The cookie: Hamentashen with pistachio and poppy seed fillings
The speaker: Ron, Rubix cube master of Pike Place Market
Ron: I try to watch obscure documentaries because stuff goes on in this world that most people have absolutely no idea about. Some stuff is really interesting; some stuff is really weird. For example, there’s this contingency of people that dress like animals, like in animal suits like baseball or football team mascots. Then they jump in a big pile and roll around and pet each other. It’s not sexual, but in a sense I guess it is. There’s an annual gathering of these folks in Denver. Last year, over 25,000 people attended. I saw this on Netflix and I was like “Oh, I gotta see this!” and I watched it. It was funny and I tried not to be too judgmental, but I couldn’t stop laughing. I was like “Holy shit! It’s a mascot orgy!”
Me: Is there any way that you would ever consider doing something like that?
Ron: No; no. Uh, well, I guess I should never say never. But no, never.
If you’ve never seen a man hula hoop while spinning a book in one hand and solving a Rubix cube in the other, then I suggest you hustle on down to Pike Place Market and take care of that.
The recipe: Hamentashen adapted from Smitten Kitchen
This recipe has different yields depending on what size cookie cutter you use. Deb was fastidious enough to indicate that a 2 1/4-inch cookie cutter will yield around 44 cookies, whereas a 3-inch will yield 30. If you’re afraid of running short on these babies, just double the recipe. When is it ever a bad thing to have too many cookies?
I halved Deb’s poppy seed filling and improvised my own pistachio filling so my victims tasters could have options. And by “improvised” I mean that putting measurements on the filling is practically useless. But I’ll try.
Grated zest of one lemon
1 cup powdered sugar
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
2 sticks unsalted butter, cold, in small pieces
Poppy seed filling
½ cup milk
½ cup sugar
Grated zest of ¼ of an orange
½ cup poppy seeds, whole
2 tablespoons currants
Juice of ¼ a lemon
Splash of Grand Marnier
Small chunk of butter
Splash vanilla extract
¾ cups roasted, salted pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped
¼ cup honey, or enough to coat
½ teaspoon poudre douce from World Spice Merchants (any sweet spices, like cardamom, cinnamon, etc would work just as well)
Splash spiced rum
1 large egg, beaten
Make the dough: Pulse the zest, sugar, flour, and salt in a food processor to blend. Add the butter and yolks and process until the mixture forms a ball. Scrape onto plastic wrap and seal tightly. Chill the dough for an hour or overnight.
Prepare the fillings: (Remove the dough from the fridge to start warming up before you start the fillings). Begin the poppy seed one first since you need it to cool before using. Simmer milk, sugar, zest, lemon juice, poppies, and raisins in a small saucepan over medium heat until the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Once the mixture cools, add the Grand Marnier and vanilla. For the pistachio filling, simply mix all the ingredients in a small bowl, stirring frequently to make sure the ‘stachios get coated completely with honey and rum before you put the filling on the dough circles.
Form the cookies: Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. By this time the dough should be softer and easier to work with. Flour your surface and roll it out to just under ¼-inch thickness and use a cookie cutter to cut circles. Use a thin spatula to transfer the circles to cookie sheets, then put a heaping half-teaspoonful of either filling in the center of each and press up the sides to form triangles. Arrange about 2 inches apart on sheets and brush with egg wash. Freeze the trays for 30 minutes; this helps the cookies keep their shape. As annoying as it is, don’t skip this step—I tried it and many of my cookies unfolded into ugly-ass, albeit delicious pancakes.
Bake: Until cookies are golden, 10 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees F.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that this dough is the shit. It’s flakey, flavorful, easy to work with, and simple to put together. I’m already envisioning the sundry future applications as more fruits become available… white peach and huckleberry tarts… mmmm…
I felt I had to attempt the poppy seed filling because it’s traditional and I’ve never made one before, but it paled in comparison to the pistachio one. Do try it. It was sweet, salty, spicy, and all kinds of fricken’ delicious.