Gluten-Free Hamantaschen in a Disaster
Last week was a rough week in Texas. We had a major snowstorm and days of sub-freezing weather that resulted in ERCOT—the poorly named Electric Reliability Council of Texas—shutting off electricity to over 40% of Texans for days during extremely cold weather. Without heat, people's pipes burst. We had a shortage of water due to all the busted pipes and water mains. People across Austin had super low water pressure or their water shut off completely. Many people in apartment complexes are still without water. On top of that, one of Austin's water treatment plants lost power, and we had a boil water notice (no clean water). And all this time, our roads and sidewalks were covered in treacherous amounts of snow and ice.
Having grown up in New England, where snowstorms often bring a foot or more of snow and can cause power outages, it was infuriating and terrifying to watch Austin (and really, Texas) fall apart over six inches of snow and a week of what would be normal winter weather in Providence. I have never experienced anything quite like this—the state/cities purposefully shutting off power to hundreds of thousands of people in dangerously cold temperatures. Our power was out for about 18 hours, relatively little time compared to many others across Austin who went days without it. Once our power came back on, our water pressure decreased to a drip. And when we actually had water, we had to boil it to drink/cook/wash dishes. Due to the snow and power outages, many grocery stores were closed or sold out of necessities quickly. Lines to enter looked evoked old pictures of the Soviet Union.
But Purim comes even when life for many Texans is turned upside down. I tested hamantaschen recipes with whatever we had around—margarine, rice flour, pineapple—with mediocre results. As stores began to stock more necessities, I was able to get eggs, cream cheese, and butter. Though I couldn't get my hands on poppyseeds, I made do with delights I found in the 99 Ranch grocery store around the corner. Even those of us who have water and electricity again are still recovering from the trauma of having out basic home necessities taken away.
I spent the week testing cookies and bringing them to friends across the city. Due to the restrictions of COVID-19 quarantine, I connected with a lot of people in my city through Instagram, Facebook, and other virtual means. I finally "met" my neighbors. This natural disaster brought those relationships into the material world, if only just a bit. And it allowed me to share something with people I haven't been able to see in person in almost a year.
Purim is a holiday where we share food, laughter, and drink. That won't happen in a typical way this year. But all the conflagration of disaster helped me find new ways to share and to connect.
This dough will work as a base for any hamantaschen filling that isn't too wet. I used black sesame paste, apricot, and homemade ube halaya. This dough gets soft pretty quickly as you handle it, so I recommend working in small batches. The number of cookies this recipe makes depends on how big you make the cookies, but I would say it makes somewhere around 40 cookies.
Note that you may need to make the dough in two batches if you have a smaller-sized stand mixer.
1.5 cups (3 sticks) butter
8 oz (one stick?) cream cheese
2 large eggs
1 and 3/4 cups evaporated cane juice sugar (or 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar)
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 cup sorghum flour
2.5-3 cups gluten free cup for cup flour blend (I used Bob's Red Mill), plus more for rolling the dough
1 tsp baking powder
fillings of your choice (highly recommend making ube jam, it was a top favorite!)
Cut the sticks of butter and cream cheese into fourths.
Cream together with a stand mixer.
Add the sugar to the butter/cream cheese mixture and continue to cream until you have a uniform mixture.
Add the eggs, orange juice, orange zest, salt, and vanilla extract and mix until the dough is a uniform wet mixture.
Add the sorghum and gluten free flour to the mixture in half-cup increments. Add the baking powder along with the gluten free flour.
The dough should be thick but still a bit soft/gooey. If it is still liquidy, add an additional 1/4 cup of gluten-free flour. Some blends are drier than others.
Split the dough into fourths. Wrap each one in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours.
Once the dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Set up your hamantaschen-shaping work station. Get a medium-sized glass to cut the cookie rounds. Spread a large piece of parchment paper on your counter. Make sure your jars of fillings are opened and you have spoons for each. If you are using homemade fillings such as the ube halaya, make sure they are adequately chilled.
Grab one of the chilled sections of cookie dough. Sprinkle with additional gluten-free flour blend, then use a rolling pin to roll the dough to 1/4-inch thickness.
Use the cup to slice the dough into rounds. Quickly pull up the extra dough from between the cookies for the next batch. I like to keep the extra dough in the refrigerator while I work so that it doesn't get overly soft.
Put a quarter-sized drop of filling in each circle of dough. Fold the three edges together to create the triangular Haman-ear shape. Pinch each corner to seal and set onto the baking sheet. These cookies do not spread much while baking, but don't crowd the sheet because the filling sometimes spills out and can cause other cookies to burn.
Repeat with remaining dough, making sure to reuse the extra from each batch.
Bake for 20-22 minutes. Remove and let cool before eating.