day 7: poppy seed hamantashen

[the le sauce12 days of cookies]

Cute little things and they’d better be for their finicky-ness. I have some tips* on how to make this dough work if you have any trouble–and you may have a little your first time out, but trust me, these cookies are worth it. Poppy seed hamantashen are like a prettier and tastier fig cookie (yes, the big brand fig cookies you’re thinking of but tastier) with their sticky, poppy seed filling and cakey cookie exterior. Sort of a grown-up and less-expected option to the tried-and-true jam cookies that abound at the holidays.

Hamantashen With Poppy Seed Filling
Adapted slightly from the New York Times, which was adapted from “Schmaltz” by Shmil Holland

*YS note: After chilling in the fridge for just an hour, wrapped in plastic wrap, my dough was far to hard to roll, and letting it warm up for 20 minutes did not help. It was extremely crumbly and I had to add a few tablespoons of water and re-mix dough, chill again and then proceed. If your dough is crumbly, add up to 3 tablespoons of water to bring into a pliable dough before wrapping and chilling it. I learned, later, than another way to get hard cookie dough to submit to you is to bash it flat with a rolling pin, repeatedly. It makes it more workable and half your work is done for you since it’s half-way rolled out. Plus it’s true, those rumours, not much else feels as good as pounding something with a rolling pin. Lastly, pinch your corners together firmly or these pretty triangles will revert back to unfolded rounds while baking.

For the dough:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 large egg yolks
8 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature, in small pieces
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
Dash of salt
1 large egg, beaten, for the glaze

For poppy seed filling:
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1/2 orange
1 cup poppy seeds
1/3 cup raisins
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tablespoon brandy
1/2 tablespoon orange liqueur
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract.

Put the confectioners’ sugar and the egg yolks in a food processor and blend. Add butter and lemon zest and process to blend. Gradually add the flour and the salt, pulsing until it forms a ball. If your dough is too crumbly to come together in a ball, add up to 3 tablespoons of water, as needed.* Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or overnight.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Put milk, sugar and orange zest in a saucepan over medium heat. Grind poppy seeds in coffee grinder. When mixture is warm, turn heat to low and add poppy seeds and raisins. Cook until the seeds absorb the milk and the mixture is thick, about 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice, brandy, orange liqueur and butter. Stir and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in the vanilla extract, remove from the heat and cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 pastry sheets with parchment paper.

Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness and use a cookie cutter or glass to cut 3-inch circles. Put a heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center of each, and press up the sides to form triangles. Brush the tops with beaten egg.

Bake until golden and dough is delicately firm all the way through, about 15 minutes. If trays are on different racks, switch them after about 10 minutes.

Makes 24-30 cookies.