You don’t have to be Jewish to love Mango Hamantaschen

by Terry B on February 20, 2013

Mango filling adds a lively twist to this traditional Purim cookie. Recipe below.

An interesting thing about Mad Men to me is that the producers chose to depict Sterling Cooper as a status quo, advertising-as-usual ad agency. Three-martini lunches and solid, but don’t-rock-the-boat creative. That was the norm then, but a handful of brilliant agencies were indeed rocking the boat with smart, funny, engaging creative. One such agency was Doyle Dane Bernbach. They created the legendary “Think Small” campaign for Volkswagen in 1959. Ten years before that, they introduced this charming campaign for a Jewish bakery in Brooklyn:

You don’t have to be Jewish to love hamantaschen either. These delightful triangular cookies filled with fruit or poppy seed or other fillings are delicious and not overly sweet. They’re a favorite treat for Purim. The popular holiday celebrates the victory of the Jews over the evil Haman in ancient Persia, who had tried to have them all wiped out. As with most Jewish holidays, the underlying theme of Purim is “They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.”

Purim is a particularly joyous holiday that involves the wearing of costumes and bringing gifts of food. When the name of Haman is read in the telling of the story of Purim, listeners stomp their feet, hiss, boo and shake noisemakers to obliterate his name. Those noisemakers are Marion’s favorite childhood memory of the holiday. The distinctive shape of hamantaschen reflects Haman’s tri-corner hat. Traditional fillings are poppy seed and prune, but fruit jams, cheese and chocolates are favorites too.

We’re big fans of mangoes, with their orange/melon/apricot flavor and gorgeous golden color, so I decided to try a mango filling. In households that keep kosher, oil or margarine is used in the dough instead of butter. I used butter because I like the taste of butter in cookies.

Purim begins at sundown this Saturday, February 23, and ends at sundown on Sunday, February 24. Whether you’re Jewish or not (or if you’re only Jewish by marriage, like me), I think you’ll like these little hats.

Mango Hamantaschen
Makes 24 to 30 cookies

For the dough:
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour (plus extra for rolling dough)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the mango filling:
2 ripe mangoes, about 3/4 pound each
2 teaspoons lime juice
4-1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon corn starch, dissolved in 2 teaspoons cold water

Special equipment: parchment paper, 3-inch diameter round cookie cutter

Make the dough. Cut the butter into a dozen or so slices and place in a large mixing bowl. Cream the butter and sugar together with a hand electric mixer on medium speed (or a stand mixer, if you’re so blessed) for 3 to 4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add orange zest and juice, egg and vanilla to bowl and mix until creamy and well mixed, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt until well combined. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, blending until a crumbly dough forms. Working with your hands, knead the dough until a smooth ball forms. If the dough is too crumbly, add a little water, a teaspoon at a time (2 teaspoons did the trick for me). You don’t want the dough sticky, just slightly tacky. Shape the dough into a round disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before proceeding (see Kitchen Notes).

Make the mango filling. Peel mangoes and slice flesh into the work bowl of a food processor, discarding pits. Add lime and sugar and purée until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the work bowl as needed. Transfer purée to a medium nonstick saucepan and warm over a medium-low flame, stirring constantly. When purée is heated through (it will start to blorp like cream of wheat), slowly drizzle in cornstarch mixture, stirring to combine. Cook, stirring, until purée reaches a pudding-thick consistency, about 4 minutes.

Transfer to a bowl and cool completely before using. You can pop it in the fridge uncovered if you’re impatient.

Make the cookies. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Roll out dough on a well-floured flat surface. Dust your rolling pin with flour if the dough starts to stick. Ideally, you want the dough to be 1/8-inch thick; in reality, you’ll probably end up between 1/4-inch and 1/8-inch thick. Using the cookie cutter, cut as many 3-inch circles as you can from the dough, transferring them to parchment paper-lined baking sheets as you work. Form the remaining dough scraps into a ball—I had to wet my hands slightly to get the scraps to reform into a cohesive ball, then had to add a little flour to make the ball less sticky. Roll it out and cut additional disks.

You’ll probably have two cookie sheets now with dough disks. Cover one with a slightly damp dish towel while you fill the other cookies.

Place 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each cookie. Fold the dough toward the center on three sides, forming a triangle. The filling should be visible in the center. Pinch and slightly twist the corners to seal them. Bake cookies until golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes. While first batch is baking, fill the second batch.

Remove baked cookies from oven and cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Store in an air tight plastic container. If they live that long.

Kitchen Notes

The cold, hard facts. Most hamantaschen recipes want the dough cold, cold, cold. They tell you to refrigerate the dough at least 3 hours and preferably overnight. Honestly, that just makes it harder to work with, at least in my experience. The cold dough yielded only reluctantly to the rolling pin and cracked like mad (just press it back together—your warm fingers will repair the damage). The room temperature scraps I gathered after cutting my first batch of disks were much easier to roll out and cut.