The following recipe epitomizes the transformation of a Jewish recipe due to migration. I received the Panama WIZO cookbook from a friend of mine in Mexico City. The recipes were all in Spanish but my high school teacher would have been proud! I came across a recipe entitled Orejas de Haman para Purim (Haman’s Ear’s for Purim). But instead of the aforementioned recipe for fried dough, the ingredients and diagram were for Hamantashen. To blur the lines of transition even further, many of the ingredients (including the brandy) were more typical of the Middle Eastern fried dough than the Eastern European pastry Murbeteig or Pate Sucree.
There is a large Sephardi population from Syria and Lebanon in Mexico and of course there is a substantial Ashkenazi community as well. Their traditions were co-mingled probably through shared celebrations to produce the following recipe. Add me to the mix with my modern baking techniques and equipment, not to mention the trick of rolling in confectioner’s sugar and you have a further metamorphosis of our culinary culture.
Enjoy this recipe for its taste as well as for its history. By the way, the author of the original recipe in the book
HAMENTASHEN DE PANAMA
3 ¼ cups flour
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Zest of one small lemon
1 stick margarine, cut into eighths
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into eighths
1 egg yolk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
2 or more Tablespoons of Brandy or Rum
Commercially prepared poppy seed, prune or apricot filling
1. Place the flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse the machine on and off to combine the ingredients.
2. Add the margarine and butter and pulse on and off about 20 times or until the dough resembles a coarse meal.
3. Quickly combine the yolk, vanilla and brandy in a small bowl.
4. Immediately add the liquid mixture to the processor while it is running and mix only until a ball of dough starts to begin to form. Do not over mix. If the dough looks very dry you may add another Tablespoon of Brandy or some milk. Dough should not be too moist or cookie will be heavy.
5. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured board and lightly knead the dough into a ball. Divide the dough into two or three portions and refrigerate, covered, for 20 minutes.
6. Remove the dough and roll out to 1/8th inch thickness on a surface that has been liberally coated with confectioner’s sugar.
7. Cut dough into 3 inch circles and then place a small amount of prepared filling in the center of each circle. Shape dough into triangles pinching the edges together.
8. Place cookies on parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake for 12-15 minutes in a preheated 350’F oven until golden brown.
• Pastry that contains alcohol or fruit juice will taste even better the next day as the flavors need time to mellow.
• Liquid is necessary, even in small amounts to bind the flour and fat in pastry together. A processor is so efficient that dough could be formed but it will fall apart when rolled or baked without the additional liquid.
• Always roll sweet pastry in confectioner’s sugar instead of flour. The cornstarch in the sugar prevents sticking and the sugar creates a light, glistening glaze over the finished product.