Parve Hamantashen Revisited
A hamantash is a piece of pastry first and foremost. The dough that forms the famous triangle is just as important as the filling.
You want the crust to be notable. Have I got a dough for you! It is parve, it is easy to work with and it will spark your mouth’s interest.
It is made on the shoulders of the mighty halvah and its cousin tahini. Halvah and tahini have a long storied history of being used in baking.
I would be the last to say that I was an originator. I have just continued that conversation. Once the dough is made, all those “hats” need filling.
Apples, dried figs, prunes and apricots are calling out to me. I answered that call and present my own musings.
Parve Sweet Pastry Dough Ingredients
¼ cup ice cold water
3 extra large egg yolks, checked
2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup vegetable shortening
½ cup sugar
½ cup vanilla halvah, packed like brown sugar
1 tablespoon tahini, stirred, creamy
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested (optional)
flour for rolling
1 extra-large egg, checked
3 tablespoons tap water
Yield: about 45 hamantashen
This dough is made in a standing mixer with batter hook attachment.
Prepare the ice water: in a measuring cup, add ½ cup cold tap water and toss in a couple ice cubes. Set aside.
Prime the other ingredients.
Pry the packed, measured halvah out and place into a microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 15 seconds to soften. Set aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together over the standing mixing bowl.
Place the sugar, egg yolks, softened halvah, tahini, optional lemon zest into the bowl.
Attach the batter hook. On medium speed blend ingredients until crumbs are formed.
Discard the ice and pour off all but a ¼ cup of ice water.
Pour in the water and add in the lemon juice. Blend all the ingredients together just until a dough is formed.
Remove the finished dough. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before use.
This dough can be also be wrapped in parchment and then sealed in plastic this way for three days, or keep frozen for about two weeks.
Line baking pan(s) with silpat mat(s) or parchment paper.
Make the egg wash. Beat the egg and the water together.
Cut the dough in half. Refrigerate other half.
Preheat oven to 350 ºF (convection when available).
On a liberally floured work surface. Roll the dough out to ¼ inch thickness. Dust the surface with flour as necessary.
Use a 3” round cutter or a drinking glass to cut out as many circles as possible. Place the dough circles on the prepared baking pan(s).
Reform scraps and repeat.
Chill the circles until firm- about 30 minutes.
Make more circles with the other half of the dough, or seal and refrigerate or freeze.
Remove the chilled circles from refrigerator. Brush the top of each circle with egg wash.
Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each circle.
Fold in the sides to form a triangle. Pinch the dough to enclose the filling.
Brush the entire surface of the each pastry with egg wash.
I like to shower each piece with sugar, it adds crunch. It’s up to you.
Bake the pastries in the center rack of the oven until golden brown on the edges. About 20-25 minutes.
Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes; then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
1 tangerine: peeled for the zest
1 cup pitted prunes, well packed
¼ cup tangerine juice
¼ cup sugar
Use a vegetable peeler to zest the tangerine. You want the zest, not the white pith.
Place the peels into a saucepan. Cover the peels with tap water. Bring to a rapid boil then drain. Repeat two more times.
Cut the remaining naked tangerine in half. Squeeze out the juice. You need ¼ cup of juice. Add water if necessary. Set aside.
Place the prunes, tangerine peel, juice and sugar into a microwavable bowl. Seal with plastic wrap.
Cook for 2½ minutes.
Plop and scrape it all into the standing mixer and purée.
Scrape into a jar or container. Refrigerate.
Filling Ingredients (yields about 1½ cups)
1 cup dried brown figs, stemmed, well packed
¼ cup water
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons rose water or rose syrup
optional: 1 tablespoon dried rose petals: plucked and checked
½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Place the stemmed figs, water and sugar into a microwavable bowl. Seal with plastic wrap. Microwave for 2½ minutes. Remove.
Pluck the optional rose petals.
Scrape cooked figs and all into the standing mixer. Add the rose water or syrup, lemon juice and optional rose petals. Purée. Taste, add more rose water or syrup to suit.
Scrape into a container or lidded jar.
Apple-Raisin Filling (yields about 1½ cups)
3 large golden delicious apples; peeled and diced
¼ cup yellow raisins
¼ cup water
¼ cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Peel, core, slice and dice the apples into smaller pieces- about 4 overflowing cups.
Combine the apples, raisins, water, sugar and cinnamon stick into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves.
Cover; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the apples are very tender while stirring frequently- about 10-15 minutes.
Remove from the heat. Use a potato masher or fork to gently mash apples until mixture is very soft but still chunky. Cool completely.
This filling can be made 2 days ahead: just cover and refrigerate.
Apricot Lekvar with Bitter Almonds yields about 1 cup)
½ tablespoon bitter almonds (a.k.a. dried apricot kernels), toasted
1 cup dried apricots, well packed
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup tap water
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Preheat toaster oven or oven to 350 ºF.
Toast the bitter almonds for 7 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Combine the apricots, sugar and water in a microwave bowl. Seal with plastic. Microwave for 2½ minutes.
Scrape the cooked apricots into a standing blender. Add in toasted bitter almonds, almond extract and lemon juice. Purée.
Scrape into a container or a lidded jar.
Lauren Stacy Berdy earned her professional diploma from Ecole de Cuisine, La Varenne Paris, France in 1978, then spent a few years working in Europe before bringing it home. She spent more than three decades as a private chef-caterer. She now resides 130 paces from the beach with her husband in Hollywood, Florida, where she wrote Remaining Kosher Volume One: A Cookbook For All With A Hechsher In Their Heart. This eBook is available on iTunes. Volume Two is well on its way.
Rethinking Sweet Parve
Even with more than three decades of culinary expertise it was always challenging when working kosher as a caterer to create parve desserts. I have tasted many parve cookies, cakes and pastries that are disappointing to eat. They give taste the skip. The fact is that most parve sweets, even homemade ones, have been co-opted by faux industrial ingredients like margarine. Margarine and I have no real relationship. It is like the friend of a friend of another friend. It’s a stand-in replacement. It is really just tasteless oil.
But nothing says that cannot be changed constraints can sometimes teach us more about ourselves. We are not bound by tradition. We do not have to be bullied by ingredients. Maintaining the Kosher standard has less to do with wishful thinking and fast substitutions and more to do with just being in the nature of all things kosher.
My personal take on cooking kosher food is simple. It is valued because it invokes a delicious idea not just an adherence. My desserts are no different.
I have adopted another point of view, a new direction. I want to get the past into perspective. My interest is to start a sweet parve conversation. Think of this as parve ecology.
I changed the way I viewed sweet parve by changing my attitude towards it. I have faith in my skills. They have supplied me with a living for many years.
Our world is filled with wonderful sun filled ingredients, splendid staples like extra virgin olive oil, halvah and tahini.
I would be the last person to say that I am an originator of anything. All it takes is a sudden leap of thought to transform what seems like an elusive subject like non-dairy sweets and make something not only delicious but also memorable. A sideways glance can rotate one's point of view.
It is my hope in sharing these recipes that I help to expand the landscape of tempting parve sweets. Choices abound and many new roads have been explored. It’s all in the laws of succession. Replacement rather than continuity!
Also, I ask you who doesn’t appreciate a delicious cookie.
Recipe:Kosher, parve, dessert, Purim