Thursday, March 15, 2012



A Treat for Purim

This post is a bit late for Purim but these cookies are worth reporting about.  The recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen and has been altered a bit to suit ingredients available in the Czech Republic in general and our pantry specifically.  

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons tvaroh*
3 tablespoons icing sugar 
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups plus 4 teaspoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Filling (I used poppy seed filling mix, though one could also use jam).  
*The recipe calls for cream cheese.  Though it is not impossible to find here, it is rather expensive and I figured I would try a more Czech alternative.  Tvaroh is similar to quark, a fresh cheese popular in Central and Eastern Europe.  It can be creamy or crumbly and is often referred to as "curd."  I chose to use a creamy, high-fat tvaroh because it is most similar to cream cheese.

Cream together butter and tvaroh until smooth.  Then add sugar and continue to mix for one minute.  Add egg, vanilla, and salt.  Mix until combined.  Gradually add flour until a smooth but slightly sticky dough comes together.  The dough has a distinct pastry feel to it--not as light as bread dough but not as heavy as cookie dough.  You may need to add up to one tablespoon of extra flour if the dough is too sticky.  

Make a disc, as you would for sugar cookies, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least one hour while you prepare the fillings.

I love this poppy seed filling!   There's even a recipe on the back, just like grandma used to make.  This is a mixture of ground poppy seeds, sugar, and starch that makes it thicken up into paste when water is added. 

Poppy paste! Yeah, I bet all of you trying to make hamantashcen in America are jealous of how easily one can get poppy paste here.  And I'm jealous of how easily one can get Cheetos there.  So we're even.

After the dough has been refrigerated, roll it out on a floured surface to about a quarter of an inch thick. This is when most people use fancy circular cookie cutters.  The ring of a ball jar works just as well.  And don't lie, if you are reading this, you probably own more ball jars than cups and definitely more ball jars than circular cookie cutters.  They also come in convenient sizes.  Use a regular ring for smaller hamantaschen and a wide-mouth ring for larger, more traditional cookies.  

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 F (170 C).

Place a small spoonful of filling in the middle of the circle.

 Pinch closed three corners to make the shape of a tri-corner hat.  This first batch, I only pinched it a little bit and avoided covering the filling.  You will see that when they came out, they had mostly unfolded themselves.  The next batch, I pinched them so hard that I almost covered the filling and they stayed pretty triangular. 

Place cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet with a fair amount of space between them because they do rise.  

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the dough is golden brown.  

As you can see, these turned out a bit too puffy and not very triangular.  Delicious, nonetheless.  Store in an airtight container.  

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