole confection is not overly sweet, but still has some contrast with two flavors. 

Note that I found the cheesecake filling to be very runny as I was assembling them, even with (lactose-free, dairy) cream cheese that was cold instead of at room temperature. I’m not sure how big a deal that is, or whether it would be worth exploring ways to thicken it (starch? flour? powdered sugar instead of granulated?) – I will try next time. Maybe I’d also halve the amounts (and either keep the egg yolk whole or omit it entirely), since there’s definitely too much of it. Also note that if you’re making the dough in a food processor (like me) or even a stand mixer, you can use cold butter, but with a hand mixer, you’re better off with butter at room temperature. 

I got 24 hamantaschen from this recipe. 

For the filling (see note above) 
1 cup (8 oz) lactose-free cream cheese, ideally at room temperature 
1/3 cup (65 g) granulated sugar 
2 pinches of fine sea salt 
1 tsp. vanilla extract 
1 tsp. lemon juice 
1 large egg yolk 

For the dough 
1/3 cup (40 g.) powdered sugar 
1/3 cup (65 g) granulated sugar 
½ tsp. fine sea salt or table salt 
2 cups (265 g) all-purpose flour 
12 Tbsp. (1 ½ sticks = 6 oz = 170 g) lactose-free butter, cut into cubes 
1 large egg 
½ tsp. vanilla extract 
1/3 cup (45 g) additional all-purpose flour 
1/3 cup (30 g) cocoa powder 

Preheat the oven to 350 °F. 

For the filling 
In a small-medium bowl, mash cream cheese and sugar with a fork (this will be easy if the cream cheese is at room temperature and will take a couple minutes longer if it’s cold, but will work either way). Add salt, vanilla, lemon juice, and egg yolk and continue to mash and blend until smooth. Transfer to refrigerator until needed. 

For the dough 
Combine the sugars, salt, and 2 cups of the flour in the work bowl of a food processor. Add butter and mix or pulse until it disappears, then keep running the machine until it just begins to clump. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined into one big or a few smaller masses, scraping down the bowl as needed for even blending, then keep running the machine until the dough is smooth and easily forms one big blob. This might take up to a full minute longer. (If you are using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, beat the sugars with the butter and salt until creamy, a few minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Add 2 cups of the flour and beat until it disappears, then keep mixing until the dough is smooth and forms one big ball.) 

Scoop half the dough into a separate bowl. You can eyeball it, or, if you have a digital scale, Deb Perelman’s dough halves weighed 308 grams each. Add remaining 1/3 cup flour to one half of the dough, and 1/3 cup cocoa powder to the second half, mixing until blended. Once again, run the mixer or machine until the dough is no longer crumbly and is in one big mound; this can take 30 to 60 seconds longer. (It makes more sense to me to blend the flour half first, then reuse the bowl for the chocolate half – fewer dishes to wash that way.) 

To marble the dough, place a large piece of parchment paper on your counter. Spoon little dollops of chocolate and vanilla doughs all over, alternating dollops a little but no need to be very checkerboarded about it. (My dollops were too big – I would use smaller spoonfuls next time.) Use an offset spatula, bench scraper, or even a spoon to smoosh and mush some of the pieces together, creating areas that are more blended and leaving some unblended. 

Cover with a second sheet of parchment paper and roll doughs out into an even 1/8”-thick slab. (I would make them thicker – the ones that broke in my case were too thin. Of course, you’ll get fewer that way.) If you started with cold butter, the dough will probably be solid enough right now to skip it. If it feels very mushy/warm, however, slide the onto the back of a large baking sheet and pop into the freezer for 3 minutes. We do not want the dough to be hard, just somewhat firmed up but still very bendy. 

Return the dough slab to your counter. Carefully peel the parchment sheet off the top and replace it. (This loosens it.) Flip slab over onto the loosened side and remove the top parchment sheet entirely. Use this to line a large baking sheet (or use a silpat). 

Cut dough into 3-inch rounds. Place a measured 1-teaspoon dollop of cream cheese filling in the center of each. Fold up the edges in 3 sections and pinch the corners closed; continue to pinch/”zip up” the cookie, pinching it closed, until only a marble-to-quarter-sized opening remains. Don’t worry if the center looks underfilled; the cream cheese expands in the oven. Transfer each to the parchment-lined baking sheet. These do not spread, so you can fit them fairly close together on the tray (about 1-2 inches apart). 

To reroll scraps, pile them in the center of the piece of parchment paper and place a second sheet on top again. Repeat the process of rolling the dough thin, briefly cooling it, loosening the back, and cutting it into circles until all the dough is used. (In my case, I preferred the appearance of the marbling in the second batch, but in the third batch the pale parts of the dough were getting too indistinct.) 

Bake hamantaschen for 20 to 25 minutes, until pale parts of dough are golden brown. Transfer to cooling rack. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

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