I'm a big fan of holiday cookies--all holidays, I don't discriminate. The most recent holiday cookies baked and consumed were hamantaschen (great history from The Shiksa Blog). These triangular tastebud tantalizers often look so...what's the word...symmetrical in stores, yet they continue to cause trouble when baked at home. If you've made them, you know I'm talking about how these bad boys flower open and look like pancakes with a jam belly button.
I'm not married to any particular recipe (no long-standing family tradition exists that I know of) so this year I tried Smitten Kitchen's from a post a few years ago. The comments were all "You didn't fold them enough!" and "You overfilled them!" judgey mcjudgersons, so I decided I'd make several batches and try different folding methods to end up with some acceptable hammies.
Above is the first batch, raw--almost all of them popped open during the baking process, even though I pinched them shut supertight (or so I thought). They still tasted good, but I was bummed about the result. So naturally I made them again the following night.
Take 2 was more successful. Above were some fine examples of the results, where only ONE half-opened and the rest remained in good form! Are they stunning? No. But are they distinctly triangular and delicious? Yes. Mordecai would be proud.
After Take 1 bummed me out I decided to try this pocket method described in the Post, the rolling from the Shiksa blog (roll the edges up to form a triangle instead of folding), and some suggestions in the comments from the Smitten recipe page. Roll it out thinner! Don't overfill! It turned out that the folding didn't make a difference--almost all of them stayed in shape. So that means it was the a) do not overfill and b) roll out thinner advice that made the difference. After all, the cookie puffs up during cooking, and if the "walls" are too thick that puffing will cause it to give up its standing position.
BTW, the chocolatey-looking one above is the filling from the Shiksa Blog, and in the past I've made a filling with a brownie-type mixture. If you just use chocolate chips it's too dry, and that's upsetting. DO NOT USE CHOCOLATE SYRUP. College mistake. It exploded everywhere. My favorite flavor is apricot, so use your favorite preserves. Yummers.
Above you see T's grandma's hamantaschen, in a world where nothing is measured with tools that we have and everything is by sight and feel. And I believe there's alcohol in the dough. But I have the filling recipe for you! It makes a
3 heaping tbs honey
1 tbs water
1 tbs sugar
A couple drops of lemon juice
About 1.5 cups (ish?) of chopped walnuts (mine were finely chopped by a hand mixer)
1 tsp vanilla
As for the cookies, the cream cheese in the dough makes it creamy and delicious, the ingredients are simple (I subbed lemon zest for orange zest because I always have lemons), and we all agree that the dough part of the cookie was better than other hamantaschen I've made in the past, especially super weird whole wheat ones I made in college. I was raised by a fitness instructor, I can't help it!
What are your favorite holiday cookies?