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Poppy Seed Hamantaschen with Raisin-Walnut Filling
Yield: about 48 Hamantaschen
I’ve taken the poppy seeds from the traditional hamantaschen filling and added them instead to the tender crust. The result, which reminds me of my grandmother’s delicate mohn kichel (poppy seed butter cookies), makes a melt-in-the-mouth cushion for the rich, moist, raisin-walnut filling, my daughter’s favorite.
for the Pastry
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut in pieces, plus additional for greasing the pan
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
3 tablespoons apple or fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Raisin-Walnut Filling (see below)
Prepare the pastry: in a food processor, blend the butter with the sugar. Add the egg, juice, and vanilla and pulse until smooth. Stir together the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, and salt, then add to the food processor. Pulse until the ingredients are combined and form a ball around the blades.
Or make the dough using an electric mixer: in a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then the juice and vanilla. Combine the remaining ingredients and mix in. Transfer to a lightly floured board and knead the mixture until all the flour is well incorporated and the dough is smooth.
Divide the dough into 4 balls and wrap each well with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days. (The dough may also be frozen, wrapped airtight, for up to 1 month.)
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Work with one ball of dough at a time, leaving the rest wrapped and refrigerated. (If you have frozen the dough, let it thaw until it is workable.) Divide the ball into 12 pieces of equal size; when rolled between your palms into balls, they should be slightly larger than walnuts. Flatten the balls between sheets of plastic wrap with the palm of your hand, and pat them into even rounds about 3 inches in diameter. I find this way there is less waste, the dough won’t become tough from overhandling, and it is easy for those who lack experience or skill in handling dough. Pastry mavens may prefer to roll out the dough between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper to about 1/8-inch thickness, then cut out rounds approximately 3 inches in diameter, using a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass. Reroll the scraps and cut them out.
I’ve found that hamantaschen edges sometimes open slightly during baking if not very firmly sealed. But warm fingertips pinching the buttery dough can make it too soft to work with or result in overhandling the dough. Keeping the dough well chilled until you are ready to use it does help, but working with such small pastry rounds also means the dough will warm up rather quickly. Here’s the solution: Place a pastry round on a piece of plastic wrap. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of filling in the center. Working with your fingers under the plastic wrap so they don’t touch the dough directly, fold up one side of the pastry, making a little rim along the filling. Then fold the two adjacent sides up and together, forming a triangle. Pinch and smooth the edges through the plastic wrap until the seams are just about invisible. The plastic wrap keeps the dough moist and pliable. You should have a little triangle of pastry, the filling exposed in the center, like a tiny, open tart. Pinch the edges together tightly at all three corners so there are no gaps for the filling to seep out.
Place the finished hamantaschen about 1 inch apart on lightly greased cookie sheets. (For easy clean up, you may want to line the sheets with parchment or greased foil to catch spills.) Continue making hamantaschen until you have used up all the dough and filling. Keep the unbaked hamantaschen in the refrigerator until you are ready to put them into the oven.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until pale golden. Cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely (wait until they have cooled before removing them or they might crumble). Or if you don’t need the baking sheets for another batch, cool them on the sheets set on racks.
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 cups dark raisins (about 12 ounces)
2/3 cup apple or fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor and pulse briefly to blend. Add the raisins. Pour in the juice through the feed tube, while pulsing just long enough to chop the raisins coarsely, 10 to 15 seconds.
Scrape the mixture into a heavy, nonreactive, 3-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over moderately high heat, stirring to prevent burning, then lower the heat, and simmer slowly, stirring occasionally, for 7 to 8 minutes, until the mixture has thickened and almost no liquid is visible. Stir in the lemon juice and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes to blend the flavors. Remove from the heat, transfer to a medium bowl, and let cool to room temperature. Stir in the walnuts and refrigerate, covered, until cold.
Fill, shape, and bake the hamantaschen, following the directions in the Hamantaschen pastry recipe.