I am always asking my fellow foodies and bakers to share their stories and recipes, and finally, someone took me up on the offer! Let me introduce a fellow baketress and animal lover, Rachel Korycan, whose hamantaschen recipe captured my heart many years ago. As she explains also, I actually loathed hamantaschen until I tasted hers! It is the only recipe I have ever enjoyed, and Rachel was kind enough to share her family’s story and beloved hamantaschen recipe below. Hope you enjoy as much as I do!
Hamentaschen—those three-cornered, fruit-filled pastry that crop up in bakeries, supermarkets and delis across the country this time of year—are equally loved and loathed. In fact, the authoress of this very blog (for which I am honored to be a guest writer) hated them until she met me and my “famous” hamentaschen.
You see, I come from a family of bakers and cooks. My grandfather (may his memory be for a blessing), grandmother, father and uncle escaped Communist Czechoslovakia in 1967 for the city streets of Chicago. There wasn’t much for an ex-communist party member to do as a new immigrant to the U.S., so my grandfather found a second career as a line cook at Chicago’s famous Berghoff restaurant. One of my favorite family anecdotes comes from his time at Berghoff’s. As his own form of worker’s comp my grandfather would steal cuts of meat and freeze them at home. Once the freezer was full, my grandmother would pile the frozen meat into the designated “meat suitcase” and would then schlep it via train to Akron. Apparently my first taste of meat came via the “meat suitcase”.
My childhood visits to Chicago to see my grandparents were filled with chocolate or poppyseed buchta (the Czech version of babka) and other European delights. In the height of summer my grandmother would serve me steaming bowls of matzo ball soup, just because that was what her only granddaughter wanted. My grandfather would make chicken instead of veal schnitzel because he respected my feelings about eating baby cow. I sat at the small kitchen table and watched as they chopped, stirred, kneaded and filled. However, they didn’t teach me to make hamentaschen. That fell to my mom.
My mom grew up as a good Catholic in Akron, Ohio. Years later she found herself Jewish, married, with a bright and precocious daughter (me!) in Jewish day school. Year after year we would eat the hamentaschen my day school would bring in from a kosher bakery in Cleveland. While school Passover seders delighted us with a matzo kugel recipe we still make now, these hamentaschen were truly horrible. They were tough, chalky, and had an uneven filling-to-cookie ratio, the death knell for any true hamentaschen.
After years of suffering in silence, my mom took action. She delved into her Jewish cookbooks, but every recipe was dull and bland (and pareve—who REALLY wants to eat a pareve cookie when they can have butter!). Then she then had a thought. Every Chanukah we decorated sugar cookies using a cookie recipe from one of her mother’s cookbooks. Who would have thought that Betty Crocker would know anything about hamentaschen?! That Purim we turned out dozens of tender, flaky hamentaschen. Poppy, cherry, apricot, raspberry, date—all made with Betty’s cookie recipe—tasted fabulous with and have for years since.
So thanks Betty, and mom, for helping me share the joy of truly delicious hamentaschen with Shannon and now the world (or at least her blog readers!).
A few notes on tweaking Betty’s recipe that are not written on the recipe:
Use ALL butter or ALL margarine (if you MUST make them pareve)
Roll the dough about a ¼’’ thick for the right dough-to-filling ratio