Homentaschen, are little triangle cookies traditionally filled with jam or poppy seed preserves for the Jewish holiday of Purim. Families bake up these delicious treats and send them to one another to celebrate the holiday. Every year my Mom sends Mishloach Manot (gift baskets filled with homentaschen and other delicious sweets) to our close friends and family. And from my first year away from home until now I look forward to receiving my own installment of home-baked happiness. This year I got to actually be home for the holiday and bake these with my mom.
The cookies are shaped to allegedly represent Haman’s (villain from the Purim story) ear, though you’ll also hear it’s his hat. Why you would want to eat some mean man’s ear or hat I can’t understand, and personally I wish they represented a more positive aspect of the tale, but nevertheless here they are.
Purim is also a holiday particularly geared towards children because you dress up, sing, dance and generally have a wonderful time. These cookies are also great fun to make with kids.
The dough is fantastic to work with (the consistency is strikingly similar to Playdough) and the cookies have that indescribable old-world/foreign taste built into any Jewish recipe handed down through the generations. This recipe is actually Auntie Tova’s (who is in fact my best friend’s Aunt not my own, so really it’s another Jewish family’s recipe, but we were all neighbors in the same shtetle once, right?). The dough looks like a traditional sugar cookie or refrigerator cookie (meaning the dough must cool before you can use it) but don’t be fooled, not only do these taste like the home country, but if made in the traditional homentaschen way, they’re little Eastern European jewel boxes for the eye as well.
Preptime: 30 mins. Refrigeratortime: 1 hr. Baketime: 15 mins.
Makes about 48 cookies.
6 oz. margarine (1½ sticks) - use Nucoa brand if possible or butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. almond extract (you can use vanilla if you don’t have it)
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup jam (any flavor you like!)
Cream together the margarine and the sugar. Add in the almond extract and the eggs and beat on medium speed with an electric mixer until well combined (no lumps!).
Mix the flour and baking powder together in a separate bowl then slowly combine it, one cup at a time, with the margarine mixture. Lastly, add the orange juice (a couple spoonfuls at a time so that you can add more or less depending on how dry the dough is). Your dough should combine easily at this point; it shouldn’t feel too wet or too dry (as I mentioned it really gets a Playdough-like consistency).
Form the dough into a ball, cover it completely in plastic-wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour. You can leave it there a few days but it’s best to use within 24 hours.
And now the fun part! Roll the dough to less than ¼ inch thick. Use extra flour and keep the dough moving to make sure it doesn’t stick to the board. Use a glass cup or cookie cutter about 2 inch in diameter to cut circles out. Place them on a greased baking sheet.
Put a drop (about ½ teaspoon) of jam in the center of each circle. Then pinch three edges to make a triangle shape. Pinch the edges very tightly together (or even fold the corners over) so that they don’t fall apart. The dough expands and the cookies spread so the thinner the dough and the tighter you pinch, the more control you’ll have over the finished product. And don’t overfill them with jam!
Bake @ 350°F for about 15 minutes until golden brown.