So far removed am I from the days of attending temple or any other religious proceedings, there tend to be many holidays that fall through the cracks. They often don’t even appear on standard calendars, and are difficult to observe without a whole congregation to facilitate a party. Purim in particular has become a “lost” holiday for me, and I can only remember observing it about a decade ago, when I was too young to really understand what we were celebrating. Putting on a costume, running around and playing games for prizes, it was simply a second chance at Halloween in my eyes. You could make lots of noise and eat sweets, so the specifics weren’t all that important. I do remember, however, getting the opportunity to make hamantashen with the help of one patient volunteer. Sculpting a mound of dough that was more like modeling clay than food, it was the process that we all enjoyed; Not the product. This traditional cookie didn’t grab my attention back then, but in searching desperately for a way to recognize this oft over-looked day, I decided to give it one more try.
A simple cookie without any bells or whistles, it’s easy to see why it might not be the best seller at a bake sale. Prepared with care and a solid recipe though, it can win the heart of even the pickiest sweet tooth. The versatile dough allows for any filling you could dream of mounding up in the center, and it’s easy enough for the most reluctant of bakers to prepare. Soft and tender, these cookies are far better than the dry, sad triangles sold in supermarkets these days that turn so many unknowing eaters away from this traditional treat. And although nothing could ever beat those made by my Nana, this vegan version does come pretty damn close, if I do say so myself.
3/4 Cup Vegetable Shortening or Vegan Margarine
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
3 Tablespoons Smooth Cashew Butter
3 Tablespoons Orange Juice
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Teaspoons Baking Powder
2 1/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
Jam or Preserves of your choice (I just went through my fridge and used up whatever I could find- Some strawberry, cherry, guava, and yellow plum preserves. Anything you like is just fine! Even a few chocolate chips wouldn’t hurt, too…)
Using a stand or hand mixer, thoroughly cream together the shortening or margarine and sugar until smooth. Beat in the cashew butter, followed by the orange juice and vanilla extract. Mix the baking powder together with the flour, and then slowly incorporate the dry mix in until it forms a ball. It might take a bit of time, but don’t be tempted to add any more liquid- It just needs a little persuasion. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before proceeding.
Once the dough is completely chilled, preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line two cookie sheets with silpats or parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. You will probably want to coat the dough itself lightly with flour, and if it becomes too finicky to roll out without sticking, toss it back into the fridge for a few minutes. Cut out circles of about 3 inches in diameter with either a cookie cutter or drinking glass. Move the circles onto your prepared baking sheets, and spoon a small mound of filling onto the center of each circle, about 1 tablespoon each. Pull up the sides of the circle in order to form a triangle, and pinch the corners firmly so that they don’t separate or fall down during baking. If you’re really concerned about them staying in shape, you can freeze them just prior to baking, but I tossed them in the oven right away. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, until lightly golden brown but still rather pale. Allow them to sit on the baking sheet for a few minutes before sliding the silpats or parchment onto a cool surface.