by Marcy Goldman
Everyone knows that Purim and hamantashen are synonymous. Far be it from me to suggest you dont bake up a ton of them this year. I know I will and I also look forward to the big roll-fest, as well as eating my favorite pastry.
Hamantashen are the heart of Purim, taking on two roles at holiday time as both something good to eat and as a symbol of the Purim tale. Even though hamantashen are the Purim stars, it is a holiday that thrives on all sorts of sweeties both for hosting and entertaining and of course, for shalot manot gifts.
Lately, my personal new Purim tradition is to transform another tradition: challah, but make it a little different with a sweeter, Purim spin. My sentiment is that challah is bread royalty the queen of baking in the Jewish tradition, in all ways. If you take this lovely bread, bake it up a bit sweeter, adding in a handful or two of chocolate chips to the eggy, sweet dough, you will have a brioche of a bread that is also a wonderful Purim gift and coffee klatch dessert.
At this time of year, with Purim upon us, I find myself inventing as many new challahs as I do honey cakes at New Years. I am pleased to share two of my most recent, special sweet Purim challahs with you. One is studded with chocolate chips and the other one is spruced up with honey and an orange glaze, and festive coloured sprinkles. You can make three little ones as gifts, or, one large one, to serve as a Purim table centrepiece.
For those that still insist on their hamantashen fix, I have included a really fun one: the Giant Party Hamantashen. Roll once, fold, and bake and you have a gargantuan hamantashen to feed a crowd. It is a real presentation piece but totally edible. Enjoy, and happy Purim.
Basic Hamantashen Dough
This dough, made with shortening and butter, yields a light, cookie-like texture and is similar to the hamantashen (but with your home made taste) you could expect to find in a commercial bakery. It is just about my favorite hamantashen dough. If you require a dairy free dough, simply use all shortening or non-dairy margarine (instead of butter and shortening). Over the years, it has become one of my favourites. You can also use this dough to make cookie triangles - "mock" hamantashen, for children who prefer unfilled cookies. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with plain sugar or colored sprinkles. These flat, triangular cookies are perfect for the younger set.
1/2 cup shortening
Stir in orange juice or milk and vanilla. Fold in flour, salt, and baking powder and mix to make a firm but soft dough. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and pat into a smooth mass. Cover and let rest ten minutes. Divide dough into two or three flattened discs. Work with one portion at a time. (Wrapped in plastic, dough can also be refrigerated for 2-3 days.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Roll out dough on lightly floured board to a thickness of 1/8th inch. Use a 3-inch cookie cutter and cut into rounds. Brush rounds with egg wash. Fill with a generous teaspoon full of desired filling. Draw three sides together into centre. (Grasp perimeters of circle with lst, 2nd, and 3rd, fingers and pull inward, towards centre. (You should now have a three-cornered or triangular pastry. Essentially, fold two sides towards the centre to form a triangle top. Then fold up the remaining dough towards the centre to meet the other edges of the touch). Brush pastries with egg wash. If desired, sprinkle with sugar and/or coloured sprinkles. Bake until they are golden brown, about 18-25 minutes.
If you prefer, this dough can be made ahead and refrigerated (up to 2 days) or frozen (in either a disc of dough or already formed as filled pastries for a couple of months). If refrigerating, allow dough to warm up before rolling out. For frozen pastries, bake without defrosting.
Recipe doubles well.
Purim Chocolate Chip Challah
So simple, so unique, so obvious and so good! Add some cocoa for a chocolate challah or leave it out. The vanilla is optional the bread is excellent in its pure form or with a touch of vanilla in the dough.
1 1/2 cups warm water
Generously spray one 5 by 12 inch loaf pan or two 9 by 5 inch loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray. You may also bake one or two freeform challah twists on a baking sheet.
In a large mixing bowl, briskly whisk together the water and yeast. Let stand to allow yeast to dissolve about 2 minutes. Add in two cups of the flour, and then briskly stir in the sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla, cocoa (if you are using it) and salt and most of the remaining flour. Mix, then knead on slowest speed of mixer to form a smooth but resilient dough (a soft but elastic bread dough). Add additional flour and knead - 8-10 minutes.
Let dough rest 15 minutes and then press out on a lightly floured work surface. Press the chocolate chips into the dough, with fingers or a rolling pin, folding over dough to cover the chips.
Let dough rest 10 minutes and then form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl and place this in a plastic bag and seal loosely. Let rise until doubled, about 45 to 60 minutes.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate. Divide in 6 (for two medium breads) or in three (for one large bread).
Form each portion into a rope and braid three together to make a large braided bread.
Alternatively, you can form three balls of dough and place each beside each other in the prepared bread pans.
Whisk egg wash ingredients together. Brush on egg wash as thoroughly and generously as possible. As dough rises, you will have to reapply.
Place loaf pan(s) inside a large plastic bag to rise. Let rise until doubled or dough is puffy and has almost reached just above the top of the pan - 45 to 90 minutes. Brush tops again with egg wash and dust with sugar.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place bread (s) in oven.
Bake 40-45 minutes until well browned. If top of bread starts browning too quickly (and bread interior is not done), cover lightly with a sheet of foil to protect top crust.
Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing and cooling on a rack.
Makes one large or two smaller loaves.
Serve with butter or honey or sweetened cream cheese (flavored with orange and cinnamon would be especially nice).
Sweet Orange Purim Rolls
Sprinkles on an orange glazed sweet little challah bun make a beautiful Purim basket filler.
In a large mixing bowl, briskly whisk together the water and yeast. Let stand to allow yeast to dissolve about 2 minutes. Add in two cups of the flour, and then briskly stir in the salt, sugar, oil, and eggs, orange zest, and most of the remaining flour. Mix, then knead on slowest speed of mixer to form a smooth but resilient dough (a soft but elastic bread dough). Add additional flour and knead - 8-10 minutes.
Let dough rest 15 minutes and then press out on a lightly floured work surface. Shape into a ball and let rise in a lightly greased bowl, inserted in a plastic bag, lightly sealed. Let rise about 45-60 minutes.
Prepare egg wash by whisking eggs and set aside.
Gently deflate the dough by turning out onto a floured work surface. Divide in 8-12 portions. Make each into an 8-inch rope. Tie in a knot to make a roll. Place each portion on the prepared baking sheet.
Brush each roll with egg wash. Cover lightly with plastic and let rise until puffy, about 25-40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake until golden browned, about 18-25 minutes.
For the Orange Glaze, whisk ingredients together in a small bowl to make a drippy glaze. Using a metal spatula, smear on glaze. Let set and repeat and then sprinkle on colored sprinkles before glaze sets.
Makes 8-12 Purim Challah Sweet Rolls.
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